UConn (13-20) softball will finally return to the Burrill Family Field on Thursday, as they welcome AAC newcomer Wichita State (17-13) to Storrs for the first time in program history.
UConn enters this week coming off a four-game losing streak, getting swept by USF and dropping a midweek game against Hofstra on Tuesday.
The Huskies were in a pretty good spot before that rough stretch, going 3-1 in the Texas A&M Invitational including a win over No. 12 host team, but the offense has gone stone cold as of late. In the past week, UConn has recorded only 15 hits and four total runs in four losses.
The Huskies have relied on a solid pitching staff so far this season, and that part of the game just hasn’t been there for the Huskies in their slump. UConn pitchers have given up 30 runs and walked 21 during their skid, with a 6.00 ERA over that span.
Luckily for UConn, Wichita State should be helpful in getting the Huskies out of their funk pitching-wise. The Shockers have struck out 154 times so far this year, the third-most in the conference.
That’s pretty lucky for UConn as their top two arms, Marybeth Olson and Jill Stockley, both rank in the top ten in the conference in strikeouts, with 62 and 60 on the year respectively.
If there’s any player who’s going to break UConn out of their hitting woes by sheer will alone, it’ll be Olivia Sappington. The outfielder leads the Huskies in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.405), slugging percentage (.482), and homer runs (5), all as a freshman.
Wichita State is ranked 31st in softball RPI, the best position in the American. The Shockers have been less consistent over the past week, beating a solid Creighton team in midweek action, then dropping a series to the upstart Memphis Tigers and turning right around to beat 25th-ranked Oklahoma State on Tuesday.
Fifth-year senior Page Luellen has been the breakout star this year for Wichita State, leading the team in batting average (.357), on-base percentage (.416) and slugging percentage (.614). Luellen redshirted her sophomore season due to injury, returned last year with solid numbers, and is now arguably the best player on the team.
The rest of the lineup has been solid for the Shockers as well, with five different players batting over .250. Wichita State’s batting order sits in the middle of the AAC pack in RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Wichita State has relied heavily on their top two pitchers this year to get them through games, because their pitching staff is a mess beyond that. Lefty Bailey Lange is the ace of the team with a 2.79 ERA and has started the most games for the Shockers by far, and for good reason.
The Shockers’ second starter Caitlin Bingham has appeared in 16 games, posted a 6.53 ERA, and allowed opponents to hit nearly .300 against her. Bingham, relievers Bailey Klitzke and Weber McKenzie drag Wichita State’s ERA down to a league-worst 3.58 ERA and allow opponents a .256 batting average, making them a good team to face for any lineup in a slump. so they’re a good team for any lineup in a slump to face.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.