Tim Cate’s week began with the news he had been named Rookie Pitcher of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. But as UConn baseball coach Jim Penders said Thursday night, there are no more freshmen at this point of the season.
Cate, a southpaw from Manchester, Conn., proved that with a veteran performance that lifted the Huskies into the semifinals of the AAC championship tournament in Clearwater, Fla. Cate struck out nine and scattered four hits over 7.1 innings as UConn (35-22) won its 11th consecutive game – a 9-1 victory over USF at Bright House Field.
Cate (4-1) was supported by a UConn offense that continues to be red hot. Eight UConn players had at least one hit and the Huskies totaled 17 to advance to the semifinal round for the second consecutive season.
Joe DeRoche-Duffin, the AAC Player of the Year, continued to spark the offense, going 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles. UConn scored three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings, breaking a 1-1 tie and breaking the game open. Bobby Melley and Bryan Daniello each had three hits for UConn. Daniello drove in four runs.
UConn, the No. 3 seed, has won its first two games in the tournament and will have the day off Friday. They will play Saturday (1 p.m. ET) against the winner of Friday’s elimination game between USF and Memphis.
UConn and No. 5 Houston became the first two teams to advance to the semifinals. Houston defeated top-seeded Tulane 5-3 Thursday. Tulane and UCF meet in an elimination game on Friday. The winner plays Houston Saturday.
No. 2 seed East Carolina was knocked out of contention Thursday with a 5-4 loss to Memphis. The Pirates had lost their opener to USF on Wednesday.
That means UConn won’t play the No. 2 seed and potentially wouldn’t face No. 1 Tulane until the championship game Sunday. It may sound as if the path has opened for UConn, but the departure of East Carolina will cost the Huskies points in the RPI rankings.
UConn is trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. The only sure path is the automatic bid that comes with winning the championship. But UConn is building a much stronger case for an at-large bid.
For the UConn box score, photo gallery, video highlights and an interview with Penders, check out the AAC championship central site here.