UConn tops ECU 3-2 in conference opener

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Tim Cate struck out 13 batters and Chris Winkel scored a pair of runs helping Connecticut to a 3-2 American Athletic Conference opening win over No. 16 East Carolina, 3-2, Friday night at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win the Huskies improve to 14-9 overall and 1-0 in AAC play, while the Pirates drop to 18-9 on the season and 0-1 in league play.

Cate (2-1) picked up the win giving up one run (unearned) on five hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts, which tied a career-high. John Russell notched his eighth save of the year tossing 1.2 scoreless frames with a pair of walks and five punch outs on the night. Dan Rajkowski allowed one run (earned) on one hit with a walk and a strikeout in one-third of an inning. The trip of Husky hurlers combined for 19 strikeouts the most by a Pirate offense since fanning 18 times against Rice back on April 8, 2011.

Despite a quality start, Chris Holba (3-1) suffered the loss working a career-high 7.1 innings allowing two runs (both earned) on eight hits with six strikeouts. Matt Bridges gave up a run (earned) on two hits with one strikeout in two-thirds of an inning, while Sam Lanier struck out one in tossing a scoreless ninth frame.

Four Huskies tallied two hits on the night in Anthony Prato, Troy Stefanski, Winkel and Willy Yahn. Keith Kruger, Prato and Yahn each plated a run, while Winkel scored a pair to lead the squad.

Travis Watkins collected a team-high three hits while also scoring both Pirate runs. Spencer Brickhouse, T.J. Riles and Charlie Yorgen added base knocks.

How It Happened:
UConn plated a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning breaking a one-all. Krueger’s RBI double down the left field line with one out scored Winkel from second. Two batters later Yahn singled to shallow center pushing across Krueger from second for a two-run advantage, 3-1.

Prato broke up a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth with an RBI single staking the Huskies to a 1-0 lead. Winkel led off with a base hit through the right side and took second on Krueger’s sac bunt back to Holba before coming around to score on Prato’s second hit of the evening, a shot back up the middle.

ECU knotted the game at one-all in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Watkins doubled to left center to start the frame, took third on a Cate wild pitch and scored on Prato’s throwing error home on Eric Tyler’s ground ball to short.

The Pirates pulled within one, 3-2, in the bottom of the eighth when Watkins scored on Susi passed ball. Watkins led off the inning with a single and after a 52-minute lightning delay, Tyler drew a walk and Bryant Packard loaded the bases on another walk from new Husky pitcher Russell. Watkins then darted home on Susi’s second pass ball of the season.

Up Next:
ECU and Connecticut will play game two of the weekend set on Saturday, April 1 with a 4 p.m. (ET) scheduled first pitch.