Baseball: UConn rallies late, Russell tames Tigers to advance to semifinals

The UConn Huskies baseball team huddles after defeating Quinnipiac University on April 17th at J.O. Christian Field with a final score of 4-3. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Huskies baseball team huddles after defeating Quinnipiac University on April 17th at J.O. Christian Field with a final score of 4-3. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

Trailing 5-2 after six innings, UConn’s hopes of repeating as American Athletic Conference tournament champions were slipping away. However, a three-run seventh inning tied the game for the Huskies and Chris Winkel hit a go-ahead RBI triple in the eighth to lead UConn to a 7-5 victory.

Huskies starter Wills Montgomerie looked good for the first four innings, holding Memphis scoreless with just one hit. The Tigers would get on the board in the fifth, scoring three runs in the inning on three hits with the help of an error by Aaron Hill and a Montgomerie wild pitch.

Memphis (30-29) extended their lead in the sixth, tagging Montgomerie with two more runs on four hits. Montgomerie exited the game with a final line of 5.2 innings, eight hits, five runs (four earned) and seven strikeouts. He currently sits at 126 strikeouts for the season, ranking third in UConn’s single-season history.

John Russell, who led the conference in saves this season with 14, came into the game to finish the sixth inning. Russell tamed the Tigers for the rest of the game, eventually earning the win in 3.1 shutout innings and allowing just two Memphis hits.

The two hits both came in the ninth, but Russell would force a fielder’s choice ground out with the bases loaded to end the threat and secure the win. The clutch performance marked a career-high in innings pitched for the junior.

UConn (33-24) shortstop Anthony Prato continued his hot hitting in Clearwater, Florida with another multi-hit game. The freshman had another RBI in the game and now has nine hits in UConn’s three AAC tournament games.

Willy Yahn knocked in the first run of the game, sending a RBI double to right field to plate Prato in the fourth. Yahn would then score on an error to give the Huskies an early 2-0 lead. Prato, Yahn, Winkel and Isaac Feldstein each recorded two hits in the game and combined for eight of the Huskies’ nine hits.

Down three runs in the seventh, UConn fought back to tie the game by drawing two walks and hitting two singles and a sacrifice fly. Winkel’s triple in the eighth put the Huskies up one and UConn would get an insurance run on a double steal with runners on the corners.

Next up for the Huskies is a rematch with No. 25 Houston. The Cougars squeaked by UConn on Thursday afternoon and hold a 3-1 lead in the season series.

For the Huskies to make the championship game, they will have to beat Houston twice on Saturday. Freshman left-hander Mason Feole will likely start in the first game to be played at 10 a.m.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering baseball. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.