MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – University of Connecticut starter Matt Barnes struck out eight over seven innings to lead the #19 Huskies to a 3-1 victory over #20 College of Charleston Saturday afternoon at Patriots Point in the Cougar Invitational. The Cougars fall to 15-5 on the season, dropping a pair of games in a row for the first time this season and will face Rhode Island tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m.
Connecticut broke through the scoreless tie with a single run in the top of the fourth. Mike Nemeth singled to left center and advanced to second on a single by LJ Mazzilli. Ryan Fuller followed up with a RBI double down the left-field line to score Nemeth for a 1-0 Connecticut lead.
The Cougars knotted the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by redshirt-freshman DH Daniel Aldrich (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.). After redshirt-junior DH Rob Kral (Randolph, N.J.) led off the frame with a walk and stole second. A strikeout by Barnes and a fielding error by Connecticut 2B Tom Vendi allowed redshirt-junior LF Jose Rodriguez (Hialeah, Fla.) to reach first and moved Kral to third with one out. Aldrich lifted a deep fly ball to right to score Kral, but Rodriguez was caught too far down the baseline to second and was doubled up at first. Kral crossed the plate before Rodriguez was called out, allowing the tying run to score.
UConn pulled ahead 2-1 in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk to Nemeth. After Verdi singled to left with one out, he was caught stealing for the second out. Ryan Moore walked and John Andreoli singled to right, advancing Moore to second. Another walk issued to Nick Ahmed loaded the bases and Nemeth drew a five-pitch walk from Charleston sophomore reliever Jake Zokan (Columbia, S.C.) to take a one-run lead. Sophomore RHP Matt Pegler (Greenville, S.C.) came in get the final out of the inning, getting George Springer to strike out swinging.
The Huskies pushed another run across in the eighth to open a 3-1 lead. Mazzilli led off with a double down the left-field line and Doug Elliot beat out a grounder up the middle, but Rodriguez let the ball get away at first, allowing Mazzilli to score after rounding third.
Charleston mounted a rally in the bottom of the frame, but came up empty-handed. Junior RF Marty Gantt (N. Augusta, S.C.) was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a throwing error by Barnes during a pickoff attempt. Senior CF Cole Rakar (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) singled through the left side, moving Gantt to third and Kral walked to load the bases for redshirt-junior 3B Matt Leeds (Boca Raton, Fla.). Leeds drilled a sharp liner up the middle, but UConn reliever Dan Feehan stabbed the ball out of the air and doubled up Kral at first. Rodriguez walked to load the bases again for the Cougars, but Aldrich grounded out to first to end the threat.
Aldrich had two hits to increase his hitting streak to 15 games for the Cougars. Junior LHP Josh Renfro (Bradenton, Fla.) took the loss for Charleston, allowing two runs on nine hits over 6-2/3 innings.
Mazzilli finished with three hits for UConn, while Andreoli, Nemeth and Verdi chipped in two hits apiece.
The Cougars close out the Cougar Invitational Sunday afternoon at Patriots Point against Rhode Island. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.