The 19th-ranked Huskies were on cruise control at Memphis this weekend, winning the series two games to one to remain second in the American, tied with South Florida and East Carolina.
Catcher Zac Susi extended his on-base streak to a ridiculous 31 straight games, going 4-11 with a double and three singles on the weekend.
UConn took game one behind game one behind a stellar performance from starter Mason Feole who went 7.2 innings and struck out nine, allowing just one walk and one earned run in the 5-1 win.
Left fielder John Toppa started the series off with a leadoff single to left in the first inning, and was driven home by catcher Zac Susi two batters later to put UConn up early. Second baseman Michael Woodworth then drove in Susi with a sacrifice bunt, and the Huskies led 2-0.
Woodworth would drive Susi in again in the third with a single through the left side to make it 3-0 in favor of the Huskies.
Memphis tried to make things a little uncomfortable in the bottom of the sixth, as second baseman Cale Henneman knocked an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-1.
The Huskies weren’t phased however, as a double from designated hitter Christian Fedko and a sacrifice bunt from third baseman Conor Moriarty would push their lead up to 5-1, where it would stay for the rest of the game.
UConn took game two behind stellar pitching performances by Jeff Kersten, Jake Wallace and PJ Poulin, who combined to give up just five hits, zero runs and strike out 15 Tigers on the way to a 2-0 win.
Any score would have done it for UConn as a result of their terrific performance, so the go-ahead run came all the way back in the third inning.
Toppa singled to start off the frame and shortstop Anthony Prato followed suit. Toppa then got caught stealing, Prato advanced to second on the throw, and slugger Isaac Feldstein knocked him home to score the only necessary run for the Huskies.
UConn would add on one more with that same part of the lineup in the fifth when Prato singled in his next at-bat, and an RBI knock from catcher Zac Susi would drive Prato home again to make it 2-0, where it would stay for the rest of the game.
In the final game of the series, the Huskies made a furious attempt to rally from down three and take the series sweep, but fell just short and Memphis was able to steal a win, 4-3.
Junior Chase Gardner had a solid outing for the Huskies in just his second start since coming back from injury, pitching four inning and allowing one earned run, a single from Memphis leadoff man Carlos Williams to put the Tigers on the board first.
UConn struck back in the next frame, however, as a hit from Toppa and walks issued to Woodworth and Susi loaded up the bases, then first baseman Chris Winkel was hit by a pitch to even it up.
As soon as Gardner was pulled, however, the game started to go south. Reliever Dan Rajkowski entered the game and got two outs to start the fifth, but couldn’t close the door on the inning. The junior gave up a double, a walk, then a three run homer to shortstop Alex Trela to make it 4-1 Tigers.
After the fifth, all was quiet in the game until the final inning, as junior CJ Dandeneau was brought in to relieve Rojkowski and pitched three innings of scoreless ball while giving up just one hit. .
This set the stage for the Huskies’ last attempt at a comeback in the top of the ninth. UConn had gotten nothing going against Memphis starter Hunter Smith up until then, but started to chip away at his armor in the final frame.
Center fielder Troy Stefanski was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then Woodworth hit a grounder to second that was too hot to handle, bringing the tying run up to bat in the form of designated hitter Christian Fedko.
The freshman took five pitches, then smashed a double into center field to bring home Stefanski and Woodworth, making it 4-3 and finally getting Smith out of the game.
UConn’s rally attempt was short-lived, however, as pinch hitter Anthony Nucerino grounded out to second, and Toppa struck out to end the game.
The Huskies won’t get much rest however, as they’ll be right back on campus in midweek action against Sacred Heart at 3 p.m. Tuesday at J.O. Christian Field.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.