Published May 15. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich - Chase Livingston experienced flashbacks when he returned to Dodd Stadium on Tuesday.
He could see the spot where he celebrated his game-winning, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh that lifted East Lyme to a 4-3 win over St. Bernard in the 2011 Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament championship game.
He still has the baseball from that special day.
He also vividly remembered winning ECC titles during his sophomore and senior seasons on the same field.
"I have great memories," Livingston said. "Being in the dugout, it all kind of flashed (back)."
On Tuesday, he added to his list of memorable Dodd Stadium moments as a freshman member of the University of Rhode Island baseball team.
In his first at-bat in a 7-3 win over UConn, Livingston hit a low changeup over the left field fence for his first collegiate home run - a solo shot in the second inning. The big hit came in front of a sizable personal fan club of family, friends, former coaches and current East Lyme High School players.
"I'm comfortable here," Livingston said. "It feels like home. We played some of our home games here last year. Being back here just felt great. … I was glad that I was able to play the way I did with all those guys here."
Livingston played first base and went 1-for-2 before being replaced in the fifth inning.
He may have set a record for fastest home run trot - make that gallop. When he reached the dugout, he received the silent treatment from his teammates at first and then they mobbed him.
"I saw it in the air and I thought it was going off the fence," Livingston said, "and I was just busting out of the box trying to get a double. I got made fun of for that, because I was flying around the bases. It was exciting. … It was one of the best balls I hit all year, but I wasn't expecting it."
An all-state catcher at East Lyme, Livingston has seen spot duty this season. Entering Tuesday, he appeared in 19 games, starting 13, and batted .171 with six RBI. He's split time at first, catcher and designated hitter.
It's been a big adjustment for Livingston, a three-year starter at East Lyme.
"It's kind of tough to not see live pitching and then have to jump right in, but I'm making an adjustment to it and it's becoming easier," he said. "I couldn't be happier. I've had a great year here. I've learned so much and feel like I've developed so much as a baseball player with coach (Jim) Foster.
"I'm just excited to get into summer ball and just keep developing and get back here next year and have another good year, hopefully."
This summer, Livingston will play for the Utica (N.Y.) Brewers of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
He still has some college baseball left as URI (31-22) visits Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia for the final regular season three-game series starting on Thursday. The Rams need just one to qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Since starting the season 0-9 while playing ranked teams on the road, the Rams have hit their stride, going 31-13.
UConn, on the other hand, is struggling, losing six straight. While the Huskies have qualified for the Big East tournament, coach Jim Penders is concerned about his team's play.
The Huskies (28-25) continued a troubling trend of falling behind early, trailing 2-0 on Mike LeBel's two-run home run in the first inning. Freshman pitcher Christian Colletti left in the third after allowing six runs. The bullpen did a decent job, but the offense couldn't rally.
Last weekend, UConn scored just one run while being swept by Louisville in a three-game series.
"We've been playing bad baseball," Penders said. "Some of that continued today. We had better at-bats than we had over the weekend. … We hoped to get a win and hope to build a little confidence and that didn't come today."
UConn has a three-game series starting Thursday at George Mason to try to regain an edge before the Big East tournament. But it may take more time for the young Huskies to make the necessary improvements.
"We simply have to get better," Penders said. "We have to find a way, somehow, some way."