After a successful last weekend in which the Huskies went 3-2, the UConn softball team will be back in action this weekend as they travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia to compete in the JMU Invitational. Games will start Friday morning and end Sunday, with UConn taking on Siena College, James Madison University and the University of California, with two of their opponents to be decided as the Invitational progresses.
First up for the Huskies (11-4) is a matchup against Siena College. The Saints currently sit at just 1-3 on the year and have not played in almost three weeks since competing in the Phoenix Invitational. But while it’s in a small sample size, we’ve already seen a few players step up for Siena.
Lauren Sabihon currently leads eligible starters with a .417 batting average, while freshman Kaitlyn Davis is coming off a four-RBI game in the Saint’s lone win this year. Their best pitcher is Maddie McMahon, who is 1-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched. For a Huskies team that likes to score in bunches, it will be interesting to see if the Saints adjust their game plan entering Friday’s bout.
The latter half of UConn’s double-header Friday sees them compete against the host, James Madison. The Dukes (10-4) have a bit more to show for their season thus far, having already racked up wins against No. 17 Texas Tech and No. 19 Missouri.
JMU’s offense is rolling right now having scored 51 runs in their last four games compared to allowing just 11 The Dukes have been led by senior Kate Gordon, who leads the team in batting average (.532), runs (22), hits (25) and home runs (5). Gordon isn’t the only weapon JMU has though, as they have five different players who have scored at least 10 runs and six players that have eclipsed double-digit RBIs just 14 games into the season.
For as many runs as the Dukes score, they also let up a fair amount. JMU’s top two pitchers are Alexis Bermudez and Odicci Alexander whose respective 4.25 and 6.04 ERAs appear troublesome on paper, but their combined 7-1 record would suggest otherwise. They are spearheaded by their top-tier offense, which should provide UConn’s pitching staff with one of their first real challenges.
The Huskies are back in action early Saturday morning to face off against Cal. The Bears have been hot and cold to start the season, currently sitting at 10-9. Most recently, Cal went 1-3 in the Judi Garman Classic including a 5-1 loss to No. 4 LSU.
Offensively, the Bears are led by the top of their lineup. Leadoff hitter Makena Smith paces the team with a .452 batting average and 28 hits, while Mikayla Coelho is hitting an impressive .441 while leading the team with 20 RBIs. Cal will be relying on these two to get their team going early, especially since their defense has struggled early on in the season.
The Bears’ rotation consists of Alexandra Perez (5-5) and Chloe Romero (5-4) who own ERAs of 4.73 and 4.87 respectively. Letting up nearly five runs a game with inconsistent performances from their pitching staff could be the opening the Huskies need to blow this one wide open.
Similarly to Cal, UConn gets the majority of their offense from the top half of their lineup. Aziah James and Devon Casazza lead the pack batting .333, with James leading the team with 18 hits. Batting third and fifth in the lineup, Briana Marcelino and Olivia Sappington pace the Huskies with two home runs a piece while knocking in a combined 22 runs this season. Where UConn has shined this season, and the area that will be incredibly important for this weekend, is their pitching.
Megan O’Neil and Marybeth Olson have been a powerful duo for UConn, boasting a combined 2.30 ERA and 10-2 record over just under 90 innings thus far in the season. Relief pitcher Katie Koshes has also come in on multiple occasions and performed well, but O’Neil and Olson have each pitched multiple complete games and look like some of the most dominant pitchers in softball when they are on their game.
The Huskies have looked like a strong competitor to start the season but are set to face some of their tougher opponents this weekend. If UConn can build upon the strengths they have identified thus far, they could come back from Virginia with a few more convincing wins.