Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor considers Connecticut an ACC-caliber team. The Huskies lived up to that billing Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, even if both sides weren’t quite as sharp as they hoped.
A day after taking down the UConn 2-1, UVa fell to the Huskies 10-9 in a highly competitive matchup with plenty of back-and-forth scoring.
“We knew, obviously, Connecticut’s got a very good program, very good team and we’ll have to come out and play really well — a lot better than we did today — to have a chance to win the series tomorrow,” O’Connor said.
UConn (1-1) struck first Saturday when it loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. A bloop single into center field from Chris Brown, who hit ninth in the batting order, scored two runs to give the Huskies their first lead of the weekend series. Brown drove in four runs for UConn.
The first two runs were charged to UVa starting pitcher Griff McGarry, who went four innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out nine.
Zack Gelof put Virginia (1-1) on the board with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The junior infielder drove in three runs, smacking a double into right center field. UVa took a 3-2 lead over UConn with Gelof’s hit.
Unfortunately for the Wahoos, their lead was short-lived.
UConn loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, and the Wahoos gave away runs. Junior Zach Messinger and freshman Luke Schauer combined to walk two batters and hit another with the bases loaded, giving UConn three easy runs. The Huskies added another run on a single to complete a four-run frame. Messinger was charged with all four runs.
“Every time we got on the scoreboard, we took the lead in the fifth, we gave it right back to them,” O’Connor said.
On the day, UVa walked 11 batters and hit a pair of Huskies.
“It’s very, very rare that you will win a game doing that,” O’Connor said.
The Huskies pushed across another run in the top of the seventh for a 7-3 lead, but the Cavaliers didn’t quit. UVa scored four times in the seventh to tie the game, and it scored two runs from UConn miscues. A wild pitch and passed ball helped knot the score at seven.
Even with momentum seemingly shifted toward Virginia, UConn kept putting pressure on UVa’s defense. The Huskies strung together three hits, two walks and two runs off senior setup man Kyle Whitten to take a 9-7 lead.
They added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI double from Kyle Fedko. He stretched the lead to three runs, but for most of the day it was his brother, Christian, who starred for the Huskies, going 4-for-6 at the plate and scoring three runs.
The late insurance run proved valuable. UConn dropped a fly ball in the bottom of the ninth, allowing a pair of runs to score. The Huskies rallied and forced sophomore Max Cotier to pop up with the tying run on third and two outs to secure the 10-9 win.
Virginia looks to bounce back Sunday when it hosts UConn in the series rubber match. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. and junior right-hander Mike Vasil is expected to take the mound for the Cavaliers.
“We didn’t deserve to win that game,” Gelof said, “but we got to come tomorrow with a lot of energy, have quality at-bats, timely hitting, execute and things should go our way.”