The UConn Huskies pitching staff put in a record-tying performance this weekend in DeLand, Florida, striking out 20 Stetson University batters on Saturday afternoon to help come out of the weekend with a winning record. The Huskies traveled to DeLand to take part in the Stetson Tournament and matched up against teams from all over the country, including Western Michigan and Saint Joseph’s, as well as the hosts.
On Friday night, UConn took on the Western Michigan Broncos with a committee approach on the mound. The usual ace, Tim Cate, had injured his shoulder in last week’s series against Texas and was rested for precautionary reasons. Sam Nepiarsky got the start in Cate’s absence and took an early lead with three runs from his offense. Unfortunately, Nepiarsky gave up a three-run homer to the Broncos’ Tanner Allison to even the score, ending his day with five hits allowed in just three innings pitched.
While Nepiarsky struggled at the start, the bullpen shined. The likes of Dan Rajkowski, Ryan Radue and CJ Dandeneau allowed just four hits in six innings, striking out eight batters in the process. Radue allowed one unearned run to come home on an error in the eighth inning. That run proved costly for the Huskies, as it was the deciding factor in a 4-3 loss.
Facing Stetson on Saturday afternoon, UConn’s pitching was absolutely dominant. Led by starter Wills Montgomerie, the Huskies’ staff was locked in all day. Last week, Montgomerie set a personal best with 13 strikeouts in one game against Texas. This week, he bested himself, striking out 14 against Stetson. Montgomerie allowed two runs in the first inning, one of which was earned, but bounced back with five consecutive shutout innings before handing the pitching duties over to Dandeneau in the seventh.
Dandeneau and closer John Russell would tack on six more strikeouts to tie the Huskies’ strikeout record in a single game, a record dating back to 1988 when future major leaguer Charles Nagy got the start. Besides the fantastic pitching performance, the UConn offense chipped in with plenty of run support on their end. First basemen Tyler Gnesda tallied three RBI, while Zac Susi and Keith Krueger each added two hits and an RBI of their own as the Huskies glided to a 9-3 win.
To close out the weekend, the Huskies took on Saint Joseph’s on Sunday morning with freshman southpaw Mason Feole on the mound. While Feole continued the Huskies’ theme of great pitching by going 5.2 innings with no earned runs allowed, the offense absolutely exploded for 11 runs, including nine in the last two innings alone. Susi led the way with four RBI on two hits and freshman Chris Winkel drove in two more on a hit and a walk in a fantastic win for UConn, helping them advance to 6-4 on the year.
Next up, UConn will look to extend their two-game win streak on the west coast for spring break, heading to California for a three-game weekend series against UC-Davis before playing Santa Clara the following Tuesday.