By Nicholas Hellinghausen
The University of Connecticut baseball team opened their season this past weekend in Charlottesville when they took on the 16th ranked University of Virginia. UConn was coming off of an 8-5 record during the abbreviated 2020 season.
Ben Casparius faced off against Andrew Abbott in a battle of two aces in game one of the series. This was Casparius’s debut on the mound for UConn, as he transferred from the University of North Carolina after the 2019 season.
Casparius and Abbott each had a great outing in what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel. Zach Bushling started the top of the first with a single to right field for UConn and was able to reach third, but Abbott struck out Kyler Fedko to prevent the shortstop from scoring. UVA, on the other hand, was able to score a run in the bottom of the first inning when Casparius hit Logan Michaels with a pitch while the bases were loaded. After this little hiccup, the UConn ace notched his second strikeout to end the inning.
Both pitchers were beautifully executing all of their pitches and were causing the opposing offense to struggle mightily. UVA was able to secure a second run in the third inning, following an RBI groundout by outfielder Alex Tappen to go up 2-0. The fourth and fifth innings saw both Casparius and Abbott retire their first three batters faced. The starters recorded two outs against their first two batters in the sixth inning before each team went to the bullpen.
Casparius pitched 5.2 innings and recorded six strikeouts. He only allowed four hits and two runs during his time on the mound. Abbott also went for 5.2 innings, letting up only two hits and no runs.
The bullpens for each team continued the dominant pitching performances. The only run that either team scored on the bullpens came on a home run from UConn’s first baseman Reggie Crawford in the seventh inning. UConn was only able to muster up one hit against the Virginia bullpen and three hits across the entire game. Despite a solid outing from Casparius, he picked up the loss as UConn fell 2-1 in the opening game of the series.
UConn bounced back the following afternoon and leveled the series following a high-scoring game. The first three innings started slowly, as there were 11 strikeouts and no runs scored. The Huskies were the first to get on the board during the top of the fourth after third baseman Chris Brown cracked a two-RBI single to centerfield.
UVA was able to take the lead in the fifth inning following a three-RBI double from first baseman Zack Gelof. The lead didn’t last long though, as UConn posted four runs to start the sixth. Christian Fedko, Ciaran Devenney, Crawford and Brown were all able to reach home during this frame giving the Huskies a 6-3 lead.
The momentum would switch once again during the bottom of the seventh, as UConn threw in a couple of wild pitches and passed balls that enabled UVA to tie things up at 7-7.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Huskies held a 10-7 advantage and were closing in on their first victory of the season. Virginia was able to cut the lead down to one, but UConn secured a popup from Max Cotier to seal the game 10-9.
The rubber game on Sunday saw UConn’s Jimmy Wang face off against Virginia’s Mike Vasil. UVA notched three hits in the opening inning and was able to score two runs off of them. The next score change would occur in the third when each team recorded a run, bringing the score to 3-1 in favor of Virginia. From this point on, both teams combined for only eight hits. UVA was able to win the series with a 4-2 victory in game three and moved to 2-1 on the season.
The Huskies can take away many positives from their weekend in Charlottesville. They were able to take a game from the extremely talented and nationally ranked Virginia squad. Although UConn was unable to walk away with victories in games one and three, their pitchers displayed incredible toughness and versatility. The Husky batters will look to cut down on their strikeouts when they travel to Hattiesburg this upcoming weekend for an away series against the University of Southern Mississippi.