Special. If there was one word to describe the Huskies’ softball season before being cut short due to COVID-19, it would be just that. After finishing 10 straight seasons under .500, UConn’s softball team exploded onto the scene in 2020, with their 16-5 record representing their best start since 1993, the same year they made it all the way to the Women’s College World Series. And although we weren’t able to see how the season came to a close, 2020 will still go down in the record books for UConn softball, not as the year that college sports were cancelled, but as a potential return to form highlighted by dominant play on both sides of the field.
Spearheaded by juniors Olivia Sappington (R) and Briana Marcelino, UConn’s offense looked unstoppable at times. After an impressive sophomore campaign, Marcelino picked up right where she left off slashing .348/.652./.457 to go along with a team-best 27 runs, 24 hits and 23 RBIs. She was in the midst of a historic campaign prior to cancellation, but not too far off from those numbers was Sappington.
The co-captain had an unbelievable line of .350/.617/.400 from the four spot while also tacking on 21 hits and a team-leading five home runs. If leadoff hitters Reese Guevarra or Aziah James got on base, you could pretty much bet on one of Marcelino or Sappington bringing them home. The duo accounted for nearly 40% of the team’s RBIs, which when paired with solid play from the rest of the team led to five games ending in the mercy rule in UConn’s favor. But as the saying goes, defense wins championships, and luckily for the Huskies they had a couple of the best pitchers in the game to help them out.
What Marybeth Olson did during the shortened season was incredible. The junior went a perfect 10-0 in her 13 appearances, boasting an ERA of just 1.46 over 62.1 innings and striking twice as many batters (84) as hits she allowed (41). Olson accounted for over 60% of UConn’s wins and looked dominant while doing so. She wasn’t alone though, as newcomer Megan O’Neil came onto the team and made an immediate impact in her freshman year.
O’Neil went just 5-3 through 12 appearances on the year, but her numbers tell a different story. The freshman posted an equally impressive 1.53 ERA through 55 innings, including four complete games, allowing 45 hits and retiring 29 batters via the strikeout. It was a stellar first year and under the tutelage of Olson, O’Neil has the potential to flourish into the next great pitcher for UConn softball.
The highlight of the season came at the end, when it appeared the team was just hitting their full stride. Taking part in the JMU Invitational, the Huskies won four out of five games, three of which ended after five innings. The wins came against strong opponents, with a pair of victories coming against host James Madison University and a split-series against Cal. During the invitational, UConn allowed just three runs per game while knocking in almost nine runs a game. Sappington and Marcelino combined for 20 of those RBIs and Olson went 3-0.
While we are all left wondering “what if” about the 2020 season, there is plenty to look forward to for next year. A move to the Big East, a new stadium in the works and eligibility for seniors to return in 2021 means all signs point to another exciting campaign. One that fans are not going to want to miss.