UConn baseball's NCAA run ends with a 10-8 loss to Florida State in 12 innings

The UConn baseball team pushed Florida State to the limit, challenging one of the best pitchers and some of the best hitters in the country, and nearly bowed out and had to fight another day.

But by the 12th inning, the Huskies were out, their tank finally empty. James Tibbs III hit his third home run of the day, a two-run shot, to give the Seminoles a 10-8 victory and a two-game sweep of the NCAA Super Regional in Tallahassee, Florida, on Saturday.

“I'm devastated for us and the guys who played their last game in our uniform,” coach Jim Penders told reporters in Tallahassee, “but I'm so proud of the way they fought, the way they competed, the way they carried themselves all weekend. Life is about getting back up when you get knocked down, and these guys embodied that. They couldn't have been knocked down worse (Friday, a 24-4 loss).”

UConn (35-26) was two wins short of heading to Omaha and the challenge for the College World Series, the team's unfulfilled goal since 1979, will have to wait, but not for lack of fighting spirit. In the final game of a seven-year college baseball career, Luke Broadhurst hit a home run, a double and scored six runs to keep the Huskies in the game. Matt Malcolm, who like Broadhurst transferred from Eastern Connecticut, hit a pinch-hitter home run in the ninth inning to send the game into overtime and missed a walk-off home run by a few feet in the eleventh inning.

“We held them up,” Malcolm said. “They're a great team and they're going to make a big splash in Omaha. I just wish we could have made a run and come back (on Sunday).”

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The Huskies, Big East regular-season champions after a 9-15 start, beat Duke and Oklahoma in the regional last week to advance to the Super Regional, a best-of-3 series against No. 8 seed FSU. UConn reached the Supers in 2011 and 2022, but the path is blocked there.

Things couldn't have looked more bleak for the Huskies when they arrived at the stadium on Saturday. They had just lost Game 1, were hit by Friday's heat and were facing even hotter temperatures, facing elimination and one of the best pitchers in the country, left-hander Jamie Arnold.

But the Huskies know life as underdogs and they struck hard. Broadhurst scored a run with a single and Korey Morton hit another with a double, his 200th career hit, that gave them a 2-0 lead in the first inning and knocked Arnold out in the sixth.

“In my opinion, we made the best pitcher left in the tournament not only look great, but look good, and that's quite an accomplishment,” Penders said.

UConn third baseman Luke Broadhurst (20) is about to step to home plate after his two-run home run in the fifth inning against Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. Broadhurst had four hits and six RBIs in the Huskies' 10-8 loss in 12 innings in the Super Regional elimination game. (Courtesy of UConn)

The Seminoles unleashed another power attack on strike-throwing UConn starter Stephen Quigley, Tibbs hit two home runs in the third and fifth innings, Marco Hinges added a solo home run to give FSU a 5-2 lead.

But Broadhurst hit a home run to right-center field with Paul Tammaro on base to make it 5-4 in the fifth inning. Quigey allowed his 10th hit and fifth home run, led off by Max Williams, a solo blast in the sixth inning, and Braden Quinn was relieved.

In the sixth inning, Tyler Minick hit a double and Arnold's day was over. After a hit batsman and a walk, Broadhurst came back in and missed a grand slam by inches. His long fourth hit of the day hit the top of the wall in left-center field for a double and three RBIs, putting UConn back in the lead, 7-6.

“We told Luke Broadhurst a year and a half into his career that he wasn't good enough for the Huskies,” Penders said of the 25-year-old Broadhurst, “that he should play in Division III. He goes to Eastern, wins a national championship, and I was more nervous than I've ever been in a recruiting interview when I called him and asked him to come back. Instead of hanging up, he took our word.”

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Jaxson West opened the eighth with a solo home run against Quinn to tie the game. UConn tried to answer by loading the bases in the bottom of the inning, but Bryan Padilla flied out to the warning track in right.

FSU took the lead in the ninth inning with a single, a walk, a muffed bunt and a sacrifice fly. But Penders had to push a button and sent East Lyme and ECSU transfer Malcolm, one of nine Division III transfers on this UConn team, in as a pinch hitter. He hit a home run to right in the ninth inning to tie the game.

“Matt wasn’t ready to start his slowpitch softball career,” Penders said.

UConn then had the decisive run on second base with one out, but could not bring it home and it went into overtime.

“We just needed one more hit,” Penders said.

Brady Afthim limited the damage in the ninth inning and gave the Huskies a chance to win in the tenth and eleventh innings, but he couldn't get through the heart of the Seminoles team in the twelfth inning. Connor Whittaker held the Huskies to a stop for 3 1/3 innings and got the win.

“We didn't get it done,” Penders said. “We have to start all over again. I got outdone by the coach, we have to learn from that. But I told the guys on the team that they left (the program) better than they found it, and they loved it. When we win the Cup in Omaha, which we will, we'll stand on their shoulders. … That's a team I'll cherish forever.”

Anna Harden

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