Notebook: Top of the order, Dunlop bright spots in 9-9 tie against Bryant

The UConn Huskies tied with Bryant University 9-9. The game ended short due to darkness. Huskies Baseball's next home game at J.O. Christian Field is on 4/25 against Rhode Island. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

UConn and Bryant were unable to decide a victor on Wednesday after darkness forced the game to be called after the 10th inning. Despite ending in a 9-9 tie, there are still some positives and negatives to sort through for UConn.

Cream of the top

The Huskies did most of their damage on Wednesday off the bats of those at the top of their order.

John Toppa had a career day at the plate as he went 4-6 at the plate with two doubles. None more important than the one the left fielder sent down the right field line to give UConn a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning.

Shortstop Anthony Prato ended nearly every at-bat with a trip on the base paths as he collected two hits and two walks on the day.

In the eighth inning, Zac Susi cleared the bases with a three-run double to left field to pull UConn even at 9-9.

According to Toppa, his primary goal as the leadoff hitter is just to get on first base. After that, the guys behind him take care of the rest.

“I got all the confidence in the world in Ant and Zac behind me,” Toppa said. “If I get in scoring position, they’re going to knock me in.”

Simeone struggles as starter

Freshman Joe Simeone made his first collegiate appearance as a starting pitcher. It could have gone better.

The right-hander loaded the bases in the first inning but was able to avoid disaster by picking up a strikeout to end the inning. Simeone rebounded in the second, retiring all three batters for the quick inning.

However, it wouldn’t last, as Bryant chased Simeone out of the game in the third inning. Bryant’s Ryan Ward came into the game riding a 14-game streak and continued the trend, singling into right-centerfield. James Ciliento then laid down a picture-perfect bunt that Simeone couldn’t reach in time to make a play a first. Shane Kelly brought them all home when he rocketed one into the leftfield hedges.

Simeone’s final batter of the day was Chris Wright who doubled down the left field line. Simeone’s earned run average didn’t escape though; Tyler Panno hit a screamer towards Michael Woodworth that the third baseman wasn’t able to stop, scoring Wright.

According to head coach Jim Penders, Simeone more than earned the start after what he had shown in the bullpen.

“His stuff in the bullpen was just lights out. [Pitching coach Joshua MacDonald] says he’s never seen him better,” Penders said. “In the second inning, I thought he made some good pitches. He was letting it rip. I thought he earned himself a third inning. He was just off.”

Dunlop impresses

When freshman Colby Dunlop entered the game in the 10th inning, the theme song to “Dragon Tales” accompanied his warm-up.  However, the right-hander was more Smaug than Zak and Wheezie as he held the Bulldogs scoreless in the inning. He finished the inning by striking out Panno on a nasty pitch that sent the home dugout into an uproar.

Dunlop was inserted into the game after senior reliever Joe Rivera walked two batters.

“You don’t really want to go with a freshman in that situation,” Penders said. “But the freshman outperformed the senior. That was a bright spot”

The Huskies begin a nine-game road stretch when they head to Wichita State this weekend. The three-game series begins on Friday at 7 p.m.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.