In their first game back in the Big East since 2013, the UConn baseball team looked dominant in all facets, routing Georgetown by a combined score of 16-0 through two games before the remaining two were cancelled due to an abundance of caution surrounding COVID-19.
Pitching was the name of the game in Friday’s series opener as Ben Casparius (4-2) continues to prove he deserves his place as the top pitching prospect in the conference. The fourth-year junior threw seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and striking out a career-high 15 batters — the most by a UConn pitcher since 2015.
After a bit of a shaky start to the season, Casparius has now earned the win in three of his last four starts and has thrown 14 shutout innings in his last two appearances to bring his ERA back down to just under three. Head coach Jim Penders has loved what he’s seen out of his ace.
“His stuff was working, a couple changeups early really just took off,” Penders said. “The thing with Ben is he’s got a really good slider and I think he’s got the best right-handed changeup we’ve ever had in this program. He has weapons for both [lefties and righties] and it was fun watching him work tonight.”
And while Casparius had his stuff working on the mound, UConn’s bats also got hot and earned the team its second run-rule win of the year. But unlike their last shutout victory, this game was a slow burn for the Huskies (16-12), scoring in five of the seven innings they played to earn the win by mercy rule.
UConn got things started off in the second inning. Chris Brown knocked in his 14th RBI of this year scoring Kevin Ferrer on a single to right, and a Chris Winkle-steal home put the Huskies up two. The Huskies would tack on a few more insurance runs in the third and fifth innings to put them up 6-0 before they shut the door in the final two frames.
Korey Morton began the sixth inning with his lone hit of the day, followed by a Zach Bushling walk to set up Kyler Fedko with two men on. The preseason Big East player took care of business, drilling the ball to center field to score Morton and push Bushling to third, but the Huskies weren’t done there.
Reggie Crawford also got on the board in the inning with an RBI groundout that scored Bushling, before Christian Fedko brought home his brother on a single to center for his game-leading third RBI on the day. Ferrer would be the final out in the sixth, but after another perfect inning from Casparius, Pat Winkel hit a solo shot to right field to put UConn up 10-0 and force the run-rule, giving the team their first Big East win in over eight years.
“We said ‘guys get us one more and we’ll have an early night,’ so Chris didn’t wait,” Penders said. “I liked our balance at the plate, our approach at the plate. [We] saw a few different arms, overall a good night.”
Saturday’s rematch carried much of the same story, with UConn cruising to a 6-0 victory before the game was called after seven innings due to COVID-19 precautions.
Pat Winkel picked up right where he left off in Friday’s win, knocking home Zach Bushling with a single to left before doubling to right to score Kyler Fedko to make it 3-0 Huskies. Kevin Ferrer would make it 4-0 after three, and RBIs from Bushling and Kyler pushed the lead to 6-0, the biggest it would get before the game was called.
Austin Peterson continued to impress with his pitching in this one, following up Casparius’ seven-inning shutout with one of his own, giving up just one hit and punching out six en route to UConn’s sixth shutout of the year.
The fourth-year junior has been everything Penders has needed him to be, allowing just two runs over his past four starts and boasting a team-best 2.13 ERA among starters.
“He’s come a long way with his mental process,” Penders said. “There were times in the fall when he’d get a little anxious, but he really just zeroed in [today]. He’s got a calm about him on the mound and [he was] just pounding the strike zone… he’s been awesome.”
The Huskies have won 10 of their last 12 games and currently sit at a seven-game winning streak, but are going to have some time off after going on pause for at least the next 48 hours in accordance with COVID-19 protocol.
The team ended their first homestand with a 10-1 record and will hope to keep it rolling Tuesday when they head to Rhode Island for a rematch against Bryant University barring any more COVID cancellations.