STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut freshman John Toppa drove in three runs and pitcher Anthony Kay allowed two hits in seven innings as the Huskies dropped Tulane 9-4 in their first American Athletic Conference game of the season Friday at J.O. Christian Field.
Kay (3-2), a junior left-hander, cruised through the first five innings on a cloudy, cool afternoon. He didn’t run into trouble until the sixth, by which time he was protecting a 6-0 lead.
He walked three consecutive batters, then gave up his first hit of the day — a grand slam to Grant Witherspoon.
“What you have to do with a kid like (Kay) is make him get in the stretch and raise his pitch count. When we did that, we got a big blow from (Grant) Witherspoon,” second-year coach David Pierce said. “That’s the kind of game you have to try and win 5-4 or 3-2.”
The Green Wave (18-8, 0-1) did not.
The Huskies (13-11) scored first for the 17th time in 24 games when Toppa laced a two-out single to right, scoring Bryan Daniello.
UConn broke it open in the fourth against freshman pitcher Ross Massey (3-2), scoring five runs on three hits and taking advantage of a Green Wave error — one of three on the day for Tulane.
After a two-run double from Toppa, Aaron Hill grabbed his 10th RBI with a single to right. The Huskies score two more runs on a throwing error by shortstop Stephen Alemais, whose lights-out defense was a highlight of the Greenies’ 7-1 win at LSU on Tuesday.
UConn tacked on a run in the fifth on another error and scored its final two runs in the sixth after back-to-back RBI hits by Bobby Melley and Joe DeRoche-Duffin.
“When you are facing a guy like Anthony Kay, you can’t afford to give them extra swings and extra outs, and that’s what we did,” Pierce said. “We played a poor defensive game.”
Kay became the ninth pitcher in program history to reach the 200-strikeout plateau in the win.
Redshirt freshman CJ Dandeneau finished the game for UConn. The reliever has not allowed a run in 10 innings this season.
Toppa finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored, while DeRoche-Duffin was 2-for-3 with two runs.
The teams will play a doubleheader at 10 a.m. Saturday because of a rough weather forecast Sunday in Storrs.
“We have a tough day tomorrow with a doubleheader, but we have to bounce back and go from there,” Pierce said.