Baseball: Hook C sweeps Rutgers behind two walk-off hits 


During their 17-game road trip to begin the season, the UConn baseball team won by two runs or less three times. In their first home series of the season, the Huskies picked up three more wins by that margin, winning two of those games in walk-off fashion after having their backs against the wall as they swept the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. 

Evan Sleight drew first blood, sending the second pitch he saw against Ian Cooke over the right field wall while Andy Axelson and Ryan Lasko each singled in runners to give Rutgers a 3-0 advantage. Korey Morton got the Hook C on the board in the bottom half as he ripped a full-count pitch for an RBI single, and Matt Garbowski subsequently brought in another run on a bases-loaded walk. Morton had the team’s first hit, but his speed gave the Huskies the lead as both he and Bryan Padilla scored on a Ryan Daniels sacrifice fly.  

Two Scarlet Knight singles in the third led to the game-tying sacrifice fly from Chris Brito, and the 4-4 deadlock lasted until the bottom of the sixth, when Daniels smacked the first pitch he saw off the right-field wall for a bases-clearing two-run triple. Both teams added a run in the seventh as Joshua Kuroda-Grauer lined an RBI single and Daniels collected his fifth RBI of the game on a bases-loaded walk. 

Devin Kirby struck out two batters with two runners aboard in the top of the eighth, but Rutgers regained the lead as Lasko collected his fourth hit and Cameron Love smacked a two-run double down the left field line. The Hook C loaded the bases on four batters before Dominic Freeberger tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice groundout. 

UConn appeared on its way to another 1-2-3 inning in extras as Joe Mazza struck out the first two batters he faced in the 11th, but Daniels singled and stole second while David Smith reached second on a wild pitch to put two runners in scoring position. Freeberger walked it off on a 2-2 count, this time sending a ball into the outfield for the 9-8 victory. 

Because of forecasted rain, the Huskies played their second game 30 minutes after their extra-inning affair. That 30-minute break allowed the Scarlet Knights to readjust offensively, and it paid off as Sweeney and Cohen singled before Axelson brought a run home in the top of the second. UConn remained unfazed in the bottom half, loading the bases without recording a hit before Morton stepped up to the plate. Now batting from the ninth-hole, Morton provided the team’s first hit for the second straight game, this time keeping a 2-2 pitch just fair of the left field foul pole for the grand slam. 

A Brito RBI single and a two-out run-scoring wild pitch made it a one-run game, but despite getting runners to third in each of the next two innings, Rutgers could not bring the tying run across home plate. The Huskies responded in the fifth by getting both of their runs back, loading the bases via two walks before Jake Studley and Luke Broadhurst each brought a run in on a sacrifice fly. Following a scoreless sixth inning, the Scarlet Knights got one more back as Sweeney singled in another run on an 0-1 count. Rutgers could have scored more, but Ryan Hyde tagged Sleight out at home plate on a bang-bang play. 

Justin Willis made his first appearance of the weekend in the top of the ninth, but almost immediately faced some trouble from the Scarlet Knight offense. Willis worked around two consecutive singles with two straight punchouts, but Sweeney made it a one-run game with a single to center field. Cohen walked on four straight to load the bases for Rutgers, but Willis forced Axelson to ground into a 5-3 putout to save the Hook C’s 6-5 victory in a game where they recorded just five hits. 

The Scarlet Knights started Sunday’s finale with a bang as Lasko sent the game’s first pitch over the right field wall. The next three batters all reached, and Love doubled the lead during a double play. UConn immediately erased that advantage as both Freeberger and Jake Studley went yard, but neither team broke the deadlock across the next two innings. That all changed when Kuroda-Grauer singled in Sleight in the fourth, and Rutgers added more in the fifth as Max Martin hit a first-pitch home run and Lasko scored on a wild pitch. 

Down three, Freeberger woke up the Huskies’ offense in the bottom half with his second opposite field home run of the afternoon, this time bringing in two runs. Padilla represented the tying run in the sixth, and Broadhurst immediately brought him home as he sent a 2-0 pitch to the batter’s eye for the go-ahead two-run jack.  

The Scarlet Knights loaded the bases and knocked Zach Fogell out of the game in the seventh, but Brady Afthim escaped the jam untouched with a strikeout and a fielder’s choice. Rutgers instead got ahead in the eighth. On a full count and with Tony Santa Maria on second, Lasko hammered his second home run of the day off of Kirby to regain a one-run advantage. Both teams went down in order across the next two half-innings, but the Hook C had a rally in their bones. 

Morton kicked things off in the bottom of the ninth with a ground-rule double, and after Freeberger walked on four straight, the Scarlet Knights turned to Sam Bello to record the final out and steal a game in the series. Instead, Huber blasted a 2-1 pitch to the edge of the woods for the walk-off three-run home run, completing the UConn sweep 9-7. 

The Huskies (16-5) continue their nine-game homestand against the Boston College Eagles on Tuesday, March 28 at 3:05 p.m. on UConn+. 

Leave a Reply