March 9, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. – The University of Connecticut baseball team took a five-run lead into the bottom of the ninth inning and held on for an 8-7 upset over No. 22 Oklahoma in game one of the NIKE Showcase, hosted by Oregon, at PK Park on Friday afternoon. The Huskies improved to 5-6 on the season, winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, while the Sooners fell to 9-4.
Sophomore lefty Brian Ward (Milford, Conn.) improved to 3-0 as UConn won for the fourth time in its weekend-opener this season. Ward lasted six innings and struck out a season-high seven, gave up four hits, walked a pair and allowed three runs, two earned. Despite a seven-inning effort, junior lefty Steven Okert took the lass for OU, falling to 2-1, after striking out six and giving up five runs on six hits and four walks.
Connecticut put three runs on the board in the top of the first as junior second baseman LJ Mazzilli (Greenwich, Conn.) and senior first baseman Ryan Fuller (Old Lyme, Conn.) each lined run-scoring doubles, with Fuller plating two.
Oklahoma tied the game with a run in the second and two more in the third.
After two quiet innings, the Huskies regained the lead with a pair of runs in the sixth, all coming with two outs. Sophomore shortstop Tom Verdi (Warwick, R.I.) walked, swiped second and scored the go-ahead run on a single to right by redshirt-senior Joe Pavone (Rochester, N.Y.). Pavone came around to score on a single to center by sophomore third baseman Mike Friel (Belle Mead, N.J.).
In the eighth, UConn continued to produce runs with two outs as it lifted its lead to 7-3. Mazzilli led-off with a walk, but was erased by a line drive double play hit into by Fuller. With two outs, Verdi singled and scored on a double by Pavone and Pavone crossed home on a base knock to center by freshman designated hitter Alex DeBellis (Kinnelon, N.J.)
The Huskies weren’t prepared to settle for seven runs and added an eighth and final run in the top of the ninth. Junior right fielder Ryan Moore (Bristol, Conn.) singled, stole second and advanced to third on a groundball out. Mazzilli brought Moore in with his second RBI double of the game.
The Sooner offense began to attack the Connecticut bullpen in the bottom of the ninth. Junior second baseman Jack Mayfeld drove in a pair with a one-out double to left center to cut the UConn lead to 8-5. Redshirt-junior RHP Scott Oberg (Tewksbury, Mass.) was called out of the bullpen to try and lock down the win for the Huskies.
Senior shortstop Caleb Bushyhead singled off Oberg on a groundball to third and loaded the bases for freshman catcher Hunter Lockwood. Lockwood entered the weekend with five homeruns and 15 RBI, but was held hitless in five at-bats and was struck out by Oberg, his fourth strikeout of the game, to represent the second out of the inning.
The next batter, senior left fielder Evan Mistich, brought OU within one run with a two-run single to center and Bushyhead stood just 90 feet away from scoring the game-tying run. Oberg needed to retire just one more batter to end the game and he did so with a groundball out to Mazzilli to claim his second save of the season.
Connecticut outhit Oklahoma, 11-10, for the game. Mazzilli, Pavone and Friel all had multi-hit games. Pavone was 2-4 with two runs scored and two driven in.
Junior right-handed relievers Will Jolin (Guilford, Conn.) and Dan Feehan (Nashua, N.H.) both made appearances in middle relief for the Huskies. Jolin pitched a scoreless seventh and has yet to allow a run in 6.1 innings out of the bullpen. Feehan allowed four runs on three hits and a walk in 1.1 innings of work, but struck out the side in his first inning of the night, the second time in three outings that he has struck out all three batters faced in an inning.
While it was the first match-up between the two schools, UConn improved to 10-3 in West Coast trips over the last three seasons.
The Huskies make the trip to Corvallis, Ore. for a doubleheader tomorrow against Illinois and Oregon State at Goss Stadium, beginning at 11:00 am Pacific time.