Washington earns first Super Regional trip, beating UConn 9-6 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Washington earns first Super Regional trip, beating UConn 9-6

Photo: UW Athletics Photo: UW Athletics

By Washington Athletics

CONWAY, S.C.  –  AJ Graffanino hit a bases-clearing, three-run double in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 deadlock with UConn and lift Washington to a 9-6 victory and send the West Coast Huskies to their first ever NCAA Super Regional.
 
Washington rallied from down 6-1 with five runs in the third and three more in the eighth to escape the NCAA Conway Regional with a perfect 3-0 record. They now will travel to California to face Cal State Fullerton next weekend.  
 
"I'm really proud of our guys," Lindsay Meggs, the Huskies' ninth-year head coach said following his team's eighth win in nine games.
 
"One of the big things you don't want to happen is you don't want your guys to be disappointed, because they work so hard. With our guys, we've been in absolute overdrive in terms of playoff mode, for the last six weeks. I'm really proud of our guys and really happy for them because they really, in my opinion, overachieved."
 
The game got off to an inauspicious start for UW, as they spotted UConn three runs in the first inning before they picked up their bats. Troy Stefanski singled home one run – part of a 5-for-5 day for the UConn centerfielder – and John Toppa had a two-run single to give the East Coast Huskies a quick 3-0 lead.
 
Washington got a run back in its half of the first inning, stringing together a two-out rally. After Nick Kahle walked and Joe Wainhouse singled, Levi Jordan hit a high chopper that caught shortstop Anthony Prato in between hops. Kahle scored when the ball rolled into the outfield, to make the score 3-1.
 
UConn was back at it in the third inning scoring three more runs off Jordan Jones to go up 6-1, but Washington answered back in their half of the inning to tie things up.
 
Braiden Ward reached on an infield single and Kahle was hit by a pitch to set the table for Wainhouse. The senior delivered once again powering a home run over the fence in left-center field for his third long ball of the Regional and 17th of the year. The Regional MVP's three-run shot was his 11th in 15 games and moved him into a tie for sixth on UW's single-season list.
 
""I have been feeling really good lately," Wainhouse said in the understatement of the year. "Since the start of the year I have been getting more and more comfortable and I have found a groove lately."
 
After Wainhouse's three-run blast, the Huskies were not done. Jordan singled, advanced to second on a throwing error and eventually scored on a Willie MacIver single. The Huskies would go on to load the bases and tie the score up, 6-6, on a Mason Cerrillo sacrifice fly.
 
Now tied, Jones settled down on the hill for Washington. After giving up 10 hits and six runs in the first three innings, he made it all the way through 5 2/3 innings before being lifted after giving up a two-out walk in the sixth inning. He ended up throwing 104 pitches, allowing 11 hits – just one after the third – walking three and striking out four.
 
In the decisive eighth inning, UConn appeared to run out of gas and Washington took full advantage. UConn, who defeated Coastal Carolina earlier in the day to advance, committed two errors in the inning, their third and fourth of the game. They also walked Wainhouse intentionally to load the bases for Graffanino.
 
The Husky second baseman, who missed half of the season with a hamstring injury, fouled off the first pitch from Colby Dunlop and took strike two before lining and 0-2 fastball into the right field corner.
 
"I try to make sure I hit every fastball that is thrown in the zone," said Graffanino. "The second strike was tough, but I just tried to put the barrel on the ball."
 
His hit set off a wild celebration at home plate, but Washington still had three outs to record before they could thoroughly celebrate.
 
Alex Hardy relieved Stevie Emanuels – who was fantastic in 2 1/3 innings to earn his team high eighth win of the year – and promptly gave up a lead-off single to Stefanski. But Toppa lined out to Ward in centerfield and Stefanski was doubled off of first base for a quick two outs.
 
Hardy walked Chris Winkel before getting Christian Fedko to fly out harmlessly to Ward to end the game and set off a celebration on the infield.
 
"The fact that it is the programs first time, it is a special thing to be a part of," said Graffanino, who was given the customary post-game Gatorade shower. "Being around these guys and the coaching staff, this is definitely the coolest baseball experience in my life."
 
And the coolest part of the experience is that it will continue for the Washington Huskies.
 
NCAA Conway Regional All-Tournament Team:
MVP      Joe Wainhouse              Washington

 
INF        AJ Graffanino              Washington
INF        Antony Prato                UConn
INF        Levi Jordan                   Washington
INF        Zach Biermann             Coastal Carolina
C            Zac Susi                        UConn
OF          Braiden Ward               Washington
OF          Issac Feldstein              UConn
OF          Troy Stefanski              UConn
OF          Parker Chavers             Coastal Carolina
DH         Joe Wainhouse              Washington
P             Joe DeMers                   Washington

P             Anthony Veneziano      Coastal Carolina
 

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