In the final regular season series of the season, UConn softball dropped both games of the double-header to Tulsa to lose the series. Despite a game one victory, a comeback effort in game two and a one-run game through six innings in game three, UConn could not grab the series win.
“They are a great team; they are a top-25 team right now,” said head coach Jen McIntyre after the win Friday. “They have a lot of moving parts; they have a really good stick at the top of their lineup and they have three quality pitchers at the top of their staff. I was really proud of the way we played today.”
This series was marked by solid pitching, ups and downs on defense and timely hitting. UConn’s aggressiveness on the base paths also factored into every game.
UConn capitalized on multiple opportunities in game one of the series, as Briana Marcelino came around to score on an error by Tulsa first baseman Tori Stafford in the first to give the Huskies an early lead. A leadoff single by Kiwi McDaniel in the fourth led to a run after a couple wild pitches and aggressive baserunning. Another leadoff single in the fifth from Kelli Bates sparked a rally as Olivia Sappington’s double would score one and McDaniel followed it up with a run-scoring sacrifice fly. UConn would need the insurance run from McDaniel’s sacrifice fly as Jill Stockley gave up a two-run home run in the sixth to Haley Meinen. Marybeth Olson came in for the seventh inning and shut the door to secure the win.
“I think it sets the tone, the last couple of games our defense has been really sharp and solid,” said McIntyre. “Today we had a tough start in that first inning, as you can see that set the tone for us and we could not quite recover from it.”
In game two, Katie Koshes got the start and put together a solid first inning before crumbling in the second. A Meinen double after a leadoff walk and a throwing error from McDaniel would plate a run. Then back-to-back singles after that scored a run a piece to put UConn down 3-0. McIntyre saw enough and pulled Koshes for Olson, but the first batter she faced, Julia Hollingsworth, hit a three-run home run to but the deficit at 6-0.
“I thought she did a good job; she is one that we can always rely on that is going to come in and pound the zone,” said McIntyre on Olson’s relief efforts in game two.
Despite the early lead from Tulsa, UConn did not give up quite yet. In the fourth inning, back-to-back walks to lead off the inning put McDaniel in a great spot to do damage. Spoiler alert, she did. Her three-run bomb to right-center put the Huskies back in the game 6-3. However, despite having second and third with no outs after the home run, UConn could not drive in any more runs in the fourth. Another leadoff base runner and a two-run home run from Sappington in the fifth put UConn down just one run with momentum leaning their way.
Olson gave up a solo shot to Riley Spell in the sixth, which would be the nail in the coffin for UConn. They would lose game two by the score of 7-5.
Before game three, a young girl named Abby threw out the first pitch. Abby is a member of the team through Team Impact, an organization that pairs children faced with serious illnesses and collegiate teams.
“Abby is incredible, having the opportunity to have her on our team I think is really special,” said Sappington post-game. “The last two years I have gotten really close with Abby and her family. Not only has it impacted my life it has impacted this program so much that through everything we do we try to be the best role models we can be for her.”
The official senior day matchup started with a double from Hollingsworth, who would later score on a throwing error from McDaniel. A baserunning mistake from Marcelino in the bottom of the first took away a bases-loaded, one out chance for UConn. The game stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the seventh when things got away from Stockley and Olson, who surrendered a combined six runs in the inning. UConn would lose 8-0 in their final game of the season, losing the series as well.
“I think we made some baserunning errors that were not necessarily characteristic, and they were not so much us being aggressive, I think we just made some mistakes,” said McIntyre after game three. “Even yesterday we pushed the pace a little bit and had gotten away with a couple of things and today we just did not. It is a credit to them to shut it down.”
The aggression on the base paths helped and hurt them throughout the series, but mainly hurt them. They will need to make better base running decisions in the conference tournament if they are going to be successful.
UConn finished with the No. 6 seed in The American so they will face No. 3 Houston in round one of the American Athletic Conference Championship at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Houston. Earlier this year, UConn was swept by Houston in a three-game set away in Houston.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.