On a rare perfect-weather day, the No. 18 UConn baseball team’s bats came alive, riding a five-run third and a four-run fourth to cruise to a 13-2 win over Sacred Heart Wednesday afternoon.
The Huskies finished the game with 19 hits, tied for the most they’ve had this season and their 26th game this year with double digit hits. The box score was full: 19 hits, 13 runs and every starter except DH Christian Fedko got a hit.
"I liked for the most part that we were really balanced in the batter's box and we hit some balls hard and kept them out of the air," head coach Jim Penders said. "I thought the guys took advantage of low-trajectory line drives and hard ground balls."
SHU, No. 252 in RPI coming into the game, got on the board quickly in the top of the first, plating one against starter Joe Simeone, but UConn responded quickly after two steals and a sac fly plated a run for the Pioneers in the top of the first.
A John Toppa triple got things started off against SHU’s Bryant Sundahl, who has allowed leadoff hitters to hit .429 against him this season. An Anthony Prato single immediately plated Toppa to tie the game at one apiece, and he stole second and third to eventually score on a Zac Susi single.
UConn would continue to get runners on, but two Huskies were picked off in the bottom of the first to kill the rally—Isaac Feldstein with one out and Chris Winkel with two outs and the bases loaded.
As Simeone settled in, the Huskies kept hitting every pitcher Sacred Heart put on the mound—and they used eight of them. In the bottom of the third, the Huskies sent 10 men to the plate and five of them scored; Troy Stefanski, Chris Winkel, Fedko and Anthony Prato all recorded RBI to plate five. In the bottom of the fourth, Michael Woodworth, Conor Moriarty and John Toppa all recorded RBI to plate four. In the bottom of the sixth, Moriarty and pinch-hitter Andy Hague both recorded RBI.
"As an offense, we don't believe in launch angle, any of that; exit velocity... we want to talk about: Line drives, hard ground balls are going to win in college baseball," Penders said.
Not to be lost in the slugfest is Simeone’s impressive performance. The 6-foot-3 freshman from Groton, Massachusetts tossed 4.0 innings of three-hit, one-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts in just his second start of the year.
"He just got a little better every inning, which was good for him," Susi said of Simeone's performance. "He had good control of his fastball and his slider was good. And that was really it, he did a really good job today. I was pretty proud."
Trevor Holmes and Avery Santos both tossed scoreless frames in relief of Simeone. Senior Joe Rivera finished out the ninth, allowing one run on one hit.
Coming off a series win over Memphis to bring the Huskies to a three-way tie for second in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies are riding a hot streak, winning five of their last seven and scoring 39 runs total over that stretch.
"We've had a great combination of pitching and hitting," Susi said of the Huskies' hot streak. "Out pitchers have come out and given us really good outings and the bats have come alive when we needed them... we gotta really good thing going on right now where we're really hot and it's been really good and we're gonna try and keep it going."