UConn kept the ball rolling this weekend in the third installment of fall softball this year, with a win over Franklin-Pierce Friday and a high-intensity extra-inning loss to BC Saturday.
“I felt pretty good, felt strong, we’ve been working hard this fall, so it was nice to see it show up in the game,” starter Katie Koshes said after throwing five shutout innings Friday.
UConn (4-1 fall ball) kicked off the weekend with a 10-inning 8-4 win over Franklin-Pierce. The Huskies started off hot, scoring three runs in the first before adding a couple more in the second. They cooled off in the middle innings but added a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth to secure the win.
The Huskies saw strong offensive production across the board, putting up 17 hits through the 10 innings. Marybeth Olson put on a rockstar performance at the dish, going 3-for-3 with a couple doubles, two walks, three RBIs and a run scored. Aziah James put her blazing speed to use with three infield singles, a stolen base and a run scored.
“I love the pressure that [James] puts on the defense, so I want to encourage her to continue to use her tools and keep working at it,” Valentino said about the speedster.
Koshes came out firing for UConn, setting down the first 11 batters she faced before allowing a double to center field in the fourth. Though she only struck out two batters, she allowed just three hits with the help of some great defensive efforts early on.
“I think Katie has a lot of tools, it’s just a matter of going at batters,” Valentino said. “She gets ahead, she works so hard to get ahead and we want to work on putting them away right away. All around, a great job for Katie.”
After five strong innings, Koshes’ day was done, and freshman Emily Sappington took over from the circle to make her UConn debut. Sappington pitched a seamless sixth inning, striking out the first two batters she faced. She got into a bit of trouble in the seventh, allowing one run on a pair of singles and a wild pitch. The eighth inning got away from her a bit after three singles and a couple sacrifice flies in a row, Franklin-Pierce brought across three runs. She came back out for the ninth and threw up a much needed zero on the scoreboard for UConn.
Meghan O’Neil came in for the tenth and allowed three straight runners to reach base, but then shut Franklin-Pierce down when it mattered. She induced a fly out to left before slamming the door with back-to-back K’s with the bases jacked.
Then in Game 2 of the weekend series, UConn came out with a bang again as right fielder Reese Guevarra roped a triple into the right-center gap and came around to score on a Kiwi McDaniel single to right field just two batters later.
“I was happy with the way they competed, I think that a couple of base running things, a couple of defensive things that can get cleaned up and then it’s a different ball game,” Valentino said post-game Saturday. “Other than that, I’m happy with the way we fought, we didn’t give up.”
They tacked on another in the fourth inning as shortstop Briana Marcelino crushed a 3-1 pitch over the wall and ignited a roar from the crowd, with “Eye of the Tiger” blasting in the background.
UConn grabbed a couple more in the sixth inning after consecutive walks to Devon Casazza and Guevarra to lead off the inning. They scored after a pair of wild pitches and some clutch hitting from Marcelino and a productive groundout from James. Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Ashlee Dahman roped a double and slid into home on Olivia Sappington’s single to right field.
Meghan O’Neil was tasked with the start and handled it well despite the loss. Through six innings she gave up five runs on six hits and struck out four. She cruised out of the gate, allowing no hits through three innings before giving up a home run to lead off the fourth inning to BC’s Abigail Knight. Things started to unravel the second time through the lineup following the home run, as BC tacked on three more in the fourth and another in the fifth on a series of singles.
Olson took over for the seventh and gave the Huskies the effort they needed, shutting them down with a pair of K’s and a grounder. She then sailed through the eighth and ninth, allowing just a base runner per inning. The tenth is where it got a bit rocky, she allowed two singles to lead off the inning and then Gianna Boccagno hit a two-run double to give them the 7-5 lead.
UConn did not quit, however, earning two more runners in the bottom half of the tenth on a Marcelino two-run single.
The eleventh inning is where it all came to an end. Olson allowed a moonshot to Jenna Ergle into the construction zone in left field and UConn went down in order in the bottom half to lose 8-7.
“I think we get a little uptight when the game is on the line,” Valentino said. “To feed off just being consistent and trusting your work, as coaches we love those moments, we live for those close games and we don’t want to clamp tight when that happens, so just keeping energy in the dugout and getting after it when it’s tough.”
UConn showed tremendous fight throughout Saturday’s game and look to have an exciting future ahead of them.
They will complete their fall ball schedule with a game at home against Quinnipiac this Friday at 4 p.m. and then a double-header away versus Fairfield and Stony Brook on Saturday.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.