Baseball: UConn falls to familiar foe in American title game

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UConn Baseball stands for the National Anthem in Florida prior to a game (UConn Athletics)

Until this year, there were eight baseball teams in the American Athletic Conference. A round robin schedule of seven series isn’t enough to fill the customary eight week conference slate, so each team needed a travel partner, a team that they would play home and away series with every year.

UConn’s travel partner was East Carolina, and 2018 was the first year in the American that UConn didn’t play more than three games against them, so it was apparently fated that they would meet one more time in the American title game, a game which East Carolina won 4-3.

The American tournament was not the best-run sporting event, and due to impending poor weather, all of the tournaments games were moved up a day, and nearly all were played in the morning (it rained a total of two hours on the weekend).

This meant that UConn had expended their entire starting rotation and half of their bullpen by the title game, giving the ball to Trevor Holmes, a redshirt senior making the first start of his college career.

Holmes pitched valiantly in his start, establishing himself as a viable arm out of the bullpen for the NCAA tournament with a final line of 4.1 innings pitched, giving up just four walks and a run.

The lineup was hard pressed to give him any run support however, leaving six runners left on base and going 0-8 with runners in scoring position. This included a disastrous third inning, in which the top of the lineup had a chance to jump ahead early.

John Toppa smacked a leadoff double to right field, Anthony Prato got on base with a single and Zac Susi got hit by a pitch, and the bases were all loaded up with no outs for slugger Isaac Feldstein. He struck out swinging, Troy Stefanski struck out swinging, and Michael Woodworth whiffed right after him, leaving three potential runs left on the table.

Holmes exited the game after he walked the Pirates’ nine hitter Spencer Brown and hit Dwanya Williams-Sutton to kick off the fifth, but his replacement CJ Dandeneau didn’t fare much better in the inning. The junior gave up three consecutive singles to drive in three runs, and ECU was up 3-0.

UConn’s bats would not stay dormant for long, however. Stefanski singled to start off the inning, Woodworth drew a walk, then Chris Winkel and Conor Moriarty drove them in with a single and a sacrifice fly respectively, bringing the Huskies within one.

Dandeneau would stay in for the sixth and give up one more run off a sacrifice fly from Brown. Dandeneau didn’t have his usual stuff in the outing, but he wasn’t getting much help from the home plate umpire Grady Little either, whose strike zone was about the size of a dinner plate all day.

Tim Cate would relieve Dandeneau in the sixth inning to get the final out against the top of the ECU order, throwing 14 pitches and getting out of the frame without a scratch.

UConn would have one last rally attempt in the bottom of the eighth. Stefanski once again led off the inning getting on base, this time with a walk, then Woodworth and Winkel were both punched out before Fedko stepped up this time, yanking a double to left and driving in a run.

With their loss today, UConn is not totally out of the conversation to host a regional at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, however.

The Huskies’ RPI is still hovering around 16 per WarrenNolan.com, and their other tournament metrics, such as their deep run in the conference tournament, their 14-10 conference record and 11-9 record against the RPI top 50 will all help the cause.

UConn will be glued to the television Sunday night at 8:30, when the host sites for regionals will be announced. If their name isn’t called then, they will find out where they’ll be headed at noon on Monday when the rest of the tournament teams are announced.


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

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