Nine straight losses are a tough hill to climb over, but that is what the UConn softball team is tasked with in California this weekend. They are taking on the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California.
“We have focused a lot on what we have been doing well, more on the process than the outcome right now,” head coach Jen McIntyre said. “If you look at the outcomes, it was a tough weekend last weekend, but three one-run ballgames and we had opportunities to win each. It is a matter of coming up with some timely hitting.”
UConn (3-9) will face Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton Friday, Fresno State Saturday and New Mexico and No. 2 UCLA Sunday.
Offensively, last year’s struggles have continued into this season as UConn has scored just 27 runs in 12 games. Tallying just four runs last weekend in total, the Huskies will need to improve on that number to have a chance this weekend.
“We faced a pitcher twice this weekend whose ERA was 0.15, she is good so have to tip your hat to her,” McIntyre said. “We made adjustments on her and minimized our strikeouts the second time that we faced her, so it is all the little takeaways that we are still using to try to prepare us as we start to get ready for the middle of our season.”
Last weekend against FGCU, UConn was shut out both times against RHP Riley Randolph. Randolph struck out a combined 22 batters over two complete game performances. She allowed just two hits each game and walked a combined four batters.
UConn will need a bounce-back weekend from RHP Jill Stockley in order to be successful. Stockley is off to a rocky start, pitching to a 6.44 ERA with a 1.98 WHIP and just 13 strikeouts in 25.0 innings this year. Coming off a stellar performance last year, Stockley was the ace of this staff at the beginning of the season. However, she has yet to live up to that title thus far.
“I think we have been focused on the fundamentals, we have gotten our bunt defense cleaned up which is a huge improvement from Saturday into Sunday,” McIntyre said about the focus in practice this week for the Huskies. “Take away the short game from the opponent and being able to have a lot better pitch selection at the plate.”
For UConn to get back on track against this set of California teams, they will need to rely on pitching and capitalizing on opportunities. Outside of UCLA’s (15-0) talented roster from top to bottom, the other teams in this tournament are beatable. There are no lights-out pitchers on any of the other teams, so there should be chances to take advantage of.
There are six UCLA hitters who have a batting average above .400. Their offense has produced 110 runs over 15 games, and their pitching staff has given up a combined 19 runs.
Each of the four other teams the Huskies are due to face in the Judi Garman Classic have a big bat or two.
Megan Stevens of Cal State Northridge (4-9) is hitting .412/.524/.853 as the major cog in their offense. Other than Stevens and teammate Jessica Alexander, the Matadors lineup leaves much to be desired, with a list of sub-.300 OBP hitters.
Cal State Fullerton’s (9-6) Ari Williams has put up three home runs, 11 RBI and five stolen bases to go alongside her .395/.480/.651 slash-line. They also have a three-true outcome player in Irieanna Siofele, who has three bombs and 10 RBIs but is hitting just .179 with nine strikeouts in 39 at-bats.
Much like Cal State Northridge’s one-stud offense, once Hayleigh Galvan of the Fresno State Bulldogs (6-5) turn passes in the starting nine, there is not a ton else to see. Galvan is hitting .452/.541/.742 with six doubles, a home run and 13 RBI over 11 games. The Bulldogs bench is 0-14 this year so far.
The New Mexico Lobos (5-10) have many offensive weapons in their lineup, namely Camryn O’Grady and Bailey Klitzke. O’Grady is slashing .390/.500/.683 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI, starting all 15 games.
There are strengths to each of these teams, but also weaknesses UConn can look to exploit if they play the games right.
Each of the games will be broadcasted on FloSoftball, but it requires a $12.49 per month subscription fee for access to the streams.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com .