It was fun while it lasted.
Over the past two weeks, the Connecticut baseball team shocked the Big East and showed the nation it belonged in the NCAA tournament. But after a 12-inning loss to No. 2 seed Oklahoma Saturday, the Huskies were playing on borrowed time, needing three wins in two days to reach the NCAA super regionals.
It all came to a screeching halt Sunday as No. 1 seed Virginia Tech got revenge for Friday's loss to the fourth-seeded Huskies and defeated UConn 3-1 in an elimination game at the NCAA Blacksburg Regional. The start of the game was delayed two hours by thunderstorms.
The Hokies (40-21) advanced to play for the regional championship later Sunday evening against Oklahoma. UConn (35-28) saw its season come to an end. After adopting the slogan "Dead Men Walking" it was time to pack up the gear one final time.
Senior second baseman LJ Mazzilli, who went 0-for-4 in his last appearance in a UConn uniform, may have summed it up best after the game.
"I think that this year is the highest of all my memories," Mazzilli said. "It didn't start off the way we wanted it to, and even in the middle or towards the end, but we found a way. Winning that Big East championship is something that will stick with all of us."
"We knew we were going to get tested today with that rain delay, but I don't think that affected us at all. We left it all out there, and it is tough because we will admit we aren't the most talented team in this tournament, but we have to come with a certain edge every game and use that to our advantage. Our edge is to keep that high energy, believe in each other and never be afraid of anything."
Here's the game story from the tournament web site:
BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Keselica had two hits and an RBI to lift Virginia Tech past Connecticut 3-1 in an elimination game at the NCAA Blacksburg regional held at English Field on Sunday afternoon.
"It was a really good college baseball game," Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. "High stakes were on the line. We got another quality start. Everything is predicated on a quality start, and we were fortunate enough to have one from Brad (Markey).
"I thought we did a good job with situational hitting and fundamental baseball on the offensive side today. I look at the three runs, but I thought we had quality at-bats. I thought the bat was on the baseball a ton, so I think our bats are still in good shape. Hopefully we can get them hot in the next game."
The Hokies scored in the top of the second when Tyler Horan drew a lead-off walk and stole second base. Andrew Rash reached on an error by UConn shortstop Tom Verdi, putting runners at first and third. Horan then scored when Chad Morgan grounded into a fielder's choice.
The Hokies made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Horan hit a one-out double to right and came around to score on Rash's double.
UConn's lone run came in the fifth when Bobby Melley, who led off the inning with a single, later scored on an error by the Hokies' Alex Perez. Perez couldn't handle a throw from Morgan on a sacrifice attempt by UConn's Jon Testani, but Perez did chase down the ball and threw out UConn's Max McDowell at home to preserve Virginia Tech's lead.
"We deserve a better third-base coach," UConn coach Jim Penders said, referring to himself. "It could have been a heckuva lot different ball game if he doesn't make a bad decision in the fifth inning. That one was on me, and I told the guys that."
The Huskies later loaded the bases in the fifth inning with one out. But Tech closer Clark Labitan got Verdi to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Labitan got his 11th save of the season, going 3.2 innings in relief. He allowed just two hits, while striking out four.
"Clark was a really good matchup against them, being right handed and having a ton of arm-side run," Hughes said. "He really fit, but you still have to execute the game plan and make the pitches. I think we got him at just the right time. I've never seen Brad throw eight balls in a row the entire season. That was a good indication to make a move, and Coach (Pat) Mason was right on it. A good move is when someone comes in and executes, and Clark was very good today."
"He was very good," UConn second baseman LJ Mazzilli said of Labitan. "He hit his spots against everyone. He forces you to chase a lot, and when he did come in the zone, he wasn't easy to hit then either."
Keselica gave the Hokies an insurance run in the ninth inning when his fielder's choice scored pinch runner Logan Bible.
Brad Markey (5-4) went 5.1 innings to get the win for the Hokies, giving up one run on five hits.
Anthony Marzi (5-7) took the loss for UConn.
• With his 27th theft of the season, and 100th of his career, Billy Ferriter becomes the first Connecticut player in school history to record triple digit thefts.
•Virginia Tech has now won eight of the last nine games against the Huskies. UConn has not had a two-game win streak against VT since it won three straight between 1977-2001.
• Tom Verdi's error was his 15th of the season. Verdi ends the year with the most errors on the 2013 squad.
• With his 5.1 inning outing tonight, Anthony Marzi has allowed just one earned run in 7.1 innings of NCAA Tournament action.
• The Huskies fall to 30-37 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
• Connecticut ends its season 18-21 against RHP, while holding a 17-7 mark against lefties.
• LJ Mazzilli was kept hitless for the 2nd straight game. It marks the first time in 13 NCAA Tournament games that he has failed to record a hit in consecutive games.
•Connecticut ends the season with 46 double-plays turned. UConn hit into 60 twin-killings throughout the year.