Softball: Extra innings define Huskies’ Carolina weekend

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The University of Connecticut softball team photographed playing against Central Connecticut State University during a game on Sept. 29, 2019. The Huskies played a tough weekend of games in North Carolina this past weekend. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

The Huskies looked to rebound and turn their season around after a tough weekend in Texas. Things did not really end up that way. Over the weekend, the Huskies (6-9) went to extra innings three times and lost each game. 

Before that happened though, the Huskies took care of things against the Elon Phoenix (3-6) on Friday morning with a 7-3 victory. UConn came out swinging when freshman Taylor Zatyk hit a grand slam in the first inning for her second home run of the year. 

The Phoenix had an opportunity to score in the second, but Mekayla Frazier grounded out before they could add any runs. In the third, redshirt junior Hollis Wivell and graduate student Devon Casazza singled in runs on back-to-back plate appearances, the latter of which came after Wivell stole two bases. 

Up 6-0, the Huskies let the Phoenix come back with three runs in the fifth off a Rebecca Murray three-run home run, but the Huskies got one more in the seventh from a sacrifice foul out from sophomore Cali Jolley to win the game 7-3. 

Sophomore Meghan O’Neill had a good day on the mound as she went seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts. It was her third win of the year as her record improved to 3-2. Wivell had the best day at the plate by going 3-for-4 with two stolen bases. 

Next up on the list was the UNC Tar Heels (8-6), who the Huskies kept on their toes for most of the game. The game was scoreless through five innings with each team having no more than one runner left on base in all ten of those half-frames. The Huskies got ahead first when senior Reese Guevarra hit her first home run of the season to start the sixth inning. 

The Tar Heels would not go away though, and they tied the game in the bottom of the seventh from a fielding error by senior Brianna Marcelino with one out that allowed Brittany Pickett to get on base. The Huskies were able to get out of the inning but failed to score in the top of the eighth with a runner on second. 

There was an extra runner on second to start the inning, but the Tar Heels didn’t necessarily need that runner as Taylor Greene hit a walk-off home run to right center and the Huskies fell back to .500 with a 3-1 loss in eight innings. 

Out of the three hits provided by UConn, Guevarra had one while junior Aziah James and freshman Jana Sanden had the other two. The player of the game was freshman Payton Kinney, and although she lost, she was still as dominant as ever. Kinney went 7+ innings allowing three runs (one earned), five hits, one walk and a whopping 10 strikeouts. 

The next morning, the Huskies challenged the No. 17 South Carolina Gamecocks (12-3). Things were close to begin the game. Marcelino singled in Reese Guevarra in the bottom half of the first to give the Huskies an early 1-0 advantage.  

After a game-tying home run from Mackenzie Boesel, the Huskies responded right back with three runs in the bottom of the third after Casazza and Marcelino hit a solo shot and a two-run home run respectively. 

The Huskies were not done as Casazza piled on her second home run of the game to expand the lead to 6-1 over the ranked Gamecocks. Normally, this would be the part where I would say the Huskies won, but South Carolina got four runs back in the fifth from a Kassidy Krupit sacrifice fly and Zoe Laneaux three-run home run. 

Things were uneventful in the sixth before Laneaux tied the game in the seventh via a double. UConn got runners on second and third in the bottom half but failed to get either one of them home. Maddie Gallagher then singled home a run in the top of the eighth as the Huskies went to extras for the second consecutive game. 

This time, the Huskies were able to collect outs, but failed to score their runner on second in the bottom of the eighth and lost 7-6. They gave the Gamecocks a run for their money, but the Gamecocks rallied themselves back into the fight to pick up another big win. 

Kinney was dominant on the mound, going seven innings (non-consecutively) allowing six runs (one earned) on eight hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. Because she was on the mound in the eighth, she picked up the loss, which is odd because O’Neil also got one inning of work in, allowing one run on two hits. 

To wrap up their stay in Chapel Hill, the Huskies took on Elon in the third-place game early yesterday morning. Unlike last game however, the Huskies would not have an offensive barrage of runs. UConn had runners on base with an opportunity to score almost every single inning, but not once were they able to drive at least one of them home. 

Luckily, the Phoenix were kept off the board for most of the game as well. Like the Huskies, they had runners on base almost every inning and failed to score once until the eighth inning. With a runner on second, Megan Grant singled in the first run of the game. 

The Huskies did have a chance to respond in the bottom of the eighth, but with runners on second and third, freshman Makenzie Mason grounded out to third base to give the Phoenix a 1-0 victory in yet another extra inning game for the Huskies. Wivell had the best day offensively going three-for-four. 

O’Neil got the start, going 5.2 innings without allowing a run on two hits, one walk and two strikeouts, but it was Kinney who was given the decision once again despite going 2.1 innings, allowing one unearned run on one hit, three walks and two strikeouts. On the other end, Kenna Quinn dominated from start to finish as she threw an eight-inning shutout on seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts. 

Finally, the Huskies went to Durham to take on the No. 14 Duke Blue Devils (15-1) looking to at least win two games down in the Carolinas and possibly pick up an upset too. However, the Blue Devils would become Carolina reapers as they dominated from start to finish. 

Most of their scoring came in the middle portion of this game. Caroline Jacobsen doubled in a run in the second then Duke added five more on four consecutive hitters in the third, ranging from a bases loaded walk to a double to two sacrifice groundouts. 

The Blue Devils would add one more in the fourth when Rachel Crabtree grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the damage had been done and Duke went on to win by a score of 7-0. This was the second consecutive game in which the Huskies were shut out. 

Kinney did what she could, but only lasted 2.1 innings allowing six runs on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts. O’Neill relieved her in the third and went the other 3.2, allowing an unearned run on three hits, a walk and no strikeouts. Despite Kinney’s 3-7 record, she shows incredible promise as a freshman with those strong strikeout numbers. 

On the other hand, Duke relied on their duo of Peyton St. George and Claire Davidson to take care of business. St. George went five innings, allowing no runs on one hit (a Zatyk single in the fifth), walking none and striking out 11. Davidson went the other two innings, and five of her six outs were strikeouts.  

The Huskies will look to bounce back to .500 in their first series at the new Burrill Family Field next weekend when they take on the Georgetown Hoyas in a three-game series on Saturday and Sunday. 

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