The West Coast is not the best coast. That is at least the case for the UConn Huskies baseball team, which endured some struggles on a seven-game road trip on the other side of the nation, but managed to win three games during spring break.
On the first weekend of break, the Huskies took on UC-Davis and gladly welcomed co-captain Willy Yahn into their lineup after he returned from injuring his hand. With Yahn slotting back into his usual spot at third base, his replacement Conor Moriarty started at leftfield instead.
Both Yahn and Moriarty were seeing the ball well in the opening game of the series, with one and two RBIs, respectively. However, it was freshman shortstop Anthony Prato that really came up in the clutch in game one. Prato delivered every time the Huskies needed a run, going 3-5 on the day and earned three RBI, including two game-tying base hits in the fifth and seventh innings. Ultimately, the Huskies would pull ahead with three runs in the ninth inning before John Russell came in to seal the deal.
Prato experienced similar success in the second game of the UC-Davis series, batting in two more runs on one hit. Catcher Alex LeFevre, who filled in for usual starter Zac Susi, cleared the bases with a three-RBI double in the second inning while outfielder Keith Krueger earned three RBI on a base-clearing double of his own in the seventh inning to give UConn a comfortable 9-4 lead. On the mound, Wills Montgomerie earned his fourth consecutive win to start the season, striking out ten batters and allowing four runs in seven innings of work.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they couldn’t quite pull off the series sweep. Despite two RBIs from both Susi and junior Isaac Feldstein, playing in his home state of California, UConn still trailed 7-6 going into the ninth. Although Krueger brought home the tying run with an RBI groundout, it just wasn’t enough as UC-Davis managed to score the game-winner with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the frame.
The Huskies stayed in California until Tuesday for a matchup against Santa Clara. Despite piling on double-digit hits on the game, UConn just couldn’t bring their baserunners home with seven total left stranded. After falling behind 3-0 early, the Huskies brought the deficit to just one run after an RBI triple by Chris Winkel in the sixth inning. However, the Santa Clara bats came alive and ensured there would be no comeback as UConn lost 9-5.
For the second weekend of break, the Huskies made their way to Provo, Utah, where they took on the BYU Cougars in a tightly contested three-game series. In the first game, sophomore ace Tim Cate made his return to the mound after sitting out a few weeks with an injury. Cate put in a decent showing, allowing four runs on six hits in five innings of work. Prato had yet another great game at the plate, earning four base hits and driving in one run.
Pitcher Ryan Radue would come on in relief of Cate in the sixth, but allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in the seventh inning. Those three runs would be the difference in game one, giving the Cougars the 7-6 win and handing Radue his second loss of the season.
Game two of the series was very much a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams trading leads every few innings. Susi and Yahn delivered big-time as they both earned three hits in five at-bats. Susi, in particular, had a career game. The sophomore catcher followed Yahn in the lineup and drove in the captain three times as part of a five-RBI effort. This game was Susi’s seventh multi-hit performance of the season after just six such games last season.
Trailing 7-6 going into the ninth, a Susi RBI and a passed ball that allowed pinch runner Aaron Hill to score gave the Huskies an 8-7 lead and the win. Russell earned his first career win on the mound by pitching the last two innings in the comeback effort.
In the last game of the break, UConn staged a huge comeback, but would fall just short of the win. Down 6-0 early, Yahn and Susi helped out once more, driving in three and one RBI, respectively to start the comeback. Still trailing by four runs heading into the ninth, the Huskies managed to tie it up on just two hits and some wild pitches. Unfortunately for UConn, pitcher Dan Rajkowski allowed the winning run to come home in the bottom of the frame by way of a sac fly in a 10-9 loss.
The Huskies will head back to school with a 9-8 record on the year and will finally be playing back on Connecticut soil this week in games against Yale and Central Connecticut before playing their first home series of the year next weekend.