In recent games for the UConn softball team, great pitching has been nullified by a desperate lack of run support. On Tuesday against red-hot UMass, the pitching was again phenomenal—and at last, the offense was even better.
Freshman Chloe Kerns reached base three times, sophomore Kelli Bates drove in two runs and sophomore Jill Stockley shut down the UMass bats on the way to a 7-1 victory over UMass Tuesday afternoon.
The Huskies (15-22) entered the contest having lost seven of their last eight, due mainly to a major offensive drought, averaging only 1.4 runs per game during that stretch. Tuesday’s matchup didn’t get any easier against UMass starter Candace Denis, who entered the game with a 2.36 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 15 starts, both of which led the team.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” head coach Jen McIntyre said after the game. “Our goal is always to take care of the region, and UMass was coming in hot, so we were looking to take them down.”
Despite the tough opposition, the Huskies’ offense finally came to life in explosive fashion. After a quiet first inning, Bates got UConn on the board with a two-run single in the bottom of the second. The Huskies then tacked on two more in the fourth with patient at-bats, as junior Ryne Nakama and senior Taylor Townsend both drew bases-loaded walks to take a 4-0 lead.
After the game, McIntyre emphasized the importance of production from top-to-bottom, especially from the bottom third of the order in Bates, Nakama and freshman Carissa Brizzi, who added a single and a walk. Bates, who usually bats second, was moved to down to eighth to balance the order.
“I thought it was a great team win today,” McIntyre said. “We saw production throughout the order, which was something we’ve been looking for. To see it start in the eight-hole was huge for us.”
UMass answered in the top of the fifth with an RBI single from Jena Cozza, but UConn would break the game open in the bottom of the frame, plating two runs on illegal pitches and another on an RBI sacrifice from redshirt senior Valerie Sadowl.
The Huskies finished with seven runs, but didn’t need most of them. Stockley, who entered the game with a 2.95 ERA, picked up her sixth win of the season in dominant fashion. The Massachusetts native went six innings, holding the dangerous UMass lineup to one earned run. Stockley was terrific pitching out of trouble, stranding eight baserunners.
“Jill did a great job,” McIntyre said. “She set the tone from the start. She does such a nice job of mixing speeds, and I thought she was really on her game today.”
Freshman standout Katie Koshes took over in the seventh, giving up a lone single before closing the door on the Minutewomen. She also recorded her 100th strikeout this season, the first pitcher to do so since Kiki Saveriano in 2013.
The Huskies are back in action again on Wednesday against Fairleigh Dickinson. The game begins at 4 p.m. at Burrill Family Field.