Coming off an incredible weekend where they went 4-1 with three mercy-rule wins, the UConn softball team is headed to New York to face off against Hofstra University in a precursor to next weekend’s St. John’s Invitational. Though the Pride have control of the series with a 25-18 all-time record over the Huskies, there are few teams hotter than UConn right now and even fewer colder than Hofstra.
For the Pride (3-14), just two years removed from going 41-14 and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, this was not the start that many expected them to have. But when your starting nine consists of seven underclassmen, it becomes more understandable. Hofstra is in the midst of one of their worst stretches in program history, having lost nine of their last 10 games, and the task ahead does not get any easier for them.
Offensively the Pride are led by freshman Jordan Piertrzykoski and sophomore Kasey Collins, the only two players hitting over .250 for the team. The duo shares the team-lead in hits with 12, with Piertrzykoski adding a home run and team-best 12 RBIs on the season.
Last year the Pride had a trio of Meghan Giordano, Collins and junior Kristin Hallam, all of whom hit over .350. This season, however, things look entirely different, with Hallam redshirting this season while Giordano and Collins’ averages have both dropped by over a point, a major reason for their record thus far.
Defensively, though, Hofstra’s rotation is not as bad as their record would suggest. Sophomore Madison Burns picked up right where she left off last season and currently has a 3.77 ERA through 42 innings, but because of the Pride’s lack of offensive firepower, has just a 1-7 record. Next up behind Burns are freshmen Nikki Mullin and Natalie Grubczak who have ERAs of 5.83 and 4.61 respectively.
This team is in desperate need of a win to turn their season around, but UConn is just about the last team they want to play to do so.
The Huskies (15-5) are coming off one of their hottest stretches of the season, averaging nearly seven runs a game while giving up just over three in their latest five-game series. The offense is firing on all cylinders with Olivia Sappington, Briana Marcelino and Aziah James all batting over .320.
In their last five games, Sappington has hit .588, knocking in eight runs while crossing home plate four times herself, while Marcelino was responsible for an insane 18 runs, bringing in nine runs while scoring another nine herself while batting .467. The junior duo has been unstoppable as of late and is one major reason UConn finds itself in such good position thus far.
The other reason is their pitching.
The Huskies’ rotation of Marybeth Olson and Megan O’Neil represent one of the best in college softball. Olson (9-0) has pitched five complete games with a 1.56 ERA through 58 innings, and has totaled an insane 83 strikeouts thus far, placing her at No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference. O’Neil, meanwhile, has been having an equally impressive freshman year, with a 1.62 ERA — No. 3 in the conference — through 52 innings en route to a 5-3 record.
As long as UConn is able to get a few runs in the game, it can trust its stellar rotation to shut down opposing offenses, which looks like it should be the case come Tuesday’s matchup.
The game is set to start at 2 p.m. and will serve as a preview to next weekend’s St. John’s Invitational.