CLEARWATER, Fla. - For the fifth time under 13th-year head coach Jim Penders, the UConn baseball team is headed to its conference tournament title game after earning a split with sixth-seeded Memphis on Saturday, May 28 in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference championship at Bright House Field. The Huskies, who move to 36-23 overall, dropped a 9-5 decision in game one before bouncing back with a convincing 5-0 victory in an evening elimination game.
The third-seeded Huskies advance to face fifth-seeded Houston in the league's championship game on Sunday, May 29 at 12 p.m. The contest will be broadcasted on ESPNews with radio coverage on WHUS.org, 91.7 FM.
Connecticut , which won three Big East Tournament titles, is in search of its first-ever American Athletic Conference crown since joining the league prior to the 2014 campaign. In total, UConn sports a 26-15 record under Penders in league tournament tilts and has advanced to the championship five times.
Connecticut improves to 9-5 all-time against Memphis in a series dating back to 1999 and moves to 7-1 in neutral tilts in 2016.
Three Huskies posted multi-hit efforts in the setback in game one, paced by a 4-for-5 showing from senior SS Bryan Daniello (Norwalk, Conn.), who drove in two and scored a run. Freshman OF John Toppa (Portsmouth, R.I.) notched two hits and scored a run, while redshirt-junior Alex LeFevre (Mansfield, Conn.) picked up two hits and an RBI as a pinch-hitter.
Sophomore RHP Joe Rivera (Southinton, Conn.) pitched four scoreless innings of relief, striking out three and allowing just one hit, while Dan Rajkowski (New Canaan, Conn.) finished off the final 1.2 innings without allowing a baserunner.
Memphis got off to a quick scoring, scoring four times on five hits in the home half of the first to jump ahead 4-0. The Tigers added a run in the second after Zach Schritenthal tripled and came around to score on a sac fly and extended the lead to 9-0 with a four-run third inning.
UConn broke onto the scoreboard in the fourth when senior Connor Buckley (Stonington, Conn.) laced an RBI single into left field to plate Daniello.
The Huskies hung a crooked number on the board in the seventh, scoring four times on four hits, including RBI base knocks off the bats of Daniello and LeFevre.
Sophomore RHP Wills Montgomerie turned in a dominant performance in his 13th start of the season, allowing just three hits in a career-best 7.0 scoreless innings of work. The righty struck out six batters on the way to his sixth victory of 2016. Junior closer Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) moved into sole possession of fifth-place on the program's all-time saves list, securing his 10th save of the year with 2.0 scoreless inning of relief.
Eight of the nine Husky starters recorded a hit in the victory, paced by a 1-for-3 showing from junior 2B Aaron Hill (Groton, Conn.), who blasted his second career home run in the eighth inning. Junior 1B Tyler Gnesda (Laguna Nigel, Calif.) finished 1-for-4 and drove in two runs.
Connecticut opened the scoring in the second, plating a run via an RBI single off the bat of Gnesda. The Husky 1B added another RBI in the fourth, plating DeRoche-Duffin, who opened the inning with a single to left.
The Huskies sealed the victory with a three-run eighth inning, highlighted by a solo shot off the bat of Hill.
To keep up with the Huskies during the postseason, follow @UConnBaseball on Twitter and use the hashtag #HookC.