CLEARWATER, Fla. – Centerfielder Billy Ferriter went 4-for-5 with the go-ahead RBI in the top of the 12th inning to lift eighth-seeded Connecticut past No. 1-seeded Louisville Wednesday in the first round of the Big East Baseball Championship at Bright House Field.
The win was the first by a No. 8 seed over a No. 1 seed in the Big East Championship since Villanova beat St. John’s 12-0 in the 2008 first round. It also ended Louisville’s winning streak at 16 games, which was the longest active winning streak in the nation.
Ferriter’s base hit to centerfield brought in Eric Yavarone from second base with two out in the 12th, breaking a 2-2 deadlock that stood since the fifth inning.
Connecticut starting pitcher Carson Cross – an All-Big East Second Team selection – kept the Huskies in it by pitching into the 10th inning and allowing just two runs on seven hits in the no-decision. Cross threw 119 pitches and held the Cardinals without a run after the first inning. The Huskies’ bullpen worked three innings of perfect relief, with David Mahoney going 2.1 innings to get the win (1-2) and Pat Butler getting the last two outs of the 12th for his third save.
The Huskies (31-26), who were outscored by a combined score of 17-1 in three regular-season meetings with Louisville this season, built a 1-0 lead before the Cardinals came to bat. Ferriter reached on a bunt single, took third on L.J. Mazzilli’s base hit to right and scored on Vinny Siena’s sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead.
The advantage was short-lived, however, as Louisville (46-11) scored two in the bottom of the first. Coco Johnson roped a double down the leftfield line to bring in Adam Engel, who led off with a single. Ty Young scored on Cole Sturgeon’s hit deep in the shortstop hole to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead after one inning.
UConn tied it in the top of the fifth inning when Siena’s double to right-center brought in Mazzilli, tying the game at 2-2.
The Huskies threatened to take the lead in the top of the 10th inning, but Ferriter was out on a close play at third base on Mazzilli’s base hit to center. UConn coach Jim Penders was ejected arguing the call, and the Cardinals ended the threat when reliever Nick Burdi stranded Mazzilli at second.
Louisville got its leadoff man aboard in the bottom of the 10th when Zak Wasserman smacked a base hit to right-center. But Mahoney came on to relieve Cross and retired the Cardinals in order on a sacrifice bunt, a fly ball to center and a grounder to first.
Mazzilli went 2-for-3 with three RBI for the Huskies, while Yavarone finished 2-for-5. The Cardinals were led offensively by second baseman Nick Ratajczak, who was 2-for-5. Burdi took the loss for Louisville, falling to 2-2.
Connecticut will face the winner of Wednesday’s final first-round game between USF and Rutgers. The Huskies will play at 8 p.m. Thursday, while Louisville faces the USF-Rutgers loser at 5 p.m. in an elimination game.