In the last conference series of the year, the UConn baseball team strolled into New Orleans and left with a couple victories.
They grabbed the series win against Tulane as they have set themselves up as the No. 4 seed in The American Athletic Conference Championship.
“We had not shown that kind of resilience in a while, that was important tonight,” said head coach Jim Penders after the game one win. “It was very, very important that we came back. They didn’t go away; they showed some Husky grit, so I was very proud.”
UConn grabbed the first game on the back of a seven-RBI performance from freshman Pat Winkel and six innings of work from ace Mason Feole. The pre-season All-American struck out six and walked two, however, he also gave up four earned runs.
With this win, Penders moved atop the UConn baseball all-time wins list for a head coach, passing Andy Baylock with his 557th win.
After getting out to a one-run lead in the second from a Paul Gozzo double, the Green Wave came back with force in the fourth as they threw up a four spot. Run scoring doubles from Jonathon Artigues and Kobi Owen as well as an RBI-single from Grant Mathews were the only blemishes on Feole’s record for the day.
The Huskies came right back in the fifth as the younger Winkel drove in three with his single to center, one of his four hits on the day. Winkel’s next at-bat proved to be the most important of the day as he crushed a grand slam to right field to put UConn up 8-4. His fifth home run of the season put him in a tie with Michael Woodworth for the team lead.
After an RBI-single from Trevor Jensen with two outs in the eighth closer Jacob Wallace came in to lock down the four-out save. En route to his fourteenth save of the year, Wallace struck out a pair of Tulane hitters.
“You know it’s a good night when the only negative on my little cheat-sheet here, for positives and negatives, is the third base coach doing a crappy job and getting Kyler [Fedko] thrown out,” said Penders after game two.
For Friday’s matchup, UConn threw right-hander Jeff Kersten for 4.2 innings of two-run ball before pulling him for Karl Johnson in the fifth. Kersten walked four batters, three of which came in the third, that drove his pitch count up to 105 and forced him to exit early.
UConn scored a couple in the first thanks to a walk from Pat Winkel and a sacrifice fly from Chris Winkel two batters later. They grabbed another pair in the third as Kyler Fedko singled to left to drive in Woodworth and Paul Gozzo drove in Pat Winkel on his double down the left field line.
Tulane came back to tie the game at four a piece in the fifth off Karl Johnson as a David Bedgood double scored a pair.
The Huskies followed up the Green Wave with a three-spot of their own as Anthony Prato drove in David Langer and Pat Winkel doubled to score Prato and John Toppa. They came back to grab three insurance runs to make it 10-4 in the top of the ninth on four straight singles.
Tulane would get two back on a home run from Hudson Haskin before Jake Wallace came in an shut the door with three straight strikeouts.
Tulane salvaged the last game of the series as they jumped on opener Randy Polonia in the first. After a Haskin RBI-single, Mathews went yard for the tenth time this year to put them up 3-0.
“Chase [Solesky] did a very good job, he kept us off balance and threw a lot of strikes,” said Penders after the game three loss. “We couldn’t get into that ‘pen early enough. That was the key to the game, we couldn’t do enough early and we gave them too much early.”
The Green Wave would respond to a Langer RBI-single with one of their own in the second from Mathews. They followed it up with a home run form Bedgood in the third. With nothing doing for UConn, Tulane stormed on as Sal Gozzo, twin of Paul Gozzo, hit a blast to right. Haskin, who played his high school baseball for Avon Old Farms, followed up with his ninth home run of the season off of Avery Santos to cap off the inning.
The UConn offense stood stagnant until a rally in the eighth got them two back to make it 8-3. They scored three more in the top half of the ninth, but Woodworth grounded out with two runners on to end the game.
As the conference tournament looms, there were many bright spots in this series: Pat Winkel’s clutch at-bats, Paul Gozzo getting a hit in each game against his former team and Wallace’s continued dominance.
With the series win, UConn locked themselves into the 9 a.m. game on Tuesday to kick-off the conference tournament. They will be facing Houston down in Clearwater, Florida at Spectrum Field, the Philadephia Phillies’ Spring Training facility.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.