March 2, 2012
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The University of Connecticut baseball team led 4-0 after batting in the seventh inning and allowed five runs to Mississippi State over the final three to fall 5-4 on a walk-off fielder's choice at Dudy Noble Stadium, Friday evening. The Huskies earned a split for the day after opening the MSU Tournament with a 4-2 win over Lipscomb. Connecticut dropped to 3-5 overall, while the Bulldogs improved to 7-2.
Sophomore lefty Brian Ward (Milford, Conn.) took his first no decision of the season after lasting six innings and allowing one run on three hits, three walks and four strikeouts. Senior righty David Fischer (Scotia, N.Y.) pitched 2.1 innings of relief and was credited with his second loss of the season, giving up four runs, only one of which was earned. He struck out a pair of batters and gave up four hits.
In the top of the fourth, sophomore shortstop Tom Verdi (Warwick, R.I.) broke a scoreless tie as he went deep to left with a three-run homerun to give UConn a 3-0 advantage. Verdi leads the team with 11 RBI and last weekend blasted the first grand slam of the season for the Huskies in a 10-6 loss to Charleston.
Connecticut’s lead was bumped to 4-0 in the fifth when senior center fielder Billy Ferriter (Nashua, N.H.) singled to right to score sophomore third baseman Mike Friel (Belle Mead, N.J.) from second. Friel led-off the inning with a base knock to center and advanced to scoring position on a sac bunt by junior right fielder Ryan Moore (Bristol, Conn.).
Ward walked the first batter he faced in the seventh and was taken out for Fischer. With one out and runners on second and third, freshman right fielder Demarcus Henderson grounded out to third to score center fielder C.T. Bradford for Mississippi State’s first run of the game.
The bottom of the eighth opened with junior catcher Mitch Slauter reaching on a fielding error by Verdi. With one out, junior DH Trey Porter homered to right field to bring the Bulldogs within one.
The Huskies failed to bring in any insurance runs in the top of the ninth after getting redshirt-senior catcher Joe Pavone (Rochester, N.Y.) into scoring position with one out. Junior right-hander Chris Stratton, who improved to 3-0 on the season, struck out back-to-back batters to end the visitor’s half of the ninth.
In the home half, freshman second baseman Matthew Britton singled to left to lead-off the innings and moved to second on a sacrifice. A throwing error by UConn junior second baseman LJ Mazzilli (Greenwich, Conn.) allowed sophomore shortstop Adam Frazier to reach base and move Britton, representing the tying run, just 90 feet away from home plate. After Frazier stole second, Slauter produced a walk-off fielder’s choice to score Britton and Frazier came around with the game-winning run on a throwing error by Verdi.
Stratton, who replaced sophomore righty starter Ben Bracewell after the third, pitched six innings and gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out nine.
Ferriter finished the game 2-4 for Connecticut, while Mazzilli and freshman left fielder Eric Yavarone (North Haven, Conn.) each extended their season-long hitting streaks to eight games.
The Huskies and Bulldogs are scheduled to take the field for a re-match tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 pm CT. Sophomore LHP Anthony Marzi (Berlin, Conn.) is scheduled to take the mound for UConn.