UConn softball made solid contact all weekend long and had plenty of chances to score, but a series of mistakes and bad breaks cost them a disappointing home sweep to East Carolina.
“I tell the girls just to keep fighting, that’s what the game is all about, it’s a game of inches and clutch hitting. We’re just one timely hit away,” Head Coach Jen McIntyre said.
Freshman Briana Marcelino had a breakout series, going 4-10 three doubles and a single, the closest thing the Huskies had to consistent offense on the weekend.
“I was just looking for my right pitch, an inside pitch and anything close to the zone that I could drive, and I was trying not to chase,” Marcelino said.
UConn kicked off the series on Friday, the first day of the year that really felt like spring, but it seemed like the Huskies’ bats still hadn’t woken up from hibernation as they grinded it out to a 2-1 loss.
UConn starter Katie Koshes had her usual solid outing, punching out six Pirates and only allowing one earned run off of two hits, but mistakes doomed the Huskies from the very start.
On the first pitch of the game, ECU’s leadoff woman Tyler King hit a can of corn into left field that was dropped, putting her at third for Koshes to work around. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to center, putting the Huskies at a one-run deficit in the first.
Koshes recovered however, retiring the next ten batters and giving UConn a chance to strike back. The Huskies did get runners on the bases in the first and second off a single from Reese Guevarra and Cari Cutler getting hit by a pitch, but that was all and ECU kept them off the board.
Koshes’ one spot of trouble came in the fourth inning, when she gave up a home run to ECU first baseman Meredith Burroughs, then momentarily lost control with two consecutive walks, but again recovered to send down the next two batters, limiting the damage to just one run.
UConn finally got on the board in the next frame, as second baseman Ryne Nakama took the first pitch she saw into center-field for a single, and was driven home by a double from pinch-hitter Samantha Barnett.
Guevarra and center-fielder Briana Marcelin both walked to load the bases, but a Kelli Bates strikeout and a Kiwi McDaniels pop fly ended UConn’s rally hopes, and the next six Huskies were sent down in order to seal the loss.
Nasty weather threatened the game on Sunday, so the teams decided to move the game scheduled for that day up to Saturday, playing a doubleheader on Saturday while the weather was still nice.
The second game of the series started out as another pitcher’s battle, but the Huskies eventually fell 5-1.
UConn starter Chelsea Eckert dealt five scoreless innings while the Huskies actually struck first, as Olivia Sappington slapped a single through the right side, advanced to second on a well-placed bunt by Cutler and was driven home on an infield single from Kiwi McDaniel.
The game fell apart for the Huskies in the top of the sixth, as Eckert walked two batters and gave up a double and a homer to put the Pirates on top, 4-1. Jill Stockley was called in for relief and gave up one more run in 1.2 innings of effort.
The Huskies had no trouble putting the bat to the ball, recording six hits in game two of the series and only striking out five times. However. The Huskies just couldn’t convert them into runs, leaving eight runners on base.
With the series already decided, UConn staged a furious comeback down five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but eventually fell 7-5 in the final game of the weekend.
The game had a different tone from the start, as ECU got four hits off UConn starter Katie Koshes in the first inning, but the Huskies were able to hold the Pirates to just two runs.
This time, UConn was able to strike back in the bottom of the inning, responding with two runs of their own off of singles from Marcelino and McDaniel and a sacrifice fly from Emma Stanley.
The Pirates wouldn’t let up though, scoring two more runs in the second frame and Stockley’s name was called once again to come in for Koshes.
UConn had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Guevarra walked, Marcelino doubled to right, and Cutler was hit by a pitch (again), loading up the bases with nobody out. The Huskies were then put down in order, leaving the bases loaded in a huge missed opportunity.
Stockley threw three scoreless innings before UConn’s mistakes caught up to them again, as an error extending the top of the next inning, and the Pirates scored three.
UConn fought valiantly in the bottom of the seventh, another double from Marcelino and singles from Sappington, Stanley and Chloe Kerns got the Huskies within two, but it wasn’t enough and the Pirates completed the sweep.
Despite the tough result, Coach McIntyre still took some positives out of the weekend:
“Looking at our lineup up and down, we have a lot of young faces and they’re taking their bumps and bruises, but the experience will pay off for them in the future,” McIntyre said.
The Huskies will be back in action this Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., taking on Central Connecticut State at Burrill Family Field.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.