Mother nature tried to keep UConn’s home opener on Tuesday against Hartford from happening — six inches of snow on Saturday, frigid temperatures early this week — but the Huskies were able to thrive in the elements and get the 12-4 victory to kick off their last season at J.O. Christian Field.
“It’s always good to be back here,” senior Michael Woodworth said after the game. “Other teams don’t like coming in here and we love playing here. We feel really comfortable, so it’s always fun to be back.”
UConn’s bats did the majority of their damage in the second inning, sending 11 men to the plate with seven runs on six hits. Chris Winkel led off with a single, then he and Thad Phillips were driven home by an RBI double from catcher Paul Gozzo. The redshirt sophomore had a career day, going 2-4 with two RBIs.
Then came the top of the order: Woodworth pulled an RBI double to left, Anthony Prato hit an RBI single through the right side, then John Toppa and Christian Fedko took turns with RBI doubles down the left-field line to make it 7-0.
“I don’t think we have a weak spot,” Winkel said. “There’s a lot of guys cycling in and out of the order, and regardless of who we got, we’re really deep. We produce up and down the lineup, and that’s huge.”
Hartford wouldn’t come any closer than that, as UConn would add five more in the next two innings. Anthony Prato shot an RBI single into center field, while Woodworth would plate Gozzo with an RBI groundout. The center fielder would add to his team-leading hit count with a two-RBI single in the fourth inning, making it 12-1.
Gozzo, Prato and Woodworth were the only three Huskies with multi-hit games and Woodworth lead the team with four RBIs.
Junior transfer Kenny Haus acquitted himself well in his first weekday start, allowing just three hits and one run through five innings, fanning four and giving up zero walks. Angus Mayock relieved him in the sixth and put on an impressive performance, striking out all three batters he faced in that inning from a clearly-dejected Hartford lineup.
“I just really dialed in, making sure one good inning after another,” Haus said. “And I mean, seven runs in the second inning always leaves us pretty comfortable on the mound.”
Redshirt senior Avery Santos got the final three outs, and with it, UConn notched a victory in the final home opener at J.O. Christian Field, the home of UConn baseball for the last 50 years. But when asked if he’s at all sad to say farewell to JOC, head coach Jim Penders replied without hesitation:
“No.” Penders said. “I mean I’ve got fond memories here, I came here as a little kid. Those memories aren’t going away, but the field needs to … We’ve been promising recruits that they’d have a new place to play for the last 15 years, so we’re finally going to be able to say we told them the truth.”
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.