Throughout the conference tournament, the UConn baseball team has seen production from unexpected places. Whether it is a walk off from a player, David Langer, who had four hits on the season to that point or a steady stream of extra-base knocks from a freshman and a transfer, Kyler Fedko and Paul Gozzo, respectively.
Saturday it was transfer Michael Chiovitti and sophomore Colby Dunlop doing the work for UConn. Chiovitti came up big in the 2nd inning with a bases loaded, 2-run double down the right field line. Coming into Saturday, Chiovitti had a .100 average with four RBIs and a home run.
“After David Langer pops up with the bases loaded, that was so big sneaking it down the line underneath the first baseman there,” said head coach Jim Penders. “He hit it just enough. In tournaments, it always comes down to the guys that maybe haven’t done it during the course of the year that have to come through.”
Despite going down 2-0 early, UConn jumped right back in and did not look back before taking the game 8-3.
The Huskies threw Jimmy Wang to start the game, after he went just .2 innings last time out against the Shockers. It was his replacement, Dunlop, that carried the load for the majority of the game.
“The change-up was the key to success, curveball was alright today, and the fastball was alright, but the change-up really let me play off of that and it worked well today,” Dunlop said post-game on his repertoire.
While UConn was mounting their lead, Dunlop held Wichita State to just two hits over 5.1 innings, tying his longest outing of the year. He allowed no runs and threw just 63 pitches in his best statistical performance of the season. He had not pitched the entire tournament, but when his name was called, he showed up.
The Huskies were able to get the lead runner on in five of the eight innings they hit, starting with their rally in the second. Gozzo got it started with a double and eventually came around on the Chiovitti double. After a balk from Pleimann, Wichita State’s first of seven pitchers of the day, that scored Chris Winkel, Chiovitti scored on Anthony Prato’s single to right. Toppa added another run, to bring his season tally to 45, on a ground ball to first from Pat Winkel that allowed him to reach.
“We had success at URI and that carried into Tulane, I think the confidence has grown,” said Penders on the offense’s recent success. “The guys know if they don’t get it done, the next guy will get it done. Next man up.”
UConn had traffic on the bases in the third and fourth but were unable to score in either innings.
The offense grabbed another run in the sixth on the back of a pair of walks issued by Calvin Marley and Alex Segal. Chris Winkel drew the walk before taking third on David Langer’s rope of a single to left. Winkel scored on a fielder’s choice on Prato’s ground ball.
Langer followed up his hard-hit single with a double past the first baseman to lead off the seventh inning. Thanks to an error made by the shortstop that let Prato reach, Langer scored to give UConn a 7-2 lead.
More walks in the bottom of the 8th neutralized the run Wichita was able to get off of Caleb Wurster in the top half of the inning. Gozzo walked before being pinch ran for by Ben Maycock, who scored following a stolen base, a wild pitch and botched pick-off attempt.
“I didn’t think it was great, to be honest with you,” Penders commented on the defense. “We made some mistakes in right field, second base. We made a couple mistakes, weren’t really sharp, we gotta be better tomorrow.”
Both teams struggled on defense Saturday, as Wichita State committed four errors and UConn had some blips throughout the game as well. Kyler Fedko let a ball drop in the 7th inning that should have been caught and Prato threw a couple balls to first that forced Winkel to come off the bag and tag the runner instead of a force play.
It was the walks and circle of pitchers that were the death of Wichita State. They allowed 11 walks to the Huskies, which accounted for a 25 percent walk rate for UConn. The Shockers threw a combined 183 pitches over 8 innings, with just under 55 percent for strikes.
UConn will face No. 2 Cincinnati on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.