May 31, 2013


Huskies Single Out Hokies

By Zach Mariner

Special to


BLACKSBURG, Va. - Big East tournament champion Connecticut had 16 hits – all singles – in a 5-2 upset of Regional host Virginia Tech Friday night.


“I just thought our guys had more fun tonight,” said Jim Penders, UConn head coach. “We’ve been in that position where we’ve hosted a Regional on the first night and it’s tough. I remember when we were at Norwich in 2010 and it’s almost like there’s more pressure on the home team in the first game.


“That’s not to say that’ll last, but I thought our guys just had a little more fun tonight…we played loose, we played together and we swung the bats just as well as we did on Sunday [in the Big East championship game].”


The Huskies (35-26) racked up 10 hits off Tech starter Joe Mantiply, who only got through 4.2 innings and gave up four runs — although three were unearned. It was Mantiply’s first loss since May 18, 2012.


“My arm felt good going into the game,” he said. “I really think that a couple bad breaks and I really got caught up and let my emotions get the best of me and kind of lost my composure a little bit there.”


The Hokies, picked by many to win the Regional, will now have to win four straight to advance to a Super Regional.


“Obviously we just made our life a little more difficult in this tournament,” Hokies coach Pete Hughes said. “None of us sitting up here are happy with the way we played.


“We had a great crowd out there tonight and didn’t take advantage of that. Give credit to Connecticut, I thought they hit every mistake we threw up there.”


UConn starter David Cross had an impressive outing, throwing 6.1 innings and allowing one run on six hits, walking three and striking out three.


“Carson was behind a lot tonight, but he bent and didn’t break,” Penders said. “And when there was two outs and runners on, he was special. That’s the sign of an ace, that’s why he is our ace.”


The Huskies struck first in the second inning when Eric Yavarone singled to left to score Bobby Melley.


But UConn really broke things open in the fifth, thanks to a pair of Tech errors. With one out and the bases empty, leadoff hitter Tom Verdi reached on a miscue from third baseman Andrew Rash. Three out of the next four batters singled for the Huskies, making it 3-0. Then the unthinkable happened for Tech, when catcher Chad Morgan made an errant throw back to Mantiply after a pitch to Max McDowell that allowed Vinny Siena to score from third for a 4-0 lead.


Although the error was charged to Morgan, Mantiply took responsibility.


“I threw a ball, took my glove off for a second and then Chad saw me trying to get my glove back on and just short-hopped the throw and it got away from me to my right,” he said. “It was completely my fault.”


The Hokies (38-21) had a chance to build a comeback in the fifth after an Alex Perez single put runners on the corners with one out.


Sean Keselica then hit a long fly ball to the warning track in right field that was tracked down by Jon Testani. Both runners advanced, but that would be all Tech could muster.


Tech had a chance again in the seventh, when it loaded the bases with two outs for cleanup hitter — and second-team All-American — Tyler Horan, who hit a lazy fly ball to right field that ended the threat.


“I didn’t want to try and do too much, I didn’t want to get out of my comfort zone,” Horan said of the at-bat. “I knew going into it that they hadn’t been throwing me many strikes, so I was going to have to find a pitch that I could drive.


“I fouled off a couple pitches that normally I’d put the barrel on into the gap or something — but I ended up just missing that pitch.”


Tech rallied again in the ninth when Kyle Wernicki led off the inning with an infield single. Perez walked and Keselica drove a single through the left side. Wernicki scored on the play after left fielder Yavarone misplayed the ball, but Perez was thrown out at third trying to advance.


The absence of clutch hitting plagued the Hokies.


“We hit three balls hard to right field that didn’t get down or get out of here, or whatever you want to call it,” Rash said. “We didn’t capitalize on a couple other opportunities. We’ve just got to battle, come out tomorrow and be ready to play.”


Connecticut advances to play Oklahoma Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. Tech will play Coastal Carolina in an elimination game Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.