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Around the Bases
CBI Live: Illinois 2, No. 12 Oregon 1
Huskies Ward off
By Taylor Gelbrich
EUGENE, Ore. – Connecticut built a big
lead against Oklahoma and held on at the end.
The Huskies (5-6) rode Brian Ward’s six-inning
effort and survived a ninth-inning rally by the No. 17 Sooners
(9-4) to claim an 8-7 victory Friday in the opener of the Nike
College Showcase at PK Park.
Ward (3-0) allowed two earned runs on four hits
and was able to keep the Sooners off balance all game. He
spotted his fastball on both sides of the plate, but it was his
nasty change-up that had the Sooners swinging and missing seven
“He was really painting corners throughout the
game,” said UConn catcher Joe Pavone. “The change-up was working
really well against Oklahoma. They are a really good hitting
team and they were having trouble with it.”
“He has an excellent change-up,” said assistant
coach Jeff Hourigan. “It makes his fastball look a little bit
quicker. When he can throw that change-up in any count, that
good, it’s a tough time for hitters up there.”
Pavone led the Huskies by
going 2 for 4 with two RBI. Both of Pavone’s hits came at
crucial times for UConn. With the game tied at 3-3, Pavone’s
base hit down the right field line would push across Tom Verdi
to give the Huskies the lead. His double in the eighth allowed
UConn to pad its lead, as the Huskies would need every run in
this ball game.
“We were just trying to stay in it,” Pavone said.
“The pitcher kept pitching us away. He did a really good job. “A
bunch of guys came up big. If we could do better in the ninth
then we can make it less stressful for everybody.”
Connecticut jumped out all over Oklahoma’s Steven
Okert (2-1) in the first. Okert was having trouble finding his
rhythm early. Eric Yavarone lead off the game with a base hit up
the middle and Billy Ferriter followed with a full-count walk to
give the Huskies runners at first and second. Then the runs
LJ Mazzilli stroked an RBI
ground rule double over the right field wall to give the Huskies
a 1-0 lead. Ryan Fuller laced a ball deep in the left field gap
to push across another two runs and increasing the lead to 3-0.
Okert found his rhythm and got out of the inning without further
After being shut down in the first, the Sooners
pushed across a run in the second to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Matt Oberste lined a change-up off the left field wall for a
one-out double. After a walk, Cody Reine pushed across
Oklahoma’s first run with a base hit up the middle.
Oklahoma slowly started to find a way after Ward.
Oklahoma started off the third with a double and an RBI single
from Caleb Bushyhead. A stolen base and a throwing error would
put Bushyhead on third with no outs. The Sooners found a way to
tie it after an excuse-me swing from Oberste made its way just
out of the reach of Ward. The Sooners rally would end there, as
the score remained 3-3 at the end of three.
Erik Ross led off the fifth for the Sooners and
smoked a ball in the right center gap for what looked to be a
definite double, but Connecticut center fielder Ferriter had
other plans. Ferriter was on a full sprint and laid out
completely to snag the line drive. The play would prove to give
some of momentum back to the Huskies, which had slowly been
losing it to the Sooners as they crawled back to tie the game
after being down 3-0.
“The difference in the game was really the play
in left field; terrific play by them,” said OU head coach Sunny
Golloway. “Center fielder made a couple catches for them and
putting the ball in play is what you got to do.”
The huge defensive plays really proved pivotal
for the Huskies. They shut down the Sooners’ rally attempts and
the Huskies would follow them up with clutch two-out hitting.
The Huskies would capitalize on the 1-2-3 inning
from Ward with the help of Ferriter’s outstanding catch. After
the first two batters for UConn went down to a groundout and
strikeout, the Huskies found their way on with a full-count walk
by Verdi. Verdi stole second and just like that UConn has a
runner in scoring position and would eventually push their lead
to 5-3 in the sixth.
In the eighth, the Huskies would add to their
lead. After a leadoff walk, the day was done for Okert (7 IP, 6
H, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K). The Sooners brought in Jordan John in
relief. John seemed to be en route to getting out of the inning
unharmed after a double play ball, but he gave up a base hit and
back-to-back doubles. The Huskies pushed their lead to 7-3 and
welcomed another new pitcher in Kindle Ladd. Ladd was able to
end the UConn inning with a simple groundout to himself.
Things would get interesting in the ninth as
Oklahoma would have to somehow come back from an 8-3 deficit.
After a leadoff base hit, OU would follow it up with a strikeout
but the rally wouldn’t end there. The Sooners came back with
three straight base runners and cut the lead to two.
Connecticut would call on its closer, Scott
Oberg, to try to get them out of the jam. Oberg gave up a base
hit and the lead was cut to just one. With the bases loaded and
two outs, Oberg mustered up one last pitch to get Oberste to
ground out to preserve the win for the Huskies.