Baseball: UConn fights hard, but gets eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Washington

UConn staved off elimination by beating Coastal Carolina before subsequently being knocked out by the Washington Huskies in their second do-or-die game of the day (UConn Athletics)

UConn’s season came to a close on Sunday, as they beat host Coastal Carolina in an elimination game that afternoon 6-5, but fell to the regional champions Washington for the second time in the tournament in the nightcap.

With UConn’s pitching down to their last legs in their third game in three days, head coach Jim Penders had to get funky with his rotation, and trotted out junior closer PJ Poulin to start the Huskies’ second elimination game of the weekend.

Poulin acquitted himself well in hist first start of the season, pitching by far a season high six innings, allowing two earned runs and punching out six Chanticleers. The story of the game, however, was once again Christian Fedko.

The freshman has had one heck of a coming out party in the Conway regional, and the first game of the day was no different. Fedko went 2-4 on the day with one RBI, the go-ahead homer for the Huskies in the bottom of the eighth.

It was a pitcher’s duel between Poulin and Coastal pitcher Zack Hopek for four innings, with the only run scored by a Zach Bergmann solo shot to center, but UConn started to break through in the fifth.

Who else but Christian Fedko singled to start off the inning, and was steadily advanced to third by a single from leadoff man Michael Woodworth and a sacrifice fly from Anthony Prato. Isaac Feldstein then came up and roped a clutch RBI into right field to score both Fedko and Woodworth, making it 2-1.

Coastal wouldn’t tolerate falling behind for long however, and three singles later the game was tied. That’s when things started to get weird.

In the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Anthony Prato took a meatball over the left field wall to put the Huskies back on top again. Zac Susi would extend his on-base streak to 48 games with a single up the middle, then Isaac Feldstein worked the count full and blasted his first home run of the regional to put the Huskies up by three.

Coastal wouldn’t go quietly into the night, however. The Chanticleers sent eight players to the plate in the next inning and plated three runs, putting the pressure on the Huskies in the elimination game.

Not only did Fedko respond, he did it with the swagger we’ve come to expect out of him in this tournament. He smashed his first home run of the year over left field, watched it for a long second, flipped his bat and gave UConn the lead for the final time.

The second contest of the day against Washington was a game of three inning stretches, with the first third of the game making it look like it was going to be a very long night in Conway.

The Huskies had two three run innings, the first and the third. Toppa and Feldstein combined for a pair of RBI singles in the opening frame to score three, then Toppa scored Zac Susi with a sacrifice fly, Feldstein scored on a Chris Winkel bunt single and Conor Moriarty plated Troy Stefanski with a double, making it 6-1 UConn.

Coastal Carolina accomplished their counterpunch in just one inning, the bottom of the third. The Chanticleers scored three runs off a homer from Joe Wainhouse, an absolute monster of a man standing 6’6” and upwards of 260 lbs, then two more off a single and a sacrifice fly.

Apparently both offenses decided that they’d had enough of scoring runs for a while, as the next section of the game was pitcher-dominated.

Both UConn and Washington put up goose eggs in the next four innings, as Jeff Kersten settled down for the Huskies and freshman Colby Dunlop had a solid first postseason outing of his UConn career.

In the last third of the game however, a series of poor plays on the basepaths and the field doomed UConn.

Whether is was spending almost nine hours in the stifling heat and humidity or something else, the Huskies’ committed committed two errors in the eighth inning that resulted in the three runs that ended their season, both on tough grounders to Prato at short and Woodworth at second respectively. Then in the top of the ninth, Troy Stefanski misjudged a fly ball by John Toppa and ended up getting doubled up at first to put the game out of reach.


Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at luke.swanson@uconn.edu.