It took transfer Casey Dana all of one game to make his impact known at UConn, as the Huskies won their season-opening matchup in extra innings, 5-4, en route to a 2-1 opening weekend in Tampa, Florida.
First up for the Huskies was former American rival USF, their only true away game of the weekend. UConn jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but a massive three-run sixth inning from the Bulls, thanks to a two-run double by Jarrett Eaton, put USF on top. Connecticut was very quick to respond, tying the game up via back-to-back doubles from T.C. Simmons and Chris Brown, followed by a two-out single from Erik Stock. Two-and-a-half scoreless innings later, it was Dana announcing his arrival with the go-ahead blast to put UConn on top for good, 5-4.
It was Austin Peterson who got the Opening Day start for the Huskies, going 5.2 innings deep into the game and allowing just one earned run. The senior recorded a career-high in strikeouts on Friday with 13. Cole Chudoba was the first out of the pen in relief, but gave up two unearned runs in 0.2 innings. Ian Cooke got the win, providing 2.2 innings of one-hit baseball, and paving the way for a one-inning save from Justin Willis.
The second game of the weekend, against the Charlotte 49ers, did not go as planned for Connecticut. Stock continued to crush the baseball, putting the Huskies up 1-0 with an RBI double in the first inning. However, two walks and an error to lead off the bottom of the first proved costly for UConn, allowing big runs to come across the plate after a pair of 2 RBI hits from Charlotte.
The contest was pretty much over from there, as the Huskies couldn’t even match the 49ers’ first inning total. Matt Garbowski had a big two-run homer in the fourth to make it a two-run deficit, but seven men left on base for the Huskies from that point on and two RBI walks for Charlotte all but cemented UConn’s first loss of the year, 7-3.
Pat Gallagher was on the bump for Connecticut, striking out three batters, but allowing four hits and three walks in his lone inning. Garrett Coe and Hector Alejandro were solid in relief, combining for two hits, four walks and no runs over five innings. Bobby McBride struggled, giving up two runs in 0.2 innings. Overall, it was the pitching that put this matchup out of reach for the Huskies, as they surrenderred 11 walks and a hit by pitch to the 49ers.
Sunday’s performance was sheer dominance, as UConn was able to make quick work of the Louisville Cardinals in a 9-2 win. A double down the left field line from David Smith in the first at-bat set the tone, and although the Huskies were only able to get one run out of the inning, the offense was just getting started. A stolen base coupled with a Louisville error put the second run on the board, and a Zach Bushling two-run blast put Connecticut up by four.
The bats got quiet for a few innings, until a few walks, a sacrifice fly from Chris Brown, and a three-run bomb from Matt Donlan gave way to a four-run seventh inning to put the nail in the coffin for the Huskies. One inning later, it was Dana that earned another RBI on the weekend, this time via a sacrifice fly.
Enzo Stefanoni had a great day on the hill for UConn, allowing zero runs, seven hits and zero walks through 6.2 innings. He also fanned eight batters on the day. Jack Sullivan did well in his 1.1 innings of no-hit relief pitching as well, while closer Justin Willis had a tougher time. The senior allowed two runs, two hits and a walk in the final inning, but thankfully for the Huskies, the offensive outburst from Louisville was too little, too late.
While he did not play in the team’s third game, Stock had a great series, going 5-for-10 with two doubles and two RBIs. However, it was Bushling that had the most successful weekend offensively for Connecticut. The shortstop went 7-for-14 with two RBIs and a home run in the opening slate, and he will look to continue this success next weekend against North Florida.