The UConn softball team kicked off its 2020 season in Fort Myers, Florida, for the Kickoff Classic hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).
The Huskies (3-2) had a solid start to the season, beating Georgetown, Boston College and FGCU but falling to Delaware and Long Island.
UConn debuted with a convincing 3-0 win over Georgetown on Friday. Junior Marybeth Olson was the star of the game, pitching six shutout innings, in which she allowed just three hits and struck out 11 to pick up her first win.
The Huskies could also only come up with three hits, but they made them count. After a couple of walks put runners on base in the fifth inning, last season’s top hitter Briana Marcelino came through with a huge two-run double to pad UConn’s lead, 3-0.
The pitching was also outstanding in Friday’s second game against Long Island. Freshman Meghan O’Neil made her first career start and combined with Olson and senior Katie Koshes to allow just six hits and no earned runs. However, LIU scored an unearned run from an error in the fourth inning, so the Huskies were playing from behind.
They tied it in the seventh on Kiwi McDaniel’s RBI single to send the game into extra innings. However, while UConn couldn’t take advantage of softball’s intentional tiebreaker rule, which places a runner on second base to start extra innings, LIU did and won the game 2-1 on a walk-off single by Samantha Garcia in the eighth.
The Huskies split Saturday’s two games as well, starting with a 9-6 loss to Delaware. In that game, UConn’s pitching really struggled early, allowing nine runs through the first four innings, putting the team in a 9-0 hole. But when Olson took over, she shut down the Blue Hens for the final three innings.
During that time, the Huskies mounted a comeback by scoring six runs — four of them in the fifth inning alone. Redshirt sophomore Samantha Barnett had the biggest hit of that inning, a two-run double to cut the lead to 9-4. UConn scored twice more on RBI hits from Devon Casazza and Ashley Esty, but the comeback came up short.
In Saturday’s second game against Boston College, the Huskies redeemed themselves. This game also went into extra innings tied 1-1, and after BC took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning, the Huskies answered right back. McDaniel hit a walk-off, two-run single with runners on second and third to give UConn the 3-2 win.
O’Neil pitched the entire game and allowed just one earned run on three hits while striking out five BC batters to earn her first career win.
Finally, on Sunday, the Huskies had their best game of the weekend. They dominated FGCU 7-3 due to some clutch hitting. UConn jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning thanks to RBI doubles by Olivia Sappington and Ashlee Dahman. They added more on a two-run single by Reese Guevarra in the sixth inning.
Just as they had all weekend, O’Neil and Olson combined to throw a terrific game, limiting FGCU to just three runs on six hits. The only hiccup was a two-run home run by Mikenzie Vaughn in the sixth inning, but the game was already out of reach at that point.
The Huskies enjoyed some great pitching this weekend, especially from Olson and O’Neil. They also got some timely hitting with runners in scoring position from several players. And even in the game where they didn’t play well, they still fought back to make it close.
UConn seems poised for a good season under first-year head coach Laura Valentino if this opening weekend is any indication.