UConn Baseball may have come up short Monday evening, but the Huskies had already won the series against the University of California San Diego the day before. Hook C came up on top by just one run on both Saturday and Sunday nights, but the Tritons had the last laugh on Monday with their close win.
The series opened on Saturday night at Triton Ballpark, where the Huskies were able to come out on top to kick off the weekend strong. There was some initial Hook C scoring action, but the majority of the contributions to the win came at the end of the game for a sounding finish.
The first inning was a slow start for UConn, not being able to score as UCSD made a few plays for a one-run lead with pitches coming for the Tritons from Austin Peterson. However, David Smith sent a homerun, bringing in Matt Donlan who was already on base to get the run back plus an extra one for a 2-1 lead.
After that, it was mainly UConn’s game, holding the lead for the remainder of the innings, with the exception of the bottom of the second inning where UCSD tied. Smith, his bat still hot, was determined to break the tie and officially put the Huskies in the lead for good. He hit another homerun out to right field at the top of the fifth to make it 3-2.
“He’s certainly capable of doing that,” Penders said on Smith’s at-bat success. “It was good to see him get his first one.”
From the benefit of UCSD’s defensive errors, Ben Huber made it home for another run. In the midst of the Tritons passing the ball around the diamond, Casey Dana made some base moves but wasn’t able to run in.
UCSD quickly tried to make up for the given runs with another one of their own to trail at 4-3 by the end of the sixth inning. This time, it was the Huskies who were slower on the defensive side, allowing a Triton to come home off of another’s double.
Yet again, UConn answered with not only one homerun, but two. The first big hit came off of the bat of Dana, which brought Huber in on the hit as well to score two runs. The heat still steaming at the plate, T.C. Simmons scored another tally for the Hook C for a four-run lead on the Tritons.
There were still two more innings to be played, and runs to be added.
Off of just a single hit, UCSD lessened UConn’s lead with two runners looping the bases for a 7-5 game. Coach Penders has said before how important it is to limit the baserunners, as they all can end up adding scores against UConn. This was an example, where the crowd of Tritons on base proved to be slightly problematic and scored twice with just one, seemingly non-significant hit.
Dana, still not finished with his bat swings, came out in the ninth to keep the Huskies afloat. Off of a fly ball, Zach Bushling added an insurance run to the score and brought UConn’s runs up to eight on the night.
The Tritons, desperately looking to overcome the Huskies came very close to doing so at the bottom of the final inning. With a series of walks, it looked as if UCSD was going to simply walk off with the win, but UConn’s closer Garrett Coe was clutch to win the game for the Huskies.
In a much less drawn-out drama, UConn won Sunday’s game but it was still quite a close one. Pat Gallagher was credited with the win, holding the Tritons off for most of Sunday night’s contest. Gallagher only allowed two runs against UConn in 5.2 innings he pitched.
The Hook C saw all of its offensive moves in the third inning, with Dana scoring another homerun, bringing in Huber and Bushling as well for a 3-0 lead. Despite Dana’s strong efforts for the second night, Penders expected more from the rest of the team.
“We did not have good at-bats for the most part,” the coach said. “We swung at more balls today than we have in however many games we’ve played and it was like an epidemic; certainly, in the back half of the order.”
UCSD didn’t capitalize on UConn’s lack of hits or runs, as the Tritons only had two scores on the night for a 3-2 game. Similar to Saturday, these came from just a single and a fly ball with enough Tritons on base to make it home for two. Proud to only hold the Tritons to a couple of visits home, Penders credited Cole Chudoba, who pitched a career-high three scoreless innings.
“He looked great. His stuff looked really good, he had confidence to him; really got onto some of their guys, too. It seemed to have a little extra giddy-up with Cole on the mound,” Penders said on Chudoba’s performance on Sunday. “He really set a tone. He was throwing strikes, coming right at their guys and he did a great job so I was really happy for him.”
Winning on Sunday puts UConn tied with the most road wins in the U.S., racking up 12 so far this season in the team’s travels as well as winning the series over UCSD. However, Penders and the Hook C weren’t completely satisfied with what they’ve accomplished over the weekend, focusing on Monday’s game to define the California set of games.
“It can be a good trip or a great trip, and that really hinges on tomorrow,” Penders said on Sunday ahead of the final game of the series. “You finish off a good ball club here at UCSD and then it becomes a great trip. If we stub our toe, it’s just a good trip. We’ve got to want greatness in this program, you don’t just want to be good; you want to be great.”
It was UCSD who was the great team on Monday, winning 8-7 over UConn to take the last game of the series. All weekend, each game was tight but the Tritons were able to get one after taking the losses the past two nights.
With three runs at the bottom of the second, UCSD took an early lead and held onto it steadily. At the top of the third, Erik Stock’s ground ball brought Korey Morton home to get the Huskies on the board. However, UCSD would follow up with a home run to make it 4-1 to head into the fifth inning.
The fifth inning was huge for the Huskies, and their bats were making a serious comeback. Off of a Zach Bushling single, both Bryan Padilla and David Smith came home for two runs. Then, it was Bushling’s turn to make it to home plate with Stock’s triple. To finish it off, Casey Dana had yet another home run, making it a great weekend for him and putting the Huskies in the lead.
Defense was a struggle this entire series for the Hook C, and it was ultimately a tight game from the Tritons getting guys on base and small hits to give them some big runs to win the game. Matt Donlan hit a home run in the eighth which tied the game at that point, 7-7, but UCSD would eventually score another to sneak by.
After this series, the Huskies are 14-4 on the season while the Tritons are 7-12. UConn returns to Elliot Ballpark on Wednesday, March 23 to play Bryant University.