It was supposed to be three weeks ago, but the UConn baseball team finally made their home debut on Thursday, battling to a 9-1 victory over Hartford. UConn starter Tim Cate was lights out and the Huskies put up a seven spot in the eighth to put it away.
UConn improves to 13-9 after a program-record 21-straight away games to start off the year.
“We’re used to it,” head coach Jim Penders said. “I said in the huddle before the game, ‘Alright guys, how this is going to work now is the other team gets to hit first.’ We hadn’t done that in 21 games, finally got to do it today.”
After a quiet inning and a half, Isaac Feldstein continued his red-hot hitting in the bottom of the second. Swinging on the first pitch, Feldstein crushed it over the left field wall for his team-leading eighth home run of the season, giving UConn a 1-0 lead. The redshirt senior already has more home runs than he had all of last season and more than double the next closest Husky.
The Huskies had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth. With two outs, Hartford (5-16) starter Billy DeVito lost the strike zone, walking two straight and a wild pitch to the next to put runners on second and third. However, DeVito got Christian Fedko to fly out to shortstop to end the threat.
UConn star starter Tim Cate entered Thursday’s game with a disappointing 4.41 ERA in six appearances. Perhaps all he needed was a little home-field advantage. Cate got his third win of the season, throwing 6.2 scoreless innings, in which he surrendered only two hits while striking out six.
“Tim was great,” catcher Zac Susi said after the game. “His curveball command was really good, he used the fastball really efficiently when he needed to. Another great start, that’s two in a row for him so he’s gotta keep it going.”
Cate was lights out through the first five innings with five strikeouts. He ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up a leadoff walk. Hartford moved him to third on a wild pitch and a sac bunt. But Cate shut the door from there, getting an infield pop-out and a strikeout to end the inning.
A two-out rally in the top of the seventh brought an abrupt end to Cate’s day. After a controversial hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Penders turned to righthander Jacob Wallace. In perhaps the biggest spot of the game, Wallace generated a groundout to hold the 1-0 lead.
“That was huge,” John Toppa said on Wallace getting that out. “He’s electric. He’s probably the only kid on our staff that, out in the outfield, you can still tell how hard he’s throwing. He’s been awesome the last couple weeks coming in really tough spots and getting the job done every time.”
In the bottom of the frame, the Huskies got a much-needed insurance run off Hartford reliever Jake Regula. It was Anthony Prato that came through, smacking a double to left to score Conor Moriarty, pinch-running for Fedko, from second to take a 2-0 lead into the eighth.
The Huskies broke it open in the eighth, tacking on seven runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead. After Troy Stefanski’s RBI double plated one, Chris Winkel followed with a 2-RBI single. Michael Woodworth drove him home and then came around to score on a wild pitch and error. Zac Susi added two RBIs of his own before Hartford finally closed the door.
Wallace, who went 1.1 without giving up a hit, was replaced by Ronnie Rossomando in the ninth. Rossomando loaded the bases with one out but limited the damage, surrendering just one run and locking up a 9-1 victory for UConn.
The Huskies are right back at J.O. Christian Field tomorrow for a 3 p.m. tilt against CCSU.
Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets at @asmor24