CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Vinny Siena delivered a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning to keep the UConn baseball team (34-24) alive at the 2015 American Championship with a 4-3 win over UCF (31-27) on Thursday at Bright House Field. The contest was UConn's second of the double-elimination style tournament and allows the Huskies to move on for another elimination game tomorrow at 3 p.m.
After UCF took an early 2-0 lead, the Huskies battled back to tie it in the sixth inning before taking their first lead in the seventh. The Knights leveled the contest again in the eighth inning to eventually force extras, where the Huskies came up with their first walk-off win of 2015.
The game-winning hit for Siena (Woodbridge, Conn.) was his third of the day as the All-Conference first team member and NEIBA New England Player of the year went 3-for-4 with two walks and two RBIs. Joe DeRoche-Duffin (Santa Ana, Calif.) also had a three-hit day and hit his 10th home run of the year, while Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) went 2-for-5 with a double and a walk from the leadoff spot. Aaron Hill (Groton, Conn.) reached base twice and scored the winning run for the Huskies.
On the mound, UConn gave the ball to American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Carson Cross (Brentwood, N.H.) who lasted seven-plus, rebounding from a two-run second inning to allow three runs on five hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Cre Finfrock got the start for UCF and allowed three runs on four hits in 6.2 innings with four walks and four strikeouts. Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) and Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) combined to provide four scoreless innings of relief for the Huskies, striking out three batters each.
The Knights jumped ahead with a pair of runs in the top of the second, scoring on a deflected RBI single and a bases-loaded hit by pitch. Cross was able to limit further damage in the frame, keeping it a 2-0 deficit after working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
UConn got a run back in the home half of the second frame when DeRoche-Duffin blasted a solo home run over the left field wall to cut the lead in half. Cross settled into a groove after the two-run second, retiring 11 in a row before an infield single to lead off the top of the sixth.
Cross spun a double play ball to face the minimum in the sixth, before the Huskies tied the contest in the bottom of the inning. Sundberg led off the inning with a double, then moved up to third on a Siena single before Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) drove him in with an RBI fielder's choice to make it 2-2.
Following another 1-2-3 inning from Cross, the Huskies pulled ahead for the first time in the bottom of the seventh. With two away, UConn was able to draw four-consecutive walks, culminating with an RBI base on balls for Siena that gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead.
UConn's first lead was short-lived, as UCF chased Cross one batter into the eighth with a solo home run from Dylan Moore that leveled the contest again. Ruotolo relieved Cross and kept it a tie ball game by retiring all three Knights he faced in the eighth.
Ruotolo stayed on through the ninth, helping to send the game to extras with 2.1 scoreless innings. Kay entered with a runner on in the top of the 10th and induced a pop up before a strikeout kept the game tied. The southpaw returned for the 11th and struck out two more in a 1-2-3 frame, setting the Huskies up for the walk-off win.
With one away in the home half of the 11th, Hill and Sundberg strung together back-to-back base hits to put two on for Siena. The junior cracked a single into center field, placing the ball perfectly for Hill to score from second and beat the tag to give UConn a 4-3 win.
The Huskies return to action tomorrow at 3 p.m. in another elimination game at Bright House Field. Six-seed UConn will take on the loser of two-seed East Carolina and three-seed Tulane, with the Pirates and Green Wave scheduled to square off tonight at 7 p.m.
The Huskies are now 5-4 all-time against Central Florida, including a 3-1 record this season
Vinny Siena recorded his 90th hit of the season in the sixth inning, marking the fifth 90-hit season in UConn history. Siena joins LJ Mazzilli and Mike Nemeth as the lone Huskies to achieve the feat and is now tied for second in a single-season with 93 base knocks and 10th all-time with 219 career hits
Siena posted his 27th multi-hit game of the season and 12th game with at least three hits
Jack Sundberg recorded multiple hits for the 21st time this year, UConn is 16-5 in those contests
Carson Cross pushed his career strikeout total to 222, fifth-most in UConn history. He has also notched 108 strikeouts in 2015, fourth-best single-season total in program history
The walk-off win for UConn was its first since Tom Verdi delivered a walk-off single against UCF at J.O. Christian Field on May 15, 2014. It was also the Huskies' first win in five extra inning games this year