May 25, 2013
Editor's Note: Chris Jones is the radio voice of UConn baseball on WHUS-91.7 FM. He wrote this story after calling the game on Saturday.
By Chris Jones
A year ago, the University of Connecticut baseball team watched USF celebrate on the field as the Bulls swept both games of a semifinal doubleheader to punch their ticket into the BIG EAST Championship game.
The Huskies were in a similar situation on Saturday with Rutgers needing to beat the Huskies twice to advance to the championship game. This time around, things fell the way of the Huskies.
A 2-1 victory for Connecticut over Rutgers on Saturday afternoon did not even require the playing of a second game and the Huskies will now take on Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championship game at noon. A trip to the NCAA tournament awaits the winner of the contest.
The UConn effort on Saturday was backed by sophomore starting pitcher Jordan Tabakman, who threw seven strong innings allowing six hits, no walks and strung out six Rutgers hitters.
“My game plan was to get strike one and get ahead of hitters,” said Tabakman. “I was able to do that and that’s why I was so successful.”
Tabakman ran into trouble in the second inning, after the Huskies had taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, when he gave up a leadoff base hit and then a couple errors in the field allowed Rutgers to have second and third with one out. After a base hit made the game 2-1, UConn first basemen Bobby Melley turned a double play by stepping on the first base bag and throwing out Charlie Law at the plate to preserve the one run lead.
“Errors happen,” said Tabakman. “Our defense has been great all week and we just had one bad sequence. I just wanted to stay focused and continue to throw strikes.”
The Husky offense did not do too much at the plate but was able to get those two runs on the board in the first inning. Tom Verdi led off with a single and was eventually brought in on an LJ Mazzilli RBI double. Mazzilli would score a few batters later on a wild pitch to make it 2-0 Connecticut.
“Getting out early was key for us,” said junior shortstop Tom Verdi. “Coach Dez told us that if we got out early that we would win the ballgame and we did that with unselfish at bats in the first inning.” Verdi was talking about UConn assistant coach Chris Podeszwa.
The Huskies now sit one game away from winning their third BIG EAST Championship and first since 1994.
“A BIG EAST Championship would be the best thing, especially with this team,” said Verdi. “This is the closest team that I’ve been a part of, they’re my brothers and we are finally coming together at the right time.”