From the pre-game hacky-sack Friday to the late bombs hit by Carli Cutler Saturday and Sunday, this was a successful weekend for the UConn softball team against Memphis.
For the first time in head coach Jen McIntyre’s tenure with UConn (15-20, 4-5 The American), the Huskies have won back-to-back weekend series in conference play. After taking two games from Wichita State last weekend, UConn picked up another two wins versus Memphis (21-19, 3-6 The American).
Cutler put together a strong overall weekend, going 3-for-8 with the go-ahead home run on Saturday and a seventh inning dinger to avoid the shutout Sunday. She drove in a run in every game and made an electric defensive play Sunday on a bunt lined foul that she dove for and caught.
UConn invoked the mercy rule in game one Friday with a 11-3 win through five innings. Starters Marybeth Olson and Memphis’ Mariah Nichols made quick work of the first three hitters each. In the second an Olivia Sappington walk led to a run and UConn did not look back from then on.
While Olson continued to hit her spots and mow down the Tigers hitters, Nichols lost her ability to hit the zone consistently. In the third inning, UConn threw up a five-spot on the back of five walks, an error and a couple timely hits from Alexis Lemus and Reese Guevarra.
In the fourth, Olson got into trouble as Baylee Smith came around on a single from Ashley Threatt. After striking out the next two batters swinging, Olson gave up a two-run home run to outfielder Gracie Morton to make it 6-3, but that would be the last time a Tigers player touched the plate.
Following an RBI single from Kiwi McDaniel in the bottom of the fourth, UConn added another four in the bottom of the fifth to seal the mercy.
The story in game two was completely different, as UConn fell behind 5-0 early as starter Katie Koshes struggled with command and got hit around in the second and third inning.
After putting just one runner on base through three innings, UConn strung together singles from Guevarra and Marcelino before Olivia Sappington hit a shot to the left-center gap to score them both in the fourth.
UConn added another two runs in the fifth on a Guevarra home run to make it a 5-4 ball game.
Olson, in relief for Koshes, was able to quiet the Tigers attempt at a rally with back-to-back strike outs with runners on second and third. UConn would complete the come-back as Cutler cleared the fence in right-center to take the 6-5 lead. Olson sealed the victory and series win in the seventh with a pair of strike outs.
As on Saturday, UConn went down early as Baylee Smith hit a rocket off Marcelino’s glove and Threatt followed it up with a bomb to the opposite field to give Memphis a 2-0 lead.
Olson threw 210 pitches over 15 innings of work this weekend. The increased workload for Olson started to affect her in game three as there was less consistent zip on her fastball and she fell behind a few batters early. However, as the game went on, she settled in and gave UConn a shot to come back.
UConn had no solutions for Memphis starter Kailey Hilderbrand early, as she put down the first ten batters of the game before allowing a single to Guevarra in the fourth.
After Olson allowed another home run to Sara Ann Davidson in the top of the fifth, the Huskies threatened for the first time in the bottom half. A single and an error put runners on first and third with just one out, but UConn failed to score.
UConn displayed some life in the bottom of the seventh, starting with a solo home run from Cutler. Lemus quickly followed suit with a single up the middle and Dahman reached on a throwing error from the third baseman Davidson. With two runners on center fielder Ashley Esty lined a ball to the left fielder to close out the win for Memphis.
Despite the close defeat in game three, this series marks a promising development for this UConn softball program. They sit tied for fourth with Wichita State in the conference and they take on Houston next weekend after a mid-week game versus Boston College.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.