When Donovan Casey blasted his first career home run in the fifth inning, it seemed like a foregone conclusion. Winners of five in a row, the sixth straight victory for the Boston College Eagles was well within grasp, a dominant 6-1 lead buoying their pitching staff. In the scheme of New England college baseball, they were about to dethrone the mighty Connecticut Huskies and ascend to the top of the local radar.
Undaunted, however, the Huskies scored one in the fifth, four in the sixth, and one apiece in the seventh and eighth to push past the Eagles and take an 8-7 victory from the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, MA on Tuesday afternoon.
Playing as the road team in their home state, BC scored one in the top of the first with a couple of quick doubles by Michael Strem and Chris Shaw to take a 1-0 lead. The Huskies responded with a solo homer in the bottom half off the bat of Vinny Siena to tie things up.
But BC responded in kind, scoring twice in the top of the third. Johnny Adams doubled to center to lead off the inning, then advanced a bag thanks to a wild pitch by starting pitcher Andrew Zapata. He scored when Joe Cronin grounded down the third base line. Cronin would score a couple of batters later from second base when Donovan Casey singled to right center.
Nick Poore settled down and shut down the Huskies into the fifth, where BC blew things open. Cronin led off the inning with a walk, chasing Zapata from the game. In came William Montgomerie, who intentionally walked Chris Shaw to pitch to Casey. The managerial move backfired, though, as Casey drove a shot over the center field wall to put the Eagles up 6-1.
With their backs to the wall, UConn began their rally quietly in the bottom of the fifth. Poore, still working efficiently and directly, surrendered a solo homer to Joe Deroche-Duffin to cut the score to 6-2. He would get out of the inning to finish a very good day, handing the ball over to Luke Fernandes in the sixth inning. Fernandes gave up a double and a single around a hit batsman, loading the bases for Willy Yahn. Yahn singled in two runs, followed by an RBI double by Joe Testani to tie the game at 6-6. It also sent Fernandes to the showers after just two outs recorded.
BC would retake the lead, 7-6, in the top of the seventh off an RBI single by Nick Sciortino against reliever Max Slade with the bases loaded. But UConn, facing Travis Ferrick, who got out of the sixth inning, allowed Jack Sundberg to single. Sundberg would eventually score against Geoffrey Murphy. Murphy came into the game after Kevin Connor faced Bobby Melley in a lefty-lefty matchup, giving up a base hit. Blake Davey singled off Murphy to score Sundberg and tie things up.
In the eighth, Siena, who started the Huskies offensive day, knocked home Yahn to give UConn their first and only lead of the day. There was some late-inning drama in the ninth when Casey led off with a single and advanced to third with two outs. But Nico Darras induced a line drive to center against pinch hitter Scott Braren to end the game.
For the Eagles, Murphy (0-1) was tagged with the loss, throwing 1.1 innings, charged with one run on two hits, while striking out one and not walking a batter. The loss spoiled what was a tremendous showing by Nick Poore, who went five innings, striking out nine. Poore walked only two and gave up just two hits, both solo homers, on 80 pitches.
Fernandes was charged with four runs on four hits in 0.2 innings, while Ferrick was charged with a single run on a hit in the same amount of time. Jesse Adams pitched the final 0.1 in the eighth.
For UConn, Darras (2-1) picked up the win after throwing the eighth and ninth innings, allowing three hits but striking out two. He did not walk anyone. Zapata went 4.1 innings in the start, striking out five and walking two while giving up five hits and four runs, all earned. Montgomerie lasted just under two innings, and Slade threw one.
Offensively, Donovan Casey had a monster day for the Eagles, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and a run scored, including the big three-run homer, the first of his career. Michael Strem went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, and Joe Cronin, although hitless, scored twice.
UConn improved to 18-9 overall with the win, while the Eagles fell to 11-14 with the loss. The loss snapped the Eagles' five-game winning streak and was their first loss since the Saturday game two weekends ago against NC State.
The Eagles have a quick turnaround for tomorrow, when they take on a struggling UMass team at the same NEBC. First pitch is slated for 3 PM.