In an incredibly action-packed weekend, the UConn baseball team was bested in all three of its games in a weekend series against No. 9 Texas Tech. The Huskies lost 4-3 and 10-3 Friday and Saturday, before coming just short of a miracle comeback Sunday, losing 15-13 to complete the weekend sweep.
UConn (4-9) got on the board early in Friday’s matchup, with a Christian Fedko RBI single to put the Huskies up one halfway through the inning. But as they did all weekend, Texas Tech responded with two runs to take the lead. From then on, however, the name of the game was defense.
Just two more runs were scored over the next six innings, both from Tech to put them up 4-1, before UConn turned the tide heading into the eighth.
Zach Bushling started things off for the Huskies, getting on base for the 10th consecutive game, carrying over from last season, and would eventually score off a Pat Winkel sac-fly to cut the lead to two.
On the mound, Kenneth Haus got into some trouble after throwing two effective innings, but Vanderbilt transfer Justin Willis entered the game for his first time in a Huskies uniform and struck out the only batter he faced, stranding a Texas Tech baserunner.
Christian Fedko earned a leadoff walk to start the ninth and got to third off a wild pitch and another walk, setting up the middle of UConn’s lineup to even the score. One of five Red Raiders’ diving catches of the day would rob Kyler Fedko of his second hit of the day, but an RBI groundout from Andy Hague sent Fedko home, Kevin Ferrer to second and cut Tech’s lead to one.
Entering the game to pinch-hit in the nine-spot was T.C. Simmons. With the tying run at second and in his first career at-bat for UConn, Simmons hit a liner to right field for his first career hit, but Tech’s outfielder beamed the hit back home in time to catch Ferrer and end the ball game in a 4-3 loss, the Huskies’ fifth one-run defeat this season.
Ben Casparius (1-2) picked up the loss in his fourth start for UConn. He pitched five innings, striking out eight, but walking five batters for the second time this year, an issue that continues to plague this Huskies team.
“It comes back to walks,” head coach Jim Penders said after the loss. “Every run that scored was on base as a result of a walk. These guys are one of the best programs in the country and you can’t afford to give ‘em freebies.”
In Saturday’s rematch, it was Texas Tech getting out to an early 4-0 lead after two innings, but as the Huskies have shown all season, they are almost never out of a game.
Bushling got on the board once again, hitting a two-out RBI single in the third before the brotherly duo of Christian and Kyler Fedko each knocked in runs in the fourth to cut the Red Raiders’ lead to just one. Kyler went 4-4 on the day, just the second career four-hit game, and despite coming out with a loss this time around, Penders said he will be vital for the team’s success going forward.
“He looks like Kyler Fedko again,” Penders said. “He’s gotten more confident. I’m just happy to see him having some fun again and hitting the ball the way he’s capable of hitting it. If we’re gonna be good, Kyler Fedko has to be good, so it was a nice step forward for him today.”
The game stayed close with a combination of Pat Gallagher and Randy Polonia pitching 4.2 innings of shutout baseball before Tech blew the doors open in the eighth, putting up a six-run inning to pull ahead in what would eventually turn into a 10-3 loss.
UConn’s bats had a tough outing, as anyone not named Kyler Fedko went just 4/32 and left the tying run in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The one big eighth inning was all it took for Tech to run away with their second win of the weekend, but had one hit gone the Huskies’ way, it could have been a very different story.
Joe Simeone picked up the loss in this one, giving up four runs in just 1.1 innings of play. The bullpen looked promising, and if they’re able to overlook Saturday’s eighth inning, they’ll have stuff to build off of for future games.
UConn’s bats got hot late in Game 3 in what would have been a miracle comeback, but early pitching struggles hurt the Huskies in another high-scoring affair, as Texas Tech completed the weekend sweep with a 15-13 win over the Huskies Sunday.
“I like our swings, I really do,” Penders said. “The big problem right now is somebody’s gotta wanna be the man when there’s runners in scoring position. We can’t be watching strike three with runners in scoring position, that’s a cardinal sin.”
The Red Raiders had control early, outscoring UConn 8-1 through the first four innings, with the Huskies’ sole run coming off a T.C. Simmons double in his first career start. Simmons left the game early with a bone bruise, but finished his day a perfect 3/3 in his debut. The real heroics, however, would kick in during the final frame.
After getting outscored by seven through the game’s first four innings, UConn and Tech would trade runs in the next four, and with Texas Tech up 15-9 heading into the top of the ninth, everyone thought the Huskies stood a chance. Everyone except UConn.
Kevin Ferrer knocked in the first couple runs off a single, followed by an RBI double from Kyler Fedko on his second hit of the day to make the game 13-15. With the tying run at the plate, Ben Maycock popped up to put the game to rest, but even in the loss UConn’s offense should have some real momentum heading into tomorrow’s game. The pitching, on the other hand, is a different story.
After going through six pitchers in Saturday’s game, the Huskies bullpen was forced to put six more on the mound Sunday, with only Jack Willis pitching a scoreless inning, his second such outing in as many appearances.
Any UConn pitcher not named Willis all gave up at least two runs, with only Brendan O’Donnell going two innings. Penders had high praise for the true freshman despite his box score reflecting some struggles.
“I love the fact that Brendan O’Donnell wasn’t afraid,” Penders said. “He deserved better from our defense when he was out there [and] he should be proud of his effort. I was really happy with the way he competed and he’s gonna have a bright future with us.”
This weekend will go down as a bust for the Huskies and their first weekend sweep on the season, but despite the losses, there are still takeaways from this series that are sure to help UConn later in the season.
The Huskies have a chance to apply some immediate alterations in tomorrow’s finale against Texas Tech, but for the pitching staff, this is going to be a weekend they may want to put behind them.