Baseball Notebook: Huskies go error-free against Blue Devils
Jack Sundberg swings at a pitch against Temple at J.O. Christian Field. Sundberg went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs in Monday’s 9-1 win over Central Connecticut. STEVEN QUICK/The Daily Campus
After the UConn baseball team committed four errors in a 6-2 loss to Temple on Saturday, head coach Jim Penders said his group needed to use its day off on Easter to regroup and take a mental breather.
The Huskies took their coach's words to heart, defeating Central Connecticut 9-1 yesterday afternoon thanks largely to an error-free nine innings and a dominant complete game from senior left hander Brian Ward, the first of his UConn career.
Ward and the UConn defense were nearly immaculate for the Huskies, with Ward tossing six strikeouts against four walks - two of which came in a shaky first inning - and only four hits allowed. Eight of his nine innings were also scoreless, and the southpaw finished with just one earned run.
"It's nice. I've had opportunities to do it in the past, but this was the first one where I've gotten a chance to close it out, so it was fun," Ward said of the complete game.
The senior began his outing by throwing eight straight balls, a feat that typically doesn't become the prologue to a 9-1 complete game victory. Ward quickly settled down, however, throwing the Central hitters subpar pitches that became weak flyouts or easy ground balls.
Ward said he credited his defense for digging him out of jams and keeping CCSU off the board with runners in scoring position.
"(Sophomore third baseman) Bryan Daniello made a couple of great plays," Ward said. "(Junior right fielder) Blake Davey, (freshman first baseman) Ryan Sullivan, they all made plays to get me out of big innings. Those are the plays that help a pitcher pitch a complete game."
Ward - whose fastball velocity peaks in the mid-80s, a below average number for most college starters - called on every pitch in his arsenal against the Blue Devils, going to his changeup early and often while also mixing in a curveball that fooled more than a few CCSU hitters.
"That's usually my game plan, just mix all my stuff, throw strikes," he said. "I just wanted to get ahead of guys, throw my offspeed and just keep them off balance all game, which I was fortunate enough to do."
Penders had nothing but praise for Ward after the victory, and said that he has pitched extremely well, even after experiencing a severe drop in pitch velocity over the course of his four years at UConn.
"He was great," Penders said. "It's a funny process, the four years. Here's a guy who was a real professional prospect as a freshman, a guy throwing 91, 92 miles an hour. Velocity's a funny thing. Sometimes it goes away. It just vanishes, as fast as it comes. He really struggled with that as a sophomore and significantly as a junior, and didn't really know who he was. Now he's embraced who he is, and (the complete game is) the result."
Penders said Ward, in embracing his loss of velocity instead of fighting it, has grown as a pitcher.
"You see a guy comfortable pitching to contact with his changeup, and he's not getting caught up in (speed) gun readings or what the scouts are writing or any of that stuff," Penders said. "He's concerned about just winning now in his senior season."
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