UConn heads to Houston to take on the Cougars for a conference showdown

The Huskies started off the game against CCSU strong with a run in the first inning.  The Huskies continued dominating when #4, Ally Hernandez, hit a Grand Slam, driving UConn to win 6-0 over CCSU. (Tyler Benton/ The Daily Campus)

The UConn softball team (13-16) will depart rainy Connecticut in exchange for sunny Texas this weekend. The Huskies will play Houston (17-17) Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

UConn is coming off a doubleheader split with Hofstra that showed UConn’s strengths and weaknesses.

For freshman Katie Koshes, it was business as usual as she hurled her fifth complete game, allowing only one run on three hits. Her record is now 6-3 with a 1.51 ERA. UConn went on to win the game 4-1.

UConn head coach Jen McIntyre said that Koshes’ performance was not just like all her other outings.

“It was really fun to see that first inning where she struck out all three batters and I thought, ‘Okay, here we go again,’” McIntyre said. “What was great about her was that she wasn’t even as sharp as she has been. She didn’t have her best stuff, but she was still able to work through it, which was really encouraging.”

Offensively, Valerie Sadowl, Devon Casazza and Kiwi McDaniel led the charge. McDaniel got the Huskies going early with an RBI single. Then senior Sadowl, who is hitting .325 this season, smacked a home run in the fourth inning to give UConn a 2-0 lead. Finally, Casazza provided some extra insurance runs with a two-run shot.

McIntyre said that Sadowl has been up for her coach’s challenge.

“I challenged her a couple of days ago to embrace that leadership role, which she really has,” McIntyre said. “She has tremendous pop and power from her bat, as well.”

The second game of the doubleheader was a different story as UConn fell 10-2. Pitching and offense were not productive as Carli Cutler started and surrendered five earned runs in 4.1 innings.  Kayla Doty came on in relief and failed to record an out, but gave up three earned runs. Chelsea Eckert pitched 0.2 innings and allowed one run.

Cutler was the most productive hitter for UConn, contributing two of the team’s four hits and knocking in the only two runs.

UConn will have to put the second game in the rear-view mirror and focus on a very talented Houston team.

As a team, the Cougars hit .285 and have clubbed 25 homeruns, with nine of those bombs coming from Shelby Miller. Miller is also batting .350 and has knocked in 37 runs. Maya Thomas leads the team in batting average at .436 and has eight RBIs.

McIntyre said that they have to find a way to limit Thomas.

“Thomas has an incredible amount of speed and that accounts for a lot of her batting average,” McIntyre said. “She is able to get on base and wreak havoc on the base-path. So, obviously, our game plan is to keep her off the bases as much as we can.

McIntyre said that the pitching staff needs to keep Miller under control.

“Miller has a lot of power in her bat,” McIntyre said. “We are facing a shorter fence this weekend, so our goal is to keep her in the park and let our defense have an opportunity to make a play.”

Houston has a pitching staff of three primary pitchers. The staff ERA is 2.79, but is led by Trystan Melancon with a 2.41 ERA. Melancon has two complete game shutouts, as well.

In order for UConn to be successful against Houston, McIntyre said that the team has to play their best.

“We need to play our best softball. Everybody that is in our conference is talented and Houston certainly fits that bill,” McIntyre said. “They’ve got really good pitching, they have speed, hitting and power, as well as defense. So, we are going to have to bring our best game that we are capable of.”


Michael Logan is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.logan@uconn.edu.