In UConn softball’s 7-6 loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, a near epic comeback in the bottom of the seventh was as encouraging as it was frustrating.
The Huskies offense got off to an uncharacteristically fast start, scoring three runs in the first, with the help of some shaky pitching from FDU starter Erica Johnson. UConn junior Emma Stanley drove in two on a bases-loaded single, and freshman Chloe Kerns came home on an error.
However, after a productive start, the Huskies settled into what has become a familiar routine: get runners on base, but fail to capitalize. They left nine runners on base in the game. FDU’s Johnson settled down nicely, but UConn’s hitters also helped her out often, swinging at bad pitches and stranding runners.
The Huskies did not score again until the seventh inning, when they nearly staged an impressive comeback. Trailing 7-3, the Huskies loaded the bases with a single, walk and a reach-on-error. With two outs, the Knights finally turned to a relief pitcher, as Baylee Ports replaced Johnson.
This turned out to be a mistake, as Ports hit redshirt senior Valerie Sadowl with a pitch, bringing home the Huskies’ fourth run. Freshman Devon Casazza followed with a clutch single down the third base line to make it a 7-5 game. Sophomore Kelli Bates followed with a walk to bring UConn within one.
With the game on line, FDU’s Johnson was brought back to the circle to get the final out. Junior Ryne Nakama grounded out to end the game, but was given a second chance after it was determined that the Fairleigh Dickinson first baseman had not properly checked into the game. Johnson produced another soft grounder to end the game for good.
On one hand, the Huskies’ seventh-inning rally was a shining bright spot in an otherwise-forgettable loss. It proved the team’s resilience and refusal to quit, even after being completely shut out for five innings.
“It was great,” said McIntyre after the loss. “It was good to see us continue to scratch.”
On the other hand, the inning was a frustrating glimpse of what could have been.
“The difference in seventh inning is that we were more disciplined at the plate. Earlier in the game, we got ourselves out swinging at a lot of bad pitches. It was the theme I told them all throughout the game, and that’s what the adjustment was in the seventh inning.”
As impressive as the comeback was, the Huskies will wonder why it took so long for the offense to come back to life. In the first inning, hitters were patient, drawing three walks and taking advantage with three runs. But in innings two through six, they chased pitches out of the zone, and helped out a pitcher who was having command issues for most of the game.
In the seventh, the needed adjustments were made, but it was too late. Just like in the first, the Huskies allowed FDU’s pitchers to throw balls, drawing walks, capitalizing on errors and producing timely hits. If the comeback had been completed, it would have been the season’s best victory so far—instead, it was even tougher to swallow.
Even so, the Huskies have plenty of positives to take away from the loss. The six runs fell just short, but it’s an encouraging total for a team that has had trouble driving in runs. Freshman Carli Cutler continued her stellar season, reaching base three times in four at-bats. Most importantly, the Huskies displayed their resilience—a vital trait to have after difficult losses like Wednesday afternoon.