The UConn softball team enjoyed a gem of a home opener Wednesday, sweeping a doubleheader against struggling Bryant University. The Huskies received dominant pitching performances in both games, and rode an offensive explosion in the second game to seal the win.
UConn coach Jen McIntyre was thrilled with the team’s performance on Wednesday, noting that that was something they wanted to focus on this season.
“For us to come out and take care of the midweek doubleheaders was a big goal for us,” McIntyre said.
The first game finished 2-0 in favor of UConn (13-20). Though the score appeared close, the Huskies outhit the Bulldogs 7-2. Junior pitcher Kayla Doty threw a two-hit shutout, keeping the Bulldog bats at bay.
UConn got things going in the bottom of the first inning. After a Taylor Townsend single, Lexi Gifford roped a double to left field to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. UConn struck again in the fourth, with Alyssa Gardea knocking in Dominique Pinto with a sac fly.
Doty (4-2) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but her bid was broken up after recording just one more out. Doty recorded her fourth win of the season, and lowered her team-leading ERA to 2.26.
UConn rolled through the second game behind a team-wide offensive outburst. The Huskies posted 15 runs over four innings in a 15-2 thrashing of Bryant. The Huskies leapt out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After Bryant loaded the bases with a series of hit batters, Pinto hit a grounder to shortstop. The shortstop threw it wide of first base, allowing two runs to cross the plate.
The Huskies broke it open in the second inning, scoring seven runs on a string of hits capped off with a three-run home run from Gifford. UConn grabbed two more runs in the third, before a four-run fourth inning to put the game well beyond reach. Pinto delivered once again for the Huskies, blasting a three-run home run to left. Pinto’s five RBI on Wednesday give her 20 for the season, pushing her just past Gifford (19) for the team lead.
The offensive outburst was no surprise to McIntyre, who has maintained all season that the team heats up at the plate as a collective unit.
“They’ve been swinging pretty well. We’ve worked on a couple things in practice over the last two days, shortened some swings up and get better contact, and get back to fundamentals,” she said. “It was nice to see them relax a little and put some good barrels on the ball.”
Sophomore Chelsea Eckert (5-10) recorded the win in Game Two for the Huskies. Though she couldn’t match Doty’s feat of a shutout, she threw five innings, surrendering five hits.
“I think Chelsea did a great job. What we’re working for her is not even so much going batter-to-batter, but going pitch-to-pitch,” McIntyre said “Not worrying about the scoreboard, not worrying about the outcome, but really taking care of what she’s doing fundamentally to keep working and get better.”
Pete Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.