BLACKSBURG, Va. – Connecticut first baseman Bobby Melley had four hits and an RBI, and Huskies starting pitcher Carson Cross pitched into the seventh inning to lift the Huskies to a 5-2 victory over Virginia Tech in an NCAA Blacksburg regional game at English Field on Friday.
The Huskies (35-26) pounded out 16 hits – all singles. That, and the five runs, were more than enough for Cross and three relievers. Cross, a second-team All-Big East selection, pitched 6.1 innings and allowed just one run on six hits. He struck out three and walked three.
“We were fortunate,” UConn coach Jim Penders said. “We got some breaks, and then in the ninth inning, we always seem to make it interesting. But it was a good win. I’m proud that we’re off to a 1-0 start.”
Leading 1-0, the Huskies broke things open in the fifth, scoring three runs, including two with two outs. They got an RBI single by LJ Mazzilli and then Melley’s single to right scored Billy Ferriter. Mazzilli later scored on a throwing error by Virginia Tech catcher Chad Morgan.
Virginia Tech (38-21), the top seed in the regional, got a run in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Sean Keselica to cut the lead to 4-1, but UConn answered with a run in the top of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Vinny Siena.
In the bottom of the ninth, Virginia Tech scored a run and had runners at second and third with two outs. Mark Zagunis, the tying run, stepped to the plate, but UConn reliever Pat Butler struck out Zagunis to end the game and earn his fifth save of the season.
“We just made our life a lot more difficult,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. “Give credit to Connecticut. They hit every mistake we made. We just gave up too many soft runs and we left too many men on base.”
The Hokies had several opportunities to climb back in the game, but they left 12 men on base. Virginia Tech’s best chance came in the seventh inning when it had the bases loaded and two outs, but David Mahoney got Tyler Horan to fly out to right to end the threat.
“I knew the pressure was on him (Horan),” Mahoney said. “I knew he was probably gripping the bat a little tighter. I threw all I had at him and was fortunate to get him out.”
Joe Mantiply (6-1) suffered his first loss of the season. He went 4.2 innings and gave up four runs, but just one of them was earned. He did give up 10 hits.
Connecticut will now play Oklahoma at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Virginia Tech will play Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.