In the middle of the seventh inning against Bryant on Tuesday afternoon, the Huskies weren’t in a great spot.
Caleb Wurster had just given up two more runs and Bryant was up 8-3. Head coach Jim Penders brought the team together in the dugout and voiced his displeasure with the way the game was going.
“I just wasn’t happy with the way that I prepared them to play today. It didn’t look like we were ready to go and I let them know that,” Penders said after the game. “We all needed to find a little bit better level to compete.”
The team certainly found that next level.
Kevin Ferrer, making his first appearance since the Rhode Island series, led off the bottom of the seventh with a pinch hit single to right field, and that started a rally. Zach Bushling followed with another single and then Kyler Fedko drove both runners in with his second opposite-field triple of the game. Fedko had a huge game with three hits and three RBI. He is now slashing .392/.680/.449 on the season.
“Kyler Fedko is in a good place offensively,” Penders said. “He can really create with his legs too. If he’s on base, he generally scores. He’s an exciting player to watch, and thankfully he’s on our side.”
Fedko would score on an RBI groundout by Reggie Crawford to make the score 8-6. The Huskies would threaten again in the inning but not score. Then after a clean inning by Justin Willis, UConn had an opportunity to make more noise in the bottom of the eighth.
After two quick outs to start the inning, it didn’t look like that was going to happen. But Bushling got hit by a pitch, Kyler Fedko singled up the middle and then Crawford came through with a huge two-out, two-strike hit up the middle to score Bushling and send Fedko to third.
“I was just trying to stay small,” Crawford said after the game. “I was trying to work the middle of the field away, and I ended up being able to get a pitch that I could take advantage of.”
A wild pitch by Bryant’s Jackson Harrigan allowed Fedko to score the tying run, and then Pat Winkel gave the Huskies a 9-8 lead with an RBI double to score Crawford from second. After Crawford scored, Penders sent him directly out to the bullpen to get ready to pitch the ninth.
“I’m screaming because nobody can hear because the music’s so loud just to get him in the bullpen,” Penders said. “Luckily, Christian Fedko was at bat and he likes his TV time. So it was good he took his time getting in the box, and I guess he got something in his eye after the first pitch. We needed a little time for Reggie to get ready, and he was ready to go.”
After Willis walked the leadoff batter, Crawford came in and was pumping steam. He let up a single to his first batter, but then he struck out the next three batters in a row to end the game and complete UConn’s dramatic comeback win.
Crawford was easily the star of the game. He opened the scoring with a laser two-run home run to right field in the first inning. He ended up with four RBI, and he earned the save with a scoreless ninth inning on the mound.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Crawford said about getting it done on both sides of the ball. “There’s no reason why I can’t like it. I enjoy it a lot.”
Pat Gallagher started on the mound for UConn (14-12), but after two consecutive scoreless midweek outings, he didn’t have it against Bryant (10-9-1). Penders said he was on a pitch count anyways, but he couldn’t even get through two innings. UConn took a 2-0 lead on Crawford’s home run, and Gallagher gave it right back with three runs in the second.
“Very frustrating, and I’m sure nobody’s more frustrated than he is,” Penders said.
It wound up being a complete bullpen day with eight different pitchers, nobody going longer than two innings. Andrew Marrerro threw 1.2 solid scoreless innings, Randy Polonia worked out of a bases loaded jam and ended up giving up just one run over two innings and Willis picked up his second win with his scoreless inning. But overall, it wasn’t a great pitching day for the Huskies. Bryant scored eight runs on 14 hits, but the Huskies got just enough offense to squeak by with a big win.
UConn opens up Big East play this weekend with a four-game set against Georgetown. Penders said Tuesday’s imperfect game will help prepare them for the rest of the season because even when they don’t play well for most of the game, they can find a way to win.
“I think today is useful,” Penders said. “We were very fortunate to be able to [come back]. Great fight, and that’s been a common theme for us since the first weekend … We know that we’ve got our best punches in us in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”