BROOKLYN, N.Y. (May 26, 2007) - Bidding to become the first team in BIG EAST Tournament history to lose its first game and then go on to win the championship, the University of Connecticut baseball team fell just short of etching its name in the conference record books as the No. 8 seed Huskies fell to second-seeded Rutgers, 7-6, Saturday afternoon from KeySpan Park.
Despite the loss, UConn's appearance in the championship game marked the lowest seed in BIG EAST Tournament history to reach the final game. In addition, the 2007 league tournament featured a conference-best four total shutouts through the course of the week. UConn boasts two of the four shutouts as the Huskies blanked USF in two consecutive games Friday to reach the championship game.
UConn held a Rutgers offense that entered the championship game averaging 11.4 hits per game during the tournament to just six hits, but also committed three errors in the field. In fact, the Huskies out-hit Rutgers by an 11-6 tally.
The Huskies continued to battle and nearly completed an improbable comeback as the Huskies rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth inning. Senior first baseman Matt Untiet (Berlin, Conn.) singled through the right side to start the inning before coming around to score on the following play as junior third baseman Pat Mahoney (Des Moines, Iowa) laced a double into left field to chase starting pitcher Steve Healing. After the next Husky was retired on a groundout, senior right fielder Josh Farkes (Boston, Mass.) doubled into left-center field to drive in Mahoney. Junior center fielder Gordon Stevens (Vista, Calif.) singled to center on the next play to put runners on the corners, and both runners advanced one base on a balk. On the following play, freshman left fielder Pete Fatse (Hampden, Mass.) homered to right field to pull the Huskies within one. Sophomore second baseman Dale Brannon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) next reached with a bloop single into center field, but Scarlet Knight reliever Kevin Lillis retired the next to batters to preserve the win for Rutgers.
Backed by an early lead, Rutgers starting pitcher Steve Healing pitched eight innings and allowed three runs on seven hits to earn his 10th win of the season. Lillis earned the save for his third of the season.
Husky freshman starting pitcher Robert Van Woert (Johnson City, N.Y.) suffered the loss despite an effective outing on just three days rest. Van Woert allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits in four innings on the hill.
Rutgers (41-19) struck first in the contest as the Scarlet Knights plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Both BIG EAST Player of the Year Todd Frazier and second baseman Mike Bionde drew walks to open the frame. Husky starting pitcher Robert Van Woert (Johnson City, N.Y.) retired the next two hitters on fly outs to left field to keep both runners on their respective bases. On the following play, Rutgers scored its first run of the inning on a throwing error charged to Husky catcher Larry Day (Amesbury, Mass.) attempting to catch Bionde stealing second base. After first baseman Tom Edwards drew a walk to put runners on the corners, designated hitter Jon Gossard hit an RBI single into left field to score Bionde. In addition, Edwards came around to score as Husky right fielder Josh Farkes (Boston, Mass.) was charged with a fielding error.
Connecticut (34-27) answered with a run in the top of the second inning to cut the Rutgers lead to just two. Junior third baseman Pat Mahoney (Des Moines, Iowa) laced a single off Healing's glove, allowing the ball to trickle into an empty area on the infield. After taking second on a fielder's choice, Mahoney came around to score on the following play as Farkes ripped an RBI double into the right field corner.
Frazier, the 2007 BIG EAST Tournament Jack Kaiser Award Winner, put the Scarlet Knights ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning with his conference-leading 22nd home run of the season. Four batters later, Edwards delivered an RBI double to deep center field to give Rutgers a four-run edge.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Rutgers tacked on another two runs on a two-run home run into left-center field from catcher Frank Meade to put the Scarlet Knights up 7-1.
Individually, Farkes paced the Huskies at the plate with a 3-for-4 showing with two RBIs, while Mahoney, Fatse and Brannon also chipped in with two hits apiece.