Softball: Huskies look to heat up offense in California tournament

UConn softball senior infielder Lexi Gifford makes contact during the Huskies' game against Central Connecticut State at the Connecticut Softball Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut on April 15, 2015. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The UConn softball team went 1-3 last weekend at the FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Boca Raton, Florida. The three losses came by a combined four runs, the Huskies scoring only one run in each loss.

This weekend the team heads to Santa Clara, California for a three-day tournament and they’ll be hoping the California heat rubs off on their bats.

“We’re obviously not firing on all cylinders yet, and for us to still have a chance to win and be in a position to win a lot of these ballgames is a good thing as we move forward,” head coach Jen McIntyre said.

Nine games into the season, McIntyre still has mixed and matched lineups. She continues to look for players to take advantage of the opportunities they’re given.

“We’re gonna try to put the best combination of players out there against the best matchups based on who we’re playing and who might be pitching against us,” McIntyre said. “And we will continue moving some things around until we find something to really solidify that spot.”

“That spot” would be a corner outfield position. Six players have been competing for playing time in the three outfield spots and only senior centerfielder Alyssa Gardea has thrived at the plate early on. Gardea has nine hits in 24 at-bats, while the other five players competing for playing time have combined for five hits total.

“A couple positions we have right now seem to be settling in, and others you can clearly see are going to be a revolving door until someone steps up and really takes advantage of those opportunities consistently,” McIntyre said.

While the bats have been quiet, the pitching staff has been encouraging for the Huskies. Freshman Jill Stockley has thrown complete games in four of her five starts and sports a .72 ERA in 29 1/3 innings. Junior Kayla Doty has also impressed in 11 innings with a 1.91 ERA.

Sophomore Chelsea Eckert, the team’s most consistent pitcher last season, struggled early on, but performed well over six innings in her last outing. Despite the pitching staff’s early success, McIntyre still expects continued improvement along with the rest of the team.

“I’m really anxious for them to continue improving. They’re doing a great job and they’re not firing on all cylinders yet either,” McIntyre said. “That’s what we’re all looking to do: just keep working hard, keep improving and keep putting it all together.”

UConn will play five games over the course of three days in Santa Clara. They kick things off Friday with an 11 a.m. game against Nevada-Reno, followed by a 1 p.m. showdown with Illinois-Chicago. On Saturday they will rematch Nevada-Reno at 10 a.m. and play against Santa Clara at 2:30 p.m. They wrap up the tournament Sunday morning at 9 a.m. with another game against Illinois-Chicago. 

McIntyre believes the competition will be tough, but she is focused on her own team first and foremost.

“We’re anxious to get out there and compete,” McIntyre said. “We want to go out there and really focus on what it is that we need to do: take care of the ball, take care of the little things, get some offense going and continue to get strong pitching.”


Aaron Esposito is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at aaron.esposito@uconn.edu.