The UConn Huskies doubleheader sweep of No.22 UCF was not picture perfect, but Sunday proved that the Huskies have the fight to hang around with any team in their conference.
“These kids showed tremendous fight,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said. “As ugly as the baseball was at times – and it was certainly very ugly on both sides – we just kept coming. We were never out.”
Despite scoring two runs in the first inning of game two Sunday, the Huskies had to come from behind in the sixth and eighth innings before they won the game on a wild pitch in the ninth inning. The sense was that whoever was at the plate last would win and with the Huskies being at home, it was an advantage.
UConn (17-10,3-3 AAC) had 11 hits, but the heads up plays from catcher Zac Susi to take second base on a ball in the dirt and the hustle of Troy Stefanski to leg out an infield single, were the differences in the ballgame. Penders noticed the fight within several players.
“Isaac Feldstein running hard from second base on Troy Stefanski’s really good at bat against a very tough pitcher,” Penders said. “(Stefanski) was just grinding, gets a two-strike infield hit, running hard. It was just good, gritty UConn baseball.”
Stefanski’s RBI hit tied the game up in the eighth inning before they would eventually take a two-run lead.
UCF (22-11, 4-5) was able to draw 10 walks against the UConn pitching staff, which might be a point of emphasis for the Huskies as they head into their next matchup. However, UConn was able to make the right pitch when they needed it. Most notably, when Jeff Kersten came in relief for Colby Dunlop and stranded the bases loaded in the second inning to preserve a 2-0 lead.
Chase Gardner, who started the first game of the frigid doubleheader, not only pitched effectively (6.2 innings with two earned runs), but also was dealing with a blister on his hand. Penders said no one on the team knew until after the game because there was no complaints.
By winning the series against a conference rival, the Huskies have now won six of their last seven games.
“We did really grind them down I thought,” Penders said. “That’s a really good pitching staff. We weren’t giving into any pitches.”
Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.