CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The UConn baseball team attempted yet another late rally but ultimately fell, 4-2, to East Carolina on Saturday at Bright House Field. The sixth-seeded Huskies (35-25) end their run at the 2015 American Athletic Conference Championship in the semifinal round, while the two-seed Pirates (39-20) advance to the title game against top-seed Houston.
The Huskies had runners on base in every inning and out-hit the Pirates by a 10-6 margin but left 13 runners on base in the setback. ECU took a 2-0 lead after chasing UConn starter William Montgomerie (Lakeville, Conn.) in the first inning, before Connecticut cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first with a Blake Davey (Newport Beach, Calif.) double. The Pirates added single runs in the fifth and eighth innings to go up 4-1, before the Huskies scratched across a run and put the potential go-ahead run on first in a ninth-inning rally that fell short.
Davey led UConn offensively in the setback with a 2-for-4 effort, notching a pair of doubles. Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) added an RBI and had two hits while Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) and Willy Yahn (Sharon, Conn.) also had multi-hit efforts. Sundberg added a run and two stolen bases, giving him 33 swipes this season.
Sam Nepiarsky (Orange, Conn.) entered for UConn out of the pen three batters into the game and turned in a stellar relief outing. Nepiarsky tossed 6.1 innings in relief, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Jacob Wolfe got the start for East Carolina, who lasted seven innings and allowed a run on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
East Carolina struck in the first without the benefit of a hit, taking a 1-0 lead when three walks loaded the bases before an RBI groundout. The Pirates added another run with an RBI single later in the inning, before Nepiarsky limited further damage by stranding runners on the corners with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Huskies got a run back in the home half of the first when Davey cracked his league-leading 20th double to right center field to plate Sundberg and cut the ECU lead to 2-1. UConn threatened with runners on the corners and one down in the bottom of the fourth but Wolfe got a strikeout and a pickoff to escape the jam.
The Pirates stretched their lead to two runs in the top of the fifth, following a Hunter Allen triple with a squeeze bunt that brought a run home and made it 3-1. UConn put runners on the corners with one away again in the bottom of the sixth but a double play ball kept it a two-run game.
Nepiarsky exited after a one-out walk in the top of the seventh, and Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) came on to work out of a jam for the Huskies. With one away and a runner on in the top of the eighth, inclement weather in the area forced a two hour and 36 minute delay. Following the break, Trevor Holmes (Ashland, Mass.) entered for UConn and allowed a single to Luke Lowery followed by a throwing error that brought in another run for the Pirates.
Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) came out of the pen with two away in the eighth and struck out the lone batter he faced in the frame. The Huskies loaded the bases with two down in the bottom of the frame but ECU closer Joe Ingle induced a ground out to keep the Pirates on top. After Kay struck out two in a scoreless top of the ninth, the Huskies attempted to rally against Ingle in the ninth.
After Ingle retired the first two Huskies in the bottom of the ninth, Vinny Siena (Woodbridge, Conn) drew a walk. Melley ripped an RBI single to left a batter later that cut the lead in half, before a hit-by-pitch to Davey and a Joe DeRoche-Duffin (Santa Ana, Calif.) walk loaded the bases. With the potential tying run on second base, Ingle had enough left in the tank to induce a fly out to left that sealed his eighth save of the year.
The Huskies currently stand at 35-25 on the year and will await potential postseason selection on Monday, May 25.
With a fifth-inning single, Vinny Siena took sole possession of second for single-season hits in UConn history with 94 this season
Sam Nepiarsky set a new career-high with 6.1 innings pitched, topping his previous personal best set earlier in the American Championship with 4.0 innings against Tulane on May 20
Nepiarsky's outing was also the longest relief appearance for any Husky this season
Blake Davey hit two doubles and leads The American with 21 this season
Anthony Kay pitched out of the bullpen each of the last three games and fired 4.0 scoreless innings at the 2015 American Championship