Baseball: Small ball sets the tone in Hook C’s 28-run outburst 

UConn men’s baseball showcased their 23-24 roster with a win against UConn Avery Point at Elliot Ballpark on Sept. 21, 2023. The Storrs-Huskies took the fall ball win comfortable with a score of 28-6. Photo by Skyler Kim/The Daily Campus

During their three intercollegiate fall ball exhibitions in 2022, the UConn baseball team scored at least 15 runs in each contest (18, 21, and 17, respectively) and allowed 11 total. Opening fall ball play against the regional campus UConn-Avery Point Pointers, who replaced Niagara Community College on the schedule, the Hook C showcased their explosive offense in a 28-6 beatdown at Elliot Ballpark.  

Rather than relying on the longball like they did 78 times in the spring, the Huskies got all but three of their runs on the ground, consistently attacking the plate and swiping bags. While the final score seemed one-sided, the Pointers looked like the better baseball team out of the gate, taking starter Garrett Coe deep two batters into the game for an early 1-0 advantage.  

Paul Tammaro’s first pitch bunt single in the bottom half immediately got the offense going, but none of their runs in that frame could have been possible without Korey Morton’s speed. Reaching on a game-tying fielder’s choice, the senior outfielder swiped second and third with Matt Garbowski at the dish, accounting for two of his three stolen bases on the night. Morton subsequently scored for a 2-1 UConn lead, but Avery Point took it right back with one fell swoop. 

Capitalizing on a dropped routine flyball that started the second inning, the Pointers smacked a go-ahead two-run shot into Connecticut’s bullpen for a sudden 3-2 advantage. Coe bounced back with three straight outs, but by then, the graduate lefty allowed more runs in one exhibition (three) than he did with the Falmouth Commodores (two) all summer.  

For all of the struggles the graduate lefty had on the hill, fellow Falmouth pitcher Stephen Quigley had his back out of the bullpen. Quigley, exercising his final year of eligibility, prevented Avery Point from scoring for a third straight inning and set the stage for the Hook C offense to tie the game in the third. Knotted at three, the Huskies opened the floodgates behind their small-ball offense and multiple Pointers’ defensive miscues. 

Across the next two frames, Garbowski collected two of his three hits on the night, which included a two-run double in a six-run fifth that several Avery Point players lost in the lights near the left foul line. Batting .257 in 144 at-bats in the spring, a 3-3 performance with three RBIs in the fall ball opener should have fans excited for a powerful 2024 campaign from the junior backstop. 

Ian Cooke entered a half-inning earlier with a comfortable three-run advantage and made the most of it, looking much better than when he went 3-3 with a 5.74 ERA in 12 starts as a sophomore. Across two scoreless innings, Cooke demonstrated improved velocity with a deadly slider, leaving Avery Point’s hitters looking silly on numerous occasions. With the Detroit Tigers drafting southpaw Andrew Sears, the junior righty should be the team’s ace once again. 

In three years at Tufts University, Cameron Mayer went from a starter to a bullpen arm, sporting a 2-0 record with a 3.93 ERA in 12 appearances (one start) this past spring. Relieving Cooke in the seventh, Mayer ran into early trouble when Avery Point scored their first run since the second inning. It started with a throwing error that sailed past Luke Broadhurst’s glove at first base, but an RBI triple and an RBI groundout on consecutive pitches opened the possibility that the Pointers could come back. Finishing his outing with three total runs allowed, Mayer showcased his potential as a reliable reliever with an arsenal of pitches released from a 90-degree arm slot. 

Still ahead 15-6, freshman Tyler Minick gave UConn those runs back in the bottom half with one powerful swing. Walking in his first at-bat, the freshman from South Setauket, New York, blasted a three-run shot that landed on the Rizza Performance Center roof beyond left field. During his senior year at Governor Mifflin High School in Pennsylvania, Minick batted .431 with 22 stolen bases, seven homers and 17 RBIs. Expect big things from the six-foot freshman, who was one of the first infield replacements in the game alongside Broadhurst, especially if he gets used in early regular season contests against quality non-conference foes. 

Connecticut scored once more in that inning, but by then, the Pointers’ chance at commencing another comeback attempt had dissipated. After 2023 NECBL All-Star Braden Quinn struck out the side in the eighth, something he did several times with the Danbury Westerners over the summer, the Hook C offense exploded for nine runs in the bottom half and essentially iced the contest.  

Freshmen Brett Davino and Michael Oates stood out the most in the later frames with at least one base knock. The former earned a spot on GameTimeCT’s All-State Second Team as a shortstop at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, while Perfect Game ranked the latter as the No. 1 catcher in Massachusetts. Although nowhere near a save situation, UConn’s projected closer Brady Afthim pitched the ninth, swiftly finishing the 22-run blowout with two strikeouts.  

Out of everyone in the starting nine, Jake Studley and Ryan Daniels played the most at seven full innings while everyone else stayed in at least four. Even though the Huskies had several extra base hits, including triples from Eastern Connecticut State transfer Matt Malcolm and sophomore outfielder Niko Brini, sluggers such as Drew Kron and Bryan Padilla reached on a mixture of infield singles and throwing errors. Even with a significant portion of the power no longer on the roster, especially in Big East Player of the Year Dominic Freeberger and All-Big East First Team selection Ben Huber, the Hook C can outslug opponents with their small ball.  

UConn continues their Fall Ball slate with their second exhibition against the Long Island University Sharks on Oct. 6. First pitch from Elliot Ballpark is at 3 p.m. 

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