Before this weekend, it had been over two years since the UConn baseball team was swept. ECU, the No. 13 ranked team in the country, did just that this weekend, winning all three games in Greenville.
“They’re better than we are,” head coach Jim Penders said. “It’s simple, they are much better than we are right now. We like to think we’re a tough team, they were tougher than us this weekend.”
All three games were relatively competitive, though the ECU pitching staff silenced the UConn bats for most of the weekend. Coming off a 10-run outburst against UMass last week, the Huskies had just five hits in each of the first two games of the series.
UConn (24-16, 7-8 The American) moves into fifth place in The American Athletic Conference standings, while ECU (29-10, 11-1) extends its first place lead. The Huskies are now just 9-10 in true road games this season.
In game one on Thursday, UConn ace Mason Feole was simple outdueled by ECU starter Jake Agnos. One out short of a complete game, Agnos went 8.2 innings with a career-high 14 strikeouts. Feole allowed three runs over 5.1 innings, taking his third loss of the season.
“It was just one of those nights when you have to tip your cap to Agnos, he was sensational,” Penders said on Thursday. “He outcompeted us in every way, shape and form…I just didn’t think we made adjustments.”
UConn freshman Pat Winkel launched his third home run of the season in the second, but that’s all the Huskies could muster. They went hitless in the final four innings of the game, falling 5-1.
“The one guy who really got into a ball was Winkel, and the next time up, [Agnos] threw him the exact same pitch in the same spot,” Penders said. “He wasn’t afraid to come in and say, ‘Here, I’m better than you.’ That’s the kind of attitude we need to have.”
Saturday’s doubleheader began at 9 a.m., and this time, the Huskies struck first. In the third, UConn loaded the bases with no outs, chasing the ECU starter after just two innings. Senior Michael Woodworth was hit by pitch, scoring one, and Winkel came through again, driving in another on a sac fly. But the threat ended after just two runs, and the Huskies would not score again.
The Pirates answered immediately with a three-spot in the bottom of the inning, forcing Penders to pull Jimmy Wang after just 2.1 innings. UConn’s inability to drive home runners in scoring position continued, going 1-for-9 with RISP in the first game of the series. ECU would tack on two more runs in the sixth, and after the shortened seven-inning game, the Pirates headed into game three with a 5-2 victory.
It was déjà vu in the second game of the doubleheader, as the Huskies took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third before allowing the Pirates to immediately seize a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the frame.
The UConn bats finally got hot but just couldn’t keep up with the Pirates. Woodworth drove home three runs, Winkel continued his tear with RBIs No. 3 and 4 on the weekend and senior John Toppa had three hits in the leadoff spot. However, ECU hit three home runs in the game, scoring three runs in the eighth to put things away.
“I was happy with the fact that we put a couple barrels on baseballs with runners in scoring position, which is something we didn’t do in the first two games,” Penders said. “But it was too little, too late.”
The Huskies are now just 12-22 all-time against ECU, a perennial powerhouse in recent years. UConn returns to the friendly confines of J.O. Christian Field on Monday to welcome CCSU.