Baseball: Huskies continue strong start to season with dominant sweep of FIU

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Another weekend, another strong showing from the UConn baseball team down in Florida. This week’s unfortunate foe happened to be Florida International University, who fell to the Huskies in all three of their matchups, each one more dominating than the last. 

In the first contest, it was the Huskies who struck first, putting their first run on the board in the second thanks to an error by the third baseman. The Panthers soon retaliated with an RBI single in the fourth. In the seventh, it was more back-and-forth, with UConn reaching home on an error and FIU with another RBI single off of ace Austin Peterson. It wasn’t until the ninth inning that the game was truly decided, courtesy of a pair of singles from Ben Huber and David Smith, to put the Huskies up 4-2. Closer Justin Willis came out for the save, and the rest was history. 

Peterson earned another quality start for the Huskies in that Friday game, recording his third straight double-digit strikeout performance over six innings. He allowed two earned runs on the night, but it could have been a lot worse, as he loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh before coming out. In relief was Ian Cooke, who struck out his first batter, then forced a flyout to Casey Dana out in right. The Panther on third decided to tag up, but a dot from the graduate student stifled the FIU attack and ended the inning. 

The second game was less stressful for UConn, as it took care of FIU 9-1. Pat Gallagher picked up his second win of the season, going seven full innings while only allowing one earned run, coming off of a solo home run from catcher Jayden Melendez. Gallagher allowed six hits and no walks with six strikeouts. Garrett Coe and Brady Afthim combined for two innings of no-run baseball in relief. 

There was a complete offensive explosion on Saturday, thanks to back-to-back three-run innings from the Huskies in both the third and fourth. An Erik Stock RBI single, followed by a Dana RBI double and a hit by pitch put UConn out to a comfortable 3-0 lead after three innings of play. The fourth inning saw more heroics from Dana yet again, as the graduate student was the first of consecutive RBI doubles along with T.C. Simmons. It was Dana who poured it on late in the game again, homering in the ninth. It seems with every game, he keeps adding to an already impressive UConn resume in his short time as a Husky. 

In the Sunday afternoon matchup, there was an absolute bloodbath. For starters, the UConn pitching staff was stellar, as starter Enzo Stefanoni went seven full innings, allowing two hits and zero walks while fanning 10 batters. On the season, Stefanoni improved to 22 strikeouts against zero walks. In relief, both Jack Sullivan and Devin Kirby threw for an inning, not allowing any hits between the two. 

On the offensive end, the Huskies got things going early, with Smith scoring after Dana got picked off at second to take the 1-0 lead. RBI doubles from Matt Donlan and Korey Morton in the second inning got the lead to three, but then the production stopped for a while, with nine out of the next 10 UConn batters failing to reach base. A Bryan Padilla home run at the top of the seventh broke the floodgates, leading to back-to-back six-run innings. Among the scoring was a two-RBI double from Dana and a three-run homer from Donlan. By the end of it all, the Huskies were top dogs once again by a score of 15-0. 

Over the weekend, Stock extended his hitting streak to 20 straight games, dating back to last season. This year, every game has been a multi-hit contest for Stock except for Saturday’s matchup. The senior has been absolutely dominant at the plate and looks to keep up his efforts into next week. 

With the series sweep, UConn improves to an 8-1 record, their best mark since starting the season 8-0 back in 1971. Since their only loss was a neutral site game against Charlotte, the Huskies are technically undefeated against Florida teams, taking down USF, North Florida and FIU. 

The Huskies look to continue their early season successes this week, where their home opener is slated for Tuesday against the University of Hartford in a one-off matchup. The game will start at 3:05 at Elliot Ballpark on-campus and it will be broadcast on FloSports and ESPN 97.9. 

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