UConn’s backs were against the wall on Saturday in an elimination game against Long Island University, and they responded in fashion with a 10-3 thumping.
“They hit us in the mouth first, and we had some self-inflicted wounds of our own, but from the fourth inning on it was a different ballgame for us” Penders said after the game.
The Huskies win was made possible almost solely by the effort of designated hitter Christian Fedko, who went 2-5 on the day with two doubles, scoring three runs crucial to UConn’s bid to stave off elimination.
“He had the two biggest hits of the game,” Penders said. “We talked before the game about having a little more swagger to our at-bats and Christian is never lacking in swagger.”
UConn starter Chase Gardner was all over the place, only lasting 2.2 innings and giving up all three Long Island runs. He made short work of the first four Blackbird batters, assisted by the Huskies’ usual slick defense, as John Toppa and Michael Woodworth turned the first of two 6-4-3 double plays.
The second and third innings were different stories. E. Modica singled to lead off the second, and three wild pitches sent him home to put LIU up early.
Gardner then walked Mercadante on four pitches, gave up another walk to Briggs, then two consecutive singles sent him packing and Tim Cate was called upon to make his third relief appearance of the year, sending sighs of relief throughout the UConn dugout with their ace on the mound.
“Just his demeanor on the mound, it looked like they weren’t gonna be able to do anything against him, and we needed that confidence boost,” Penders said. “The mentality is whenever he takes the ball, they’re not going to score again so all we need is three.”
Cate proceeded to totally stymie the LIU offense, as a future MLB draft pick should do to a team ranked 214th in RPI, going 5.1 innings, allowing just two hits, no runs and striking out six.
“To see a talent like him coming off the bench, it’s selfless any way you want to put it and it’s been a boost for our team all year.” Fedko said.
Meanwhile, the UConn bats finally awoke in the top of the fourth. Zac Susi drew a walk and Isaac Feldstein moved him over to third with a double.
Troy Stefanski was then up in a high pressure situation with two men in scoring position, and did not disappoint. He smoked a ball up the middle to score two runs, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and was driven home by Fedko’s first RBI double to tie the game.
UConn would go on top for the first time in the sixth inning with a two out rally. UConn’s four and five hitters went out quickly, but John Toppa beat out a grounder to short, Chris Winkel singled to center, and UConn suddenly had a chance to take the lead.
It was Fedko’s time again, and the confident freshman doubled again, putting the Huskies on top 5-3. Fedko was the driven in by Woodworth, and now it was UConn who led by three.
The Huskies would keep pouring it on in the next three innings, with a Toppa sacrifice fly in the seventh, a Prato grounder in the eighth and Toppa single in the ninth, slamming the door on Long Island and punching their ticket to the next round.
UConn will face Coastal Carolina at noon tomorrow, and will have to win three games in two days against them and Washington if they want to make it out of the regional.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.