Sophomore left-hander Anthony Marzi threw a complete game one-hitter at Dodd Stadium but still picked up his sixth loss of the season as the Huskies (25-21, 13-7 Big East) dropped their nightcap 1-0 Saturday to split a doubleheader against Cincinnati.
If this was the first time Marzi (2-6, 2.96 earned run average) had fallen to such bad luck, it would be one thing. But it's beginning to feel like a broken record, spinning the same tune over and over. This was the fourth time in 12 starts this season that Marzi pitched when the Huskies were shut out.
"We just don't score runs for Anthony," Penders said. "I've never anything like it. He pitches on Sunday, we don't score runs; he pitches on Saturday we don't score runs. He's the nicest kid on the planet and he works harder than anybody. He deserves better. He pitched his heart out."
The Huskies won the first game in dramatic fashion when LJ Mazzilli blistered a two-run, walk-off double to center field for a 4-3 victory. Mazzilli was 3-for-5 in the first game and it seemed his game-winner that drove in Eric Yavarone and Billy Ferriter would give the Huskies a heavy helping of momentum going into the second game.
But Cincinnati (14-34, 3-17) received an outstanding start from Zach Morris (3-3, 3.11), who scattered five hits and struck out seven while going the distance to pitch the shutout. The intimate crowd of 421 was treated to a genuine pitchers' duel in a game that took just two hours to play. UConn didn't have many threats and stranded five runners. Cincinnati left four on base.
The Bearcats scored their only run in the fourth inning and it was an error that pushed Joey Bielek across the plate. Bielek led off the fourth with his 15th double of the season, a clean hit to right field, and moved to third when Matt Williams laid down a bunt. Marzi tried to come inside on Justin Glass but hit him with a pitch to put runners at first and third.
As Glass stole second, the throw from UConn catcher Joe Pavone was behind shortstop Tom Verdi and the ball trickled into center field, allowing Bielek to score.
That was it.
"The ball's got to get blocked in the middle of the diamond there and it doesn't get blocked," Penders said. "That's the one run. Little mistakes come back to bite you and today it was blatantly obvious. That did us in. We seem to be pretty good at beating ourselves.
"I thought we did a great job in the first game. Thought that would be a nice little momentum lift and get us going after final exams. Every time I feel like we're going to turn that corner, we just don't get it done the next game."
Marzi threw his first career complete game at Oregon in the NIKE Showcase on March 11 but lost 4-0. His first loss of the season came on in a 2-0 defeat against Rhode Island. And on April 21, he was the losing pitcher in a 15-0 defeat against Rutgers.
Saturday, he had good command of all four of his pitches. He struck out a career-high 10 batters, walked only two, got 11 ground outs and threw a career-high 109 pitches. His previous high had been 104 at Coastal Carolina, a 6-2 loss.
Marzi struck out the side on just nine pitches in the first inning Saturday. He also retired the first nine batters, striking out five of them.
"It's a little tough," Marzi said of his luck. "The more you do it, I think the bats are going to come around sooner or later. You just got to keep your head up, keep going out there, throwing strikes and getting outs. The runs will come.
"I was throwing my slider and curve ball for strikes and put away. Early in the counts, I was able to throw my fastball for strikes. If I can go in and out on both sides of the plate, it sets up the breaking stuff and that's when I can get strikeouts and bad swings."
Marzi said he wanted to throw an outside fastball on Bielek's double, "missed by a couple of inches and he was right on it."
"[Penders] tells me great job every time," Marzi said. "That's all you can for as a player. He doesn't talk specifically about not getting runs. But, yeah, it's in my mind. I honestly thought we were going to score in the eighth or ninth. It just didn't happen."
UConn and Cincinnati play the rubber game of the series Sunday at noon at J.O. Christian Field in Storrs. Brian Ward (3-3, 5.74) gets the start for the Huskies.
"All we've got to do is win one game and we win the series," Penders said. "No coach likes doubleheaders because they're tough to win. But you've got to win the series."