Baseball takes series from Rutgers
Published: Monday, April 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:04
The UConn baseball team took two out of three from Rutgers at home this weekend, but not without plenty of drama during the series.
In the first game, the Huskies jumped out to a 7-1 lead on the Scarlet Knights in large part due to a 2-run homer by first baseman Ryan Fuller in the first inning and a 3 for 3 start to the day by left fielder Tim Martin.
But Rutgers began to creep back into the game in their half of the sixth, when Huskies’ starter David Fischer lost control of his pitches and hit two batters, walked two – including one with the bases loaded – and also recorded a wild pitch in the inning and the Scarlet Knights closed the gap to 7-4. Rutgers eventually wrestled control of the game with an 8-7 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Martin lead off with a walk, and second baseman LJ Mazzilli advanced him to second on a ground out to third base. With the tying run on second, Fuller came to the plate and sent a pitch from Rutgers’ Charlie Law deep to left field and over the fence to reclaim the lead for the Huskies. Reliever Scott Oberg sent the Scarlet Knights down in order in the ninth to preserve the victory and improved to 4-0 on the season with the win.
“One of his biggest games,” Coach Jim Penders said of Fuller after the game. “I mean next to the Clemson game last year where he got some huge knocks of us down there to win us a championship – I thought [this afternoon] was probably his second best game as a Husky.”
The second half of the doubleheader was no less chaotic, as Rutgers jumped all over emergency starter Brian Ward and quickly jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first three innings.
After the Scarlet Knights stretched the lead to 7-2 in the sixth, the UConn offense came to life in the seventh inning. Left fielder Eric Yavarone started the Huskies’ rally with a leadoff single to left before Stanley Paul came in to pinch hit for right fielder Anthony Aceto. Paul roped an RBI double to plate Yavarone, and after a Billy Ferriter flyout to left, Martin pushed him in with an RBI single. Mazzilli continued the attack for UConn as he one-hopped an RBI double off the wall in left center field, then stole third base and was plated by a Fuller sacrifice fly to cut the Rutgers lead to 7-6.
In the eighth, shortstop tom Verdi ripped a double down the left field line to lead off the inning, and Paul again came through in the clutch as he brought him around to score with a 2-out double into the left to knot the game 7-7.
Both teams managed to tack on a run in the ninth inning, and the game went into extras tied at eight runs apiece.
In the bottom half of the tenth, with runners on first and second and one out, Martin singled to right field to bring in Paul for the winning run, giving the Huskies a 9-8 win in wild fashion.
“A lot of fight, a lot of fight in both games,” Penders said. “I thought we did a really good job of just grinding it out. Those were two Big East wars, they were ugly. We have to win ugly and we did it twice again today.”
In the final game of the weekend – which was played at Dodd Stadium in Norwich – the Huskies were far from sharp, as they gave up 18 hits and three costly errors in the field while managing just eight hits of their on the afternoon in a 15-0 drubbing by Rutgers.
After the Scarlet Knights loaded the bases on two singles and a hit by pitch, things began to come undone for UConn starter Anthony Marzi as Rutgers pushed across six runs on the inning. The defense was also a problem in the inning as third baseman Mike Friel threw the ball away attempting to come home with the bases loaded, and allowed two runs to score on the play.
Penders was far from pleased after the final out, calling it “a terrible baseball game in every aspect.”
In addition to his comments on the game itself, Penders had plenty to say on the pros and cons of his team playing games at Dodd.
“It’s different, it’s not a true home game,” Penders said. “I love that we’re treated royally here, the hospitality is incredible and the guys do a great job getting the field ready for us and making it feel as much like home – but it’s still not home. You’ve got to get on a bus – our bus was late getting there today – and it’s just another thing that you have to deal with.”
With the 2-1 record over the weekend, the Huskies improved to 11-4 in the Big East and 23-17 overall. UConn returns to J.O. Christian Field on Tuesday at 3 p.m. to play Bryant.