Baseball: Huskies open conference play with Tulane split

Willy Yahn takes a swing during UConn's 14-5 loss to Tulane at J.O. Christian Field on Saturday April 2, 2016. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

The UConn baseball team kicked off American Athletic Conference play this past weekend against Tulane at J.O. Christian Field in Storrs.

The Huskies (13-13) won Friday’s opener 9-4 before the Green Wave struck back with a 14-5 rout on Saturday. Sunday’s rubber match was snowed out, ending the series in a two-game split.

Game One: Anthony Kay shines in UConn win

The Huskies’ staff ace, junior Anthony Kay, faced a tough challenge in his sixth start of the year Friday afternoon. He faced a Tulane team that leads the American Athletic Conference with an 18-7 record in non-league play and had scored 173 runs in their first 25 games of the season.

Kay stepped up to the challenge, giving the Huskies seven strong innings of work as they picked up a 9-4 win over the Green Wave. He was able to consistently fire his fastball past Tulane hitters, as he carried a perfect game into the sixth inning.

“[Kay’s] fastball location was excellent, and he was just executing in and out,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said after Friday’s game. “If he can put the fastball where he wants to, he’s going to be pretty difficult to beat.”

Kay retired the first 16 batters he faced before plunking a Tulane hitter with one out in the sixth inning. He then walked two more batters before Grant Witherspoon ended his no-hitter with a towering grand slam to right field.

He powered his way through one more scoreless inning after that, finishing the day with four earned runs allowed on just two hits in seven innings pitched. Kay also struck out eight batters, using changes of speed to keep the Green Wave off-balance at the plate.

“He has a little wrinkle of a breaking ball, but his fastball and changeup are always his bread and butter,” Penders said. “As is his competitiveness.”

Game Two: Huskies’ errors costly on gloomy day in Storrs

A doubleheader between the two teams was scheduled to begin on Saturday at 11 a.m., but it rained all morning in Storrs, delaying first pitch until 2:30 p.m.

When UConn and Tulane finally got underway, the playing conditions at J.O. Christian Field were far from ideal, leading to sloppy defensive play. The two teams combined to commit seven fielding errors, with the Huskies responsible for five of them in a 14-5 loss.

Penders acknowledged the problems caused by the field, but did not make any excuses.

 “We just didn’t play very well,” Penders said. “I’m not going to blame it on the field.”

Matters got out of hand in the sixth inning, when UConn committed four errors to help expand Tulane’s lead from 7-2 to 11-2. The Huskies struggled to field the ball cleanly in the outfield, let throws bounce away, and botched ground balls. Still, Penders made sure not to blame the weather.

“The field’s the same for both teams,” he said. “We knew the field conditions weren’t going to be very good. They’re not often very good here.”


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.