There’s no easing quietly into conference play for UConn softball this year, as the Huskies will travel to Tampa this weekend for their first American series against flaming hot South Florida.
The Bulls didn’t exactly start out the season on fire, getting swept by Florida Gulf Coast and Oregon, winning just one game in the Michele Smith Pediatric Invitational and losing three out of five in the tournament they hosted.
Things took a sharp turn for USF around March, however, as they beat Wisconsin in the Under Armour Invitational to kick off a 15-game winning streak that only ended this past week when the Bulls fell to the sixth-ranked team in the nation, Florida.
The key to USF’s red hot month of March has been their hitting: seven different Bulls have batting averages over .300 this year, driving in a total of 124 runs combined. Junior infielder Lindsey Devitt has been hitting out of her mind so far this year, ranking third in the AAC with a .640 slugging percentage and hitting .525 during the Bulls’ winning streak.
There are extra-base threats all over USF’s lineup: Devitt and teammate Mia Yung are tied for fourth in the AAC with five homer each on the season, while senior shortstop Cassidy Boyle leads the conference in doubles with nine on the year.
On the flip side, UConn’s lineup has gone through an offensive drought so far this season, ranking last in the conference in batting average, on-base percentage and runs batted in.
One bright spot in UConn’s lineup has been redshirt freshman Olivia Sappington, who leads the Huskies in multiple categories with 25 hits, five home runs, 14 RBI, a .301 batting average and a .950 OPS.
UConn will have as hard of a time as anyone keeping USF’s offensive weapons in check, but if anyone’s up to the challenge, it’s the Huskies’ rotation. UConn went 6-3 over spring break, and a large part of that was a result of quality pitching.
Junior Jill Stockley is undefeated in her last four games started, only giving up four total runs during that span, going the distance in all four games. Stockley is part of a UConn pitching staff that ranks third in the conference in ERA (2.86), going along with a solid defense that also ranks third in the AAC in fielding percentage.
Stockley was also on the hill for the Huskies’ best win of the year, a 7-1 upset victory over seventh-ranked Texas A&M, holding the Aggies to just one run in seven innings on the mound.
UConn’s freshman standout, Marybeth Olson, has had a down couple of games as of late, allowing seven hits against Army and five against St. Francis, but still boasts a team-best 2.21 ERA, .230 opponent batting average, and 61 strikeouts.
USF mirrors UConn in the fact that the best pitcher on their squad is a freshman. Georgina Corrick is top five in the AAC in strikeouts with 82, and has only allowed opponents a combined .198 batting average.
The three-game series will start this Friday at 4:30 p.m., and then continue on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.