May 15, 2014
STORRS, Conn. - The UConn baseball team clinched a spot in the 2014 American Athletic Conference Championship by sweeping a doubleheader against league-leading UCF on Thursday afternoon. The Huskies came from behind to win game one by a score of 5-4, before Tom Verdi delivered a walk-off single in game two to bring home a 6-5 triumph. The results move UConn to 26-28 on the year and 9-13 in The American, while UCF drops to 33-22 and 16-7 in league play.
Anthony Marzi (Berlin, Conn.) took the ball for UConn in the first game of the doubleheader, picking up the win in his final career start at J.O. Christian Field. His classmate Verdi (Warwick, R.I.) helped lead a small-ball attack with a pair of squeeze bunts to drive in runs in game one before his heroics in game two.
Marzi was excellent, allowing just two runs (one earned) in seven innings of work with three strikeouts. The senior lefty was opposed by Eric Skoglund, one of The American's best pitchers in 2014, who pitched in the seventh inning but was tagged with the toss after surrendering five runs on eight hits.
Verdi continued his recent string of hot-hitting, putting together a 2-for-4 afternoon at the plate with a pair of RBI. Jon Testani (Monroe, Conn.) also picked up two hits in three at-bats, scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
After threatening in the second inning, UConn broke through in the third, scoring the first run of the afternoon. Bryan Daniello (Norwalk, Conn.) opened the frame with a walk and advanced to second on a sac bunt. Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. Next up, Verdi executed a perfect squeeze bunt, pushing the ball past the mound, picking up his seventh RBI of the year and extending his hitting streak to 10 games.
The Knights took the lead in the top of the fourth, putting together three hits and scoring a pair of runs. Matt Diorio delivered the big hit, sending an RBI single into left field with runners on the corners.
Skoglund, four-time Pitcher of the Week in The American, settled into a groove in the middle innings, retiring nine straight Huskies from the third to the seventh.
UConn reclaimed the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning, plating four runs and chasing Skoglund from the game. After Daniello walked and Testanti poked a single through the right side, Sundberg laid down a bunt single, scoring Daniello and tying the game up. Verdi followed with the Huskies' third squeeze play of the afternoon, deadening the ball right on the first base line and picking up his second RBI of the afternoon.
After Blake Davey (Newport Beach, Calif.) walked and Skoglund uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch, Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) blooped an RBI double just inside the left field line, pushing the UConn lead to 5-2 and chasing Skoglund from the game.
UCF added single runs in the top of the eighth and ninth but Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, Conn.) was able to close the door on the Knights, earning his first career save.
Verdi's walk-off in came with two away in the ninth inning when he roped a single down the left field line to plate Sundberg, who came through with a two-out single before stealing second base.
Redshirt-junior RHP Jordan Tabakman (Pompton Plains, N.J.) took the ball for the Huskies and lasted 6.0 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Tanner Olson toed the rubber for the Knights but was unable to get past the first inning, allowing three runs and four hits.
Max McDowell collected two hits and three RBI, including his first home run of the season, in the victory, while Sundberg set the table with a 3-for-5 showing and scored the game-winning run in the ninth. Verdi went 2-for-4 with a run and the game-winning RBI, and Melley drove in a run.
Dylan Moore led off the game for the Knights with a towering home run over the left field wall to give UCF an early 1-0 lead.
The Huskies responded quickly in the home half of the second, putting three runs on the board. Melley drove in the first run with an RBI groundout, before run-scoring hits from McDowell and Nico Darras (Laguna Beach, Calif.) gave Connecticut a 3-1 lead.
UCF drew closer in the top of the third, cutting the Husky lead to 3-2 after Erik Barber launched his fifth home run of the year down the left field line.
McDowell flexed his muscle in the home half of the third, crushing a two-run home run over the hedges in left field. For the sophomore catcher, it marked his first home run of the 2014 campaign and fifth of his career.
The Knights pulled closer with a lone run in the top of the sixth but Tabakman was able to limit the damage, stranding two runners on with a punch-out of Moore.
Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) came on in relief for the seventh inning and pitched two scoreless innings. The Huskies went to the bullpen three times in the ninth inning but were unable to finish off their conference foes, allowing the Knights to score twice on an infield single from James Vasquez.
Sundberg singled up the middle with two down in the bottom of the ninth and advanced to second with a stolen base. After Verdi battled the count full, he cracked a single down the left field line, bringing home Sundberg and securing the doubleheader sweep.
Kay was credited with the win, marking his fifth victory of the year in his second appearance of the afternoon.
The teams will conclude regular season play tomorrow, May 16 at noon on Senior Day at J.O. Christian Field. Prior to the first pitch, the Huskies will hold a short pre-game ceremony to honor their three senior student-athletes.
- With three strikeouts, Marzi moved into a tie for fifth-place with Brian Herosian (1971-'73) on UConn's all-time strikeout list with 214.
- Tom Verdi now has an 11-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .381 with 11 runs, a .500 on-base percentage and seven steals.
- Anthony Kay recorded his first career save in the win. He becomes the fourth Husky this season to boast at least one save.