Huskies Headed to Semifinal Round

Last week, Connecticut baseball coach Jim Penders recommended a visit to church for one of his starting pitchers. Friday, after lefthander Anthony Marzi finally broke a streak of bad luck, Penders told his entire team he was taking them to the beach.

Marzi finally got some run support and the Huskies used their bats to chase Big East Pitcher of the Year Justin Amlung Friday as UConn upset No. 1 seed Louisville 4-1 to advance to the semifinals of the Big East championship tournament in Clearwater, Fla.

The Huskies move into Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinal against South Florida. The Bulls, seeded No. 4, eliminated Louisville 6-2 Friday night. UConn opened the tournament Wednesday with a 7-2 first-round victory over USF. But the Bulls swept a three-game series from UConn May 11-13.

Redshirt freshman Carson Cross (3-1) will start Saturday for the Huskies. Cross, with a 1.47 earned run average, made his first UConn career start last week and picked up the 4-0 win over Notre Dame.

No. 2 St. John's meets No. 7 Notre Dame in the first semifinal Saturday at 10 a.m. Both semifinals and any other elimination games Saturday may be seen at BIGEAST.tv. In addition, the UConn games will be broadcast by WTIC.com, WTIC-HD2 and WHUS-91.7 FM.

UConn must win the tournament to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Louisville is likely to get an invite without winning the tournament and now it seems the Big East will have two teams in the NCAA field, to be announced Monday.

"I told them we were going to the beach if they won the game," Penders told BIGEAST.tv after the game. "I told them they might even see my rear end in the water. I've got to pay up on the bet."

Marzi (3-8) threw 8.2 innings of four-hit ball Friday before giving way to closer Scott Oberg, who recorded the final out on a called third strike to pick up his ninth save. At one point Marzi retired 13 consecutive batters.

Marzi has lost three complete games this season, including a one-hitter against Cincinnati when he struck out a career-high 10 batters and still lost 1-0. He had not picked up a winning decision since April 1 when he beat Seton Hall. The Huskies picked up two runs in the second and Marzi had the lead the rest of the time. Those two runs ended a streak of 25 scoreless innings for UConn with Marzi on the mound.

Penders let Marzi go out to the mound for the ninth with a pitch count of 111. After giving up a two-out single, Penders turned to Oberg. Marzi finished with 127 pitches and 69 percent were strikes. He walked two and struck out five.

"After his last start I asked him if he ever went to church," Penders said. "He said no and I said, ‘You might want to start thinking about that.' I don't know if he went or not. But we finally got some runs for him. We could have gotten more. We left a lot of runners on.

"He was just awesome. I wanted him to get the [complete game] because he deserves it. I think he's had three CG's this year without winning. He deserved a crack at it. That was the only negative that he couldn't finish it. But a great job by him."

Marzi's fastball was tough. The sophomore from Berlin, Conn., likes to paint the corner and he attacked the Louisville batters inside.

"I knew what I had to do because I pitched against them earlier in the season," Marzi said. "It was awesome. I really haven't had it all year and it was a good time to get it. It was a lot of fun pitching with the lead."

Amlung went seven innings, giving up all four runs on 10 hits. He walked two and struck out six. UConn put together four straight singles with two out in the ninth. Tim Martin, LJ Mazzilli, Ryan Fuller and Tom Verdi had the string of singles to give UConn a 2-0 lead.

After Louisville scored its only run in the fifth, Mazzilli (3-for-4) led off the bottom of the inning with a double down the left field line for the 200th hit of his career. Mazzilli later stole home on a double steal with Verdi going to second. Freshman left fielder then drove in Verdi with a single to left.

The win was the first for Connecticut over Louisville in the Big East Championship. UConn had fallen to the Cardinals in both 2006 and 2009. Since the tournament expanded to eight teams in 2006, nine of 12 teams to start 2-0 have made the final, while five of six champions started 2-0.


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