Less than two weeks ago, the UConn baseball team fell painfully short of an epic ninth-inning comeback against Cincinnati. On Tuesday, the Huskies found themselves on the other side of the equation, barely escaping Amherst with a win over UMass, 10-7.
In the Cincinnati game, UConn trailed by four runs heading into the final inning. All with two outs, the Huskies plated a run before Anthony Plato hit a bomb to deep left center. With two men on base, a homer would’ve tied the game. Instead, it made it only to the warning track. The next batter struck out, ending the game and UConn’s comeback effort.
On Tuesday, the Huskies (24-13, 7-5 The American) entered the ninth up 10-2, the game seemingly well over. It wasn’t. UConn reliever Avery Santos allowed a single and walked two to load the bases. A wild pitch made it 10-3, and another walk re-loaded the bases. Santos was replaced without recording an out.
Junior Kenny Haus took the mound from there and recorded two outs but not before two more runs had crossed the plate, making it 10-5. Back-to-back hits later, it was 10-7, and Caleb Wurster was brought in as the third pitcher of the inning. A walk loaded the bases, and suddenly, despite entering the inning with an eight-run cushion, the winning run stepped to the plate.
UMass’s (10-18, 5-7 Atlantic 10) Connor Smith was brought in to pinch-hit, the fourth pinch hitter of the inning. Just as Prato had against Cincinnati, Smith launched a ball that, off the bat, appeared to be heading out of the park. Instead, Kyler Fedko made the catch with his back to the fence and the entire UConn dugout exhaled, escaping with a narrow 10-7 victory.
After the game, head coach Jim Penders was asked what was going through his mind during that final half-inning.
“Early retirement was my first thought,” Penders said without a smile. “You see why kids play lacrosse. I just want to get on the bus.”
Before the ninth-inning meltdown, it was a stellar offensive showing for a team that has struggled to get the bats going lately. The Huskies plated eight runs through the first three innings, batting around in the second. Christian Fedko continued to rake with men on, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a base-clearing three-run double in the second to make it 6-0 UConn.
“We hit the ball really well early,” Penders said. “Christian Fedko again squaring stuff up when we need it, he was really good.”
Sophomore Colby Dunlop got the start, tossing three innings and surrendering one run. Fellow sophomore Joe Simeone picked up the win, giving up just one hit over two innings of work. Wurster notched his first career save after Santos was tagged for four earned without recording an out. He hit the second batter he faced in the helmet, and just never looked comfortable.
“Santos is better than what he showed today, obviously,” Penders said. “We don’t give him the ball in the ninth inning if we don’t trust him, and he’s been in a good rhythm. It just looked like he was trying to throw it 100 miles an hour, and then he hits the kid in the head, and then he lost it.”
Prato and Michael Woodworth each had multi-hit days atop the UConn lineup, and seven different Huskies drove in a run.
It’s a win, but not exactly the type of feel-good victory the Huskies would’ve liked to have heading into perhaps their biggest series of the season, taking on No. 13 ECU, the top team in the American Conference. That series begins in Greenville, North Carolina on Thursday.