Coming off a rough weekend in Santa Clara, the Huskies (4-14) performed admirably in the Gamecock Invitational hosted by South Carolina. Although they would come out of it with only one win, UConn showed promise.
The tournament opened with a game against a tough Kennesaw State. Freshman Jill Stockley started for UConn but only lasted 1.2 innings, after the Owls gained momentum in the bottom of the second. Kennesaw State tacked on five runs as Stockley was pulled for junior Kayla Doty. It was a lead the Owls would not come close to relinquishing.
UConn took one back in the top of the third. Team RBI leader and senior center fielder Alyssa Gardea reached on a fielder’s choice where Dominique Pinto scored on a mishandled throw. The Owls picked up a solo home run off the bat of Megan Verigna in the fifth and ultimately put up four more runs for a decisive 9-1 victory.
Coming back on Friday, the Huskies had a battle for the ages against host and elite foe South Carolina. Sophomore Chelsea Eckert got the start, but it was Stockley who took the loss. The pair each went five innings. UConn scored first as Jacklyn Dubois scored on a throwing error in the third. South Carolina took the lead, however, in the bottom half on a 2-RBI double by Kelly Clark.
Gardea, Kelli Bates and Taylor Townsend each earned a walk to start the third. Alyson Ambler singled scoring Gardea. Junior Kate Sims then earned a walk of her own bringing in Bates to retake a 3-2 lead. The Huskies couldn’t capitalize any further, and the teams combined for a scoreless fourth as well. In the bottom of the fifth, Clark ripped another RBI double to tie things up.
The game went scoreless from there and into extra innings. In the top of the ninth, UConn got the action going again; pinch runner Ally Hernandez was advanced to on a sacrifice bunt from Ambler after starting the inning on second base per extra inning rules. Sims reached on an error from the second baseman, scoring Hernandez to take the lead. UConn kept the bats going but couldn’t find any more runs before the end of the inning.
South Carolina tied it back up in the bottom of the ninth, another sacrifice bunt advanced their runner to third. The game-tying run came off a ground out to first. After UConn failed to score in the top of the 10th, Clark started on second for the Gamecocks and came home on a walk off single from Kaylea Snaer to win 5-4.
UConn wrapped up the tournament with a double-header against the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday. Stockley was on the mound for the first game; she picked up her sixth loss of the season, going six innings while allowing six runs on 13 hits. The game was scoreless until the top of the fifth, when the Spartans picked up three runs, including two from a wild pitch and an error.
UConn tried to come back in the bottom frame as Lexi Gifford doubled, Pinto walked and Gardea singled but the Huskies were unable to get any of them across the plate. In the seventh, Stockley and then Doty would be tagged for six more runs as the Spartans won with ease 9-0.
UConn closed strong, taking the second game of the double-header 8-3. Sophomore Chelsea Eckert threw a complete game and picked up her first win of the season. The Huskies jumped out to a big lead in the top of the third. Ryne Nakama walked and was bunted over to second by Hernandez. Gardea singled to put the Huskies in a first and third situation, and Townsend drove in Nakama with a single to the pitcher. Gifford walked, and Ambler was hit by a pitch-scoring Gardea.
Pinto came up huge as she laced a bases-clearing double to give the Huskies a substantial lead. UConn earned three more walks in the inning, allowing Pinto to score as well. In the bottom, Ebonee Echols smashed an RBI triple. Lea Forester then hit a two run home run over the center field fence to make it 6-3.
In the fourth, Townsend was hit by a pitch to start off the inning. Bates advanced her with a bunt, and a Gifford single moved her to third. Gifford swiped second, putting two runners in scoring position. Pinto forced an error during her at bat allowing both to score to go up by five and Eckert would hold on from there for the win.
The Huskies will hope to build on the momentum of their first win in a while. Next week they stay in the northeast to play in the Hofstra Invitational, along with St. John’s and Coastal Carolina, in Hempstead, New York.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.