BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech fell behind 4-0 and never could make up the difference, falling to Connecticut 5-2 in an NCAA regional game played Friday evening at English Field.
With the loss, the Hokies, who had won 13 of their past 15 games, fell to 38-21 overall on the season and will play Coastal Carolina in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies, who won the Big East championship, moved to 35-26 on the season and will play Oklahoma in a winner’s bracket game Saturday evening.
“We just made our life a lot more difficult,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said after the game. “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 Huskies pounded out 16 hits – all singles. That, and the five runs, were more than enough for starting pitcher Carson 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.
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 Bobby Melley’s single to right scored Billy Ferriter. Mazzilli later scored on a throwing error by Virginia Tech catcher Chad Morgan.
Tech 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, 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.
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.
“You just try not to do too much in that situation,” Horan said. “You don’t want to get out of your comfort zone. You just try to find a pitch you can drive. I just missed the pitch.”Joe Mantiply (6-1) suffered his first loss of the season. He went 4.2 innings and gave up four runs on 10 hits, but just one of them was earned.
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