The University of Connecticut baseball team dropped an 8-7 game to Holy Cross yesterday. In a game that saw 11 pitchers come in, the Huskies could not nail down a one run lead in the ninth inning.
Entering the ninth with a 7-6 lead, Devin Over returned for his fourth inning of work. He was pulled after allowing a walk and a double. Coach Jim Penders handed the ball to Trevor Holmes to close the game out. Holmes was able to get a pop out and a strikeout, but could not ultimately get the job done. The Crusaders’ Anthony Critelli roped a hard line drive through the left side to drive in the tying and winning runs.
“Devin (Over) was the best he’s looked in a long time today and we ran him back out there. He walked the leadoff guy and then a double. So, we decide to go to our best strikeout guy (Holmes). He got two guys, we walk a guy and then their really good hitter got up and found a hole,” Penders said.
Andrew Zapata got the start for UConn (28-18) and was inconsistent. He went just 4.1 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, while striking out six with one walk.
“He wasn’t sharp, he was up in the zone. It was a step backwards today. They were getting a lot of barrels on balls,” Penders said.
The Crusaders got on the board early, scratching a run out in the first inning with a Connor Perry RBI double. UConn was able to respond immediately in the bottom half. Vinny Siena got it started, picking up his 200th career hit as a Husky. He then stole second and advanced to third on an error before a sacrifice fly from Bobby Melley.
The same script was followed in the second, with Holy Cross (23-24) putting a run across in the top of the second and then the Huskies responded in the bottom half. Down 2-1, it took a Jack Sundberg two out, two RBI single to even the game. In the top of the third, Perry hit a towering home run over the centerfield hedges at J.O. Christian to give the Crusaders even the score at three.
The Crusaders chased Zapata in the top of the fifth following a one-out double. He gave way to Callahan Brown. Brown faced four batters, allowing two hits, a walk, and a run with just one out recorded. Brown was relieved by Over, who was able to limit the damage to just one more run before getting out of the inning.
Trailing 5-3, the Huskies rallied to tie it in the bottom of the sixth. Willy Yahn drew a rare leadoff walk. Aaron Hill, pinch hitting for Bryan Daniello, laid down a sacrifice bunt and was able to reach due to a throwing error. Yahn advanced to third and Hill was on second. A wild pitch would bring Yahn home to score and Hill to third. Sundberg was able to drive Hill home on an RBI single to make it a 5-5 ballgame.
The Huskies took what looked to be a decisive lead in the 7th. Following a Max McDowell walk, Yahn jumped on a changeup, driving it well over the left field wall to give UConn a 7-5 lead.
“Well, Willy’s learning. There’s a book on him. He hit a changeup there, drove it and gave us a chance to win the ballgame,” Penders said.
Yahn’s homer wouldn’t hold up. In the top of the eighth, the Huskies struggled to get out of the inning. Over allowed back to back singles. Hill knocked down a hard hit ball over the middle, but could not turn the double play in time. It would have ended the inning. Siena then committed an error to allow the runner to score, making it a 7-6 game.
UConn went down quietly in the bottom of the eighth before surrendering the lead in the ninth.
“Those little things, in a game like this, we’ve had a lot of them here. You look back and say, ‘How many different things did we screw up?’” Penders said. “It wasn’t just one walk. We don’t complete a double play that would have ended the inning. We find a way to make the late innings at J.O. Christian Field an adventure for ourselves. I don’t have any explanation for it. It should be getting better, but it’s getting worse,” Penders said.
UConn is next in action this weekend. They travel to East Carolina for a three game series, beginning Friday. Coach Penders seemed confident on his team’s psyche for the big road test ahead.
“We have to play with a lot more confidence. Right now we don’t look like a confident ball club. We gotta figure a way to do that away from home. Maybe it’s good we’re back on the road, we’ve been much more resilient on the road than we have at home,” said Penders.