After a weekend invitational washed away by torrential rain, the UConn Huskies will look to play a full series in Fort Myers, Florida this weekend. This will be the third time in four years that the Huskies travel down in February to Fort Myers with the exception being in 2019.
Second-year head coach Laura Valentino will look to continue the momentum that was set last season into this season as the Huskies (0-0) look to build off last season’s 16-5 record, their best start since 1993. The team has many talents available at any positions from graduate students to a hefty freshman class.
Leading the charge is an experienced group of upperclassmen that could make this team dangerous for years to come. Senior Reese Guevarra had a solid day at the plate last weekend while juniors Aziah James and Sami Barnett (redshirt) brought the power and the speed.
Two impressive hitters who should continue to rake this weekend are seniors Olivia Sappington and Brianna Marcelino, both of whom hit close to .350 last season prior to the cancellation of the season.
“Two impressive hitters who should continue to rake this weekend are seniors Olivia Sappington and Brianna Marcelino.”
The underclassmen should not go unnoticed though as sophomore Meghan O’Neill had a good day on the mound on Friday, surrendering four runs (three earned) on six hits, and freshman Jana Sanden knocked in a critical run to split the lead against Ohio in half.
Although none of these numbers will be in the record books, this was a good test to observe some of the future talent the Huskies have to offer.
While O’Neill started the first game of the season, the Huskies have an ace in Marybeth Olson, a senior who’s ten wins last season were extremely impressive as she accounted for over 60% of the team’s total wins and struck out 80 batters. Look for those two to take the mound to kick off the weekend.
The Huskies also have help in freshman Payton Kinney, who should pitch the third game of the weekend, and if she performs well, then the Huskies will have a strong pitching tandem that will dominate opposing hitters.
The opponents, almost like last weekend, are formidable. None of them are ranked, but they should not be counted out of the picture just yet.
Northern Illinois went 7-15 last season, but some key players returning are Danielle Williams, a junior who hit .417 last season, and Bianca Barone, who led the team with 12 runs batted in. The Huskies also bring back junior Katie Keller, who’s .394 batting average was second on the team. Sophomore Delaney Ostrowski, junior Amber Bumbalough and sophomore Sam Mallinder all had two wins last season on the mound.
This will be their first action of the season and their ninth game all-time against UConn. Northern Illinois leads the all-time series 5-3, but the Huskies will look to inch closer with a win this weekend.
Then there’s Florida International. The Golden Panthers (3-0) swept Florida Atlantic and Winthrop last weekend and have a hot bat in junior Vanessa Gallegos, who hit .700 with a home run and picked up 10 RBIs. Behind her is senior Tori Jones, who batted .667 over the past weekend.
Their ace is junior Kendahl Dunford, who won both of her games and has an ERA of 1.27. The Golden Panthers also have options in Kallie Jones and Brooklynn Linemann, both of whom have one win combined.
Florida International leads the all-time series 6-1, but the Huskies look to chop that lead down to size this weekend.
Finally, the host Florida Gulf Coast Eagles look to get stronger after a solid 19-8 finish last season. The Eagles (1-3) played a four-game set against the No. 24 UCF Golden Knights (formerly No. 21), picking up their lone win via a Taylor Bauman three-run home run in the third game of the series.
Bauman is mainly a pitcher, but in the one game she did pitch in, she picked up a complete game and limited the Knights to two runs. The senior’s performance against the Knights garnered her A-Sun player of the week honors.
At the plate, the Eagles are led by senior Hope Hernandez and redshirt junior Farley Callaghan, both of whom batted .333 over four games. Sophomore Jordyn Gendron bats .286 but is tied for the homerun lead with Bauman.
One thing to note here, the Eagles lead the all-time series 7-1 with the Huskies hoping to cut that deficit to 7-3 after the weekend.
“The Huskies will play the Northern Illinois Huskies, Florida International Golden Panthers, and host Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in five games over three days.”
The Huskies will play the Northern Illinois Huskies, Florida International Golden Panthers, and host Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in five games over three days.
The Huskies will play Northern Illinois once at noon on Friday, then play Florida International at 2:15 p.m. on Friday and 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, followed by Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. followed by an 11:30 a.m. first pitch on Sunday.
Live streams will be available for games against Florida Gulf Coast only. They can be accessed via their YouTube channel.