Feb. 17, 2012
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Sophomore lefty Brian Ward (Milford, Conn.) pitched 7.1 innings of shutout baseball to guide the University of Connecticut baseball team to an 8-0 win over Indiana in the season opener at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge at Al Lang Stadium, Friday evening. The win was just the second win in a season opener in nine seasons for UConn head coach Jim Penders.
After posting a 6-1 record in his rookie season, Ward allowed four hits and struck out five batters to earn his first win of the season.
The Huskies raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings of play. Junior second baseman LJ Mazzilli (Greenwich, Conn.) registered the first hit of the season for UConn with a two-out single and came around with the game's first run on a double by senior first baseman Ryan Fuller (Old Lyme, Conn.). Fuller, who set a program single-season record for doubles with 27 last year, was thrown out trying to stretch his double to a triple to end the inning.
Connecticut continued to come through with two-out hits in the second inning as sophomore right fielder Anthony Aceto (North Providence, R.I.) and freshman left fielder Eric Yavarone (North Haven, Conn.) each delivered the first RBI of their respective careers. Sophomore shortstop Tom Verdi (Warwick, R.I.) scored on a single up the middle by Aceto and Aceto was brought around by a double to left field by Yavarone, in his first career at-bat. With runners on the corners, senior third baseman Tim Martin (Stratford, Conn.) posted the fourth straight hit of the inning to plate Yavarone and push the lead to 4-0.
The Hoosiers threatened to score in the bottom of the fourth, when freshman right fielder Tim O'Conner stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. With two outs, O'Conner ripped a ball down the left side that was snared by Martin to retire the side.
In the sixth inning, IU came close to scoring again as it has first and third with one out. Ward got the second out of the inning on a fly ball to right, which was caught by Aceto, who fired home to nail freshman third baseman Sam Travis at the plate for the final out of the inning.
Junior RHP Ryan Moore (Bristol, Conn.) came on in relief of Ward with one out in the eighth and struck out three hitters in 1.2 inning of hitless work.
The Huskies added four insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning. Martin, who went 2-5, picked up his second RBI of the day with an infield single to score Yavarone. Fuller added his second RBI of the game with a single to right to plate Mazzilli and finish the day 2-3 at the dish.
For Indiana, senior righty Chad Martin took the loss after lasting just 3.1 innings and giving up four runs on six hits and three walks. Travis collected two of the Hoosiers' four hits on a 2-4 day.
UConn now holds a 3-1 series lead against IU that dates back to 1998 and has evened its all-time record at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge at 5-5.
The Huskies have a quick turn around as they take the field at the Walter Fuller Complex, also in St. Petersburg, for a 10:00 am game against Purdue.