Huskies Magic has been strong for the UConn baseball team the past month. Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla., there simply wasn’t enough elixir remaining to take down No. 1 Florida.
The Huskies were close. They chased Gators starter A.J. Puk, the possible No. 1 pick in next week’s MLB Draft, after five innings, rallied from a 5-2 deficit to score three in the fifth, and had the g0-ahead runner on with one out in the eighth before falling in the loser’s bracket of the NCAA Gainesville Regional with a 6-5 loss to Florida.
Now the Huskies, 1-1 in the regional, have their work cut out for them. They head back to the field at noon with the hope of surviving an elimination game against Georgia Tech. UConn down the Yellow Jackets 7-6 in the opening round on Friday. The winner of that game faces Florida at 6 p.m.
What it all means: The bottom line for UConn is that the Huskies must win three games, including two against No. 1 Florida to move on to the Super Regional next week. Not impossible, but certainly not easy.
Busted storyline: The pregame hype Saturday focused on the starting pitchers. A.J. Puk for Florida and Anthony Kay for UConn. It never shaped up that way. The two lefties were good, just not great. UConn’s Bobby Melley crushed a two-out solo home run off Puk in the first. Kay retired the first eight batters before Danny Reyes homered for Florida. The Gators followed that with another run in the third to take a 2-1 lead. Puk struck out the side in the fourth but was chased after the first four UConn batters reached base in the fifth. The Huskies tied the game 5-5 with three runs that inning. Kay left the game in the sixth.
Game winner: Florida’s Jonathan India blasted a leadoff homer to left in the eighth inning. That was the tiebreaker and winning run.
Difference: Florida’s pitching depth.Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson were lights out in relief, pitching 4.2 innings of scoreless ball. UConn had just one baserunner after the fifth.
And here are the transcripts from the postgame press conferences.
NCAA Gainesville Regional
Saturday, June 4, 2016Alfred A. McKethan Stadium
No. 1 Florida 6, No. 3 Connecticut 5
Florida Post-Game Quotes
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan
“The Saturday game seems to be the most difficult one since both teams are 1-0 and understand that they have to win one more to finish the regional; if they lose, they have to win three. Obviously we have a long way to go. Compliment Connecticut, they battled and jumped out on us in the first inning. We took the lead, they answered back; we took the lead, they answered back. They’re a very, very tenacious group. Jonathan (India) came up with a big hit at the end. I thought our bullpen was outstanding. Dane (Dunning) was probably the story of the game pitching-wise. Pete (Alonso) is swinging a really hot bat, and you can see the difference in our lineup when he’s in it. I’m pleased with how we battled. It wasn’t a clean game by any means, but we did enough at the end to win. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to getting Alex Faedo back out there.”
#20 Junior First Baseman Peter Alonso
On coming back from his injury:
“It feels amazing. Being out sucks; being on the sidelines and sitting in the stands at the SEC tournament was no fun. Coming back and contributing the way I am, I couldn’t be happier. I’m looking to keep it rolling and help my team win.”
#6 Freshman Third Baseman Jonathan India
On his go-ahead homer in the eighth inning:
“I was looking for a fastball. (Anthony Kay) was throwing a lot of sliders, but I got my good pitch. I thought off the bat it was good and I hit it pretty well, but then I saw it come back a little bit. I’m just glad it went out.”
#3 Junior Pitcher Dane Dunning
On his performance:
“I was trying to locate my pitches. Credit Connecticut’s hitters, they battled and fought off a lot of balls. I was trying to put up a nice goose egg for my team and just help us win.”
On coming out of the bullpen:
“I always hope for the best success. Mainly, the reason I wanted to (come out of the bullpen) was just to help our team win, in any way. If I start or come out as relief, I just try to get a W.”
UConn Post Game Quotes
Head Coach Jim Penders
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Coach (Kevin) O’Sullivan and Florida. I thought they played a really good game. There’s a reason that they are where they are. They’re very fundamentally sound, and they really swung the bats very well tonight. They’ve got some exciting, young freshman players. They out-played us tonight, but I don’t think they out-competed us. I thought we competed very well, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’d like the outcome to be a little different, but Anthony Kay gave us everything that he had like he always does. I love the fight in our guys. You saw it in the ninth inning. You saw it with Devin Over finding a way to get a strikeout after Willy Yahn doesn’t make a play on the pop-up — he picks up his teammate. You saw it in the ninth inning with Willy Yahn making two great plays to give us a chance to win the ballgame. It just didn’t work out tonight, but I thought we competed very hard.”
On how UConn responded to Florida offensively:
“I thought we responded really well. When they score, we want to score. We did a good job of that in the fifth inning, and we did a good job of that in the third inning. I wish we could’ve done it again in the eighth. I love our fight. We don’t do anything the easy way at UConn. The last time we made the super regionals, we had to come through the loser’s bracket, so it’s nothing new to our program. We’ve got to find a way to win two ballgames tomorrow now and make it to Monday.”
#11 Senior First Baseman Bobby Melley
On what he thought of A.J. Puk:
“It was just like we expected it to be. We knew it was going to be firm with good velocity and a really good slider to go with it. We really wanted to try to work him to see if we could rattle him a little bit and get him a little wild. I thought we did a good job with him. We stuck with it, especially after they jumped out to the lead, and we came right back and got him out of that ballgame to tie it up. I’m proud of the way we fought with him.”
On what made Florida’s bullpen arms Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson tough to hit:
“They had good life to their fastballs as well and good velocity coupled with their sliders and cutters. They mix that up, and they were picking their spots and their corners. They keep doing that, and I think that adds a little off-balance, and they did a good job with that.”
#18 Junior Pitcher Andrew Kay
On how he felt physically tonight:
“I felt fine. I just didn’t have my best stuff today. My body felt fine. I just didn’t pitch as good as I should’ve.”
On how going against a pitcher like A.J. Puk motivates him:
“It’s the first time I’ve pitched in a regional, so I was obviously a little amped up. Having to go up against him is a little special, but it’s nothing I’ve never faced before.”