The UConn baseball team rode a dominating hitting performance to a 13-2 victory over UMass at J.O. Christian Field Tuesday. The win was a strong bounce-back performance for the Huskies following a difficult loss to East Carolina last Sunday and improved the team to 9-2 in midweek play.
UConn’s offense pumped out runs in small chunks, scoring at least three runs in three separate innings. Bobby Melley led the way with a 4-for-4 performance at the dish, including a thunderous three-run home run to right field that opened up a 7-2 lead for the Huskies (26-15) in the fourth inning. Melley finished with four RBIs and three runs scored.
“Going into today, I knew (UMass) was throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, but I was looking for that fastball mistake,” Melley said of his approach at the plate. “I was able to take advantage of a couple of those today.”
The Huskies finished with 19 hits in the game, as they repeatedly made strong contact with pitches from UMass starter Tim Cassidy. Cassidy finished the day having allowed 11 runs and 12 hits in only 5.0 innings of work. Kevin Lacy and Scott Hovey also did not fare well out of the bullpen for the Minutemen, as they combined to give up seven hits and two runs in three innings.
“I’m a big believer that hitting is contagious,” said Max McDowell, who finished with four hits including a solo home run in the fifth inning. “Get a couple guys going and the whole team tends to get going.”
Andrew Zapata gave the Huskies seven quality innings for the third consecutive start, giving up two runs on five hits while striking out five. After UMass cut UConn’s lead to 4-2 in the top of the fourth, Zapata allowed only one hit before being pulled for Samuel Nepiarsky.
“He was very good,” head coach Jim Penders said of his starting pitcher. “He waited until we got some separation, and then he was even better.”
Next up, the Huskies will continue their lengthy home stand Wednesday when they host UMass Lowell. The meeting will be the first between the two teams since 1940. The River Hawks are struggling in 2015, with a 9-19 record for the season including a 5-14 mark on the road. They are hitting .271 on the season and hold a 5.78 team ERA.
Bobby Melley recognized the importance of Tuesday’s win going forward as the Huskies head into the final weeks of the regular season.
“We took a tough one on the chin this weekend,” Melley said. “To lose it like that was tough, but to get back on the field and get a nice win today was a good feeling. Hopefully we carry this momentum into tomorrow and then through the weekend.”
First pitch between UConn and UMass Lowell is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.