In its fall return to Burrill Family Field, the UConn softball team took home a win Friday against CCSU 2-1. They also played a double header in Boston against Boston University and Harvard, beating them 2-1 and 6-2, respectively.
“It’s awesome, we’ve been working really hard with our fundamentals and changing the culture of the program,” head coach Laura Valentino said. “It’s fun to come and compete finally against another opponent.”
Friday’s game was over in a flash: Even though they played a full seven innings, the game finished in under two hours. UConn’s pitching was strong throughout the game, allowing just the one run. Offensively, they are still working, but they pushed across the runs necessary for the win.
“I want them to focus on the process, that’s what the fall is all about,” Valentino said.
UConn grabbed a first inning lead on a single from redshirt junior Olivia Sappington as Marybeth Olson, Friday’s starter, scored from second base. They took the lead again in the fourth inning after Kiwi McDaniel led off the inning with a double to the opposite field and scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.
Prior to McDaniel’s double, assistant coach Christie Novatin pulled her over to talk, telling her she was too early on off-speed. McDaniel changed her mechanics a bit, reducing her double-tap to a single-tap on the next pitch, and it resulted in the wall-ball double.
Right-hander Olson had the circle for the first three innings, and she did not disappoint. She allowed just one hit and struck out six of the 11 batters she faced, her only other baserunner allowed was a hit-by-pitch given up in the third inning.
“I’m really impressed with [Olson], just her demeanor on the mound … she almost talks to herself out there and I love that about her,” Valentino said on the fireballer. “She’s a gamer, she’s a competitor. We’re really confident with what she’ll be about to do this year.”
For the second time through the lineup, Valentino switched things up, giving the ball to senior Katie Koshes for the next three innings.
Koshes was effective, despite a bit of control issues, and gave up just one run in the fourth inning. She had to deal with some of gamesmanship as CCSU batted their top half of the order two innings in a row, even though they did not make it all the way through the order. She handled it mightily, as she faced the minimum in the fifth inning.
Freshman Meghan O’Neil got the seventh and earned the save as she struck out two batters and did not allow a hit to secure the win.
“I was pleased with what I saw today, especially from a freshman pitcher,” Valentino said. “Trying to figure out what is best for this program moving forward. I am really pleased with our performance today, trying to keep it process oriented moving forward.”
Then on Saturday, UConn did more of the same as Olson dominated BU before being relieved by O’Neil. They then took on Harvard and cruised to a 6-2 victory as the offense began to come alive and Koshes kept her cool. McDaniel provided the nail in the coffin with a home run as she continued her solid weekend.
This weekend, the Huskies will face off against Franklin Pierce for a 10-inning game at 1 p.m. Saturday and Boston College at 12 p.m. Sunday.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @mmavredakis.