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