For the first time in eight seasons, the Huskies will be playing a Big East conference game. The long-awaited return starts with a team that was not in the Big East when they left in the Creighton Blue Jays.
The Huskies (7-9) will look to gain more momentum after beating the winless Rhode Island Rams 10-7 on Wednesday afternoon. The offense got going early and the defense maintained the lead for the rest of the way.
Sophomore Meghan O’Neil pitched that entire game and has shown strong improvements this season. O’Neil has started seven games, going 4-2 with a 3.04 ERA on 14 walks and 19 strikeouts through 53 innings of work so far.
Working alongside her to create a dangerous stable is freshman Payton Kinney, who could possibly be in Rookie of the Year conversations. Through nine starts in 12 games, Kinney is 3-7 with a 2.93 ERA having gone 59.2 innings so far. In those 59.2 innings, Kinney has walked 32 and struck out a whopping 58 batters, which is tied for the lead in the conference.
Each pitcher has allowed over 30 runs, but about 25 of them have been earned against some serious competition. In addition, each pitcher has thrown four complete games and has allowed five home runs. Look for them to dominate the opposition right from the start.
On the offense, the tale of the tape has been both veteran experience at the top of the lineup and the plethora of freshman filling out spots when necessary. In Wednesday’s win over the Rams, the Huskies started five freshmen.
Starting with the veterans, redshirt junior Hollis Wivell’s red-hot bat is leading the way with a .357 batting average. Speed is also the name of the game as her nine stolen bases on 10 tries is second on the team to junior Aziah James, who has stolen 12 bases on 13 tries.
James’ speed makes her a solid second hitter in the lineup behind leadoff slugger Reese Guevarra. Guevarra, a senior, is second among qualified hitters on the team with a .322 average and has plated in seven runs on 19 hits, the latter of which leads the team.
Senior Brianna Marcelino is also playing a strong part as her four home runs, 11 runs batted in and 13 runs lead the team. She is a power bat that many teams must look out for as this senior is raking this season.
As for the freshmen to look out for, Taylor Zatyk and Jana Sanden have been the main stars on this squad as they have played in every game. Together, they have 29 hits and 16 runs batted in. Also look out for Lauren Benson and Madisyn Estorga to get some consistent playing time this weekend as well.
The Blue Jays (6-5) meanwhile, have played less games, but could be a dangerous team to look out for. For starters, the Blue Jays, coming off a strong series against the Providence Friars, have 11 freshmen and six sophomores that give them serious depth for the future.
Leading the way offensively by a wide margin however is senior Ashley Cantu. Her .514 batting average (that is not a typo) leads the entire conference and is miles ahead of the next best player in sophomore Kailey Wilson, whose .368 average is next in line while her three homeruns and 12 runs batted in lead the team. Wilson is currently on a 10-game hitting streak. Out of the 19 hits that Cantu has so far, she has legged out two triples and driven in five runs.
Some other Blue Jay hitters to look out for are sophomore Sam Alm (.344), freshman Cayla Nielsen (.333) and sophomore Kiara Mills (.320), all of whom have brought serious production to the plate whether that is with power or with hitting for average.
The Blue Jays have this strong mix of hitting, but what about on the mound? The Blue Jays have three solid pitchers they can rely on to start one game each this weekend. This stable is something to keep an eye out for in the weeks to come.
Up first is sophomore Mikayla Santa Cruz, whose 2.67 ERA is the lowest on the team. Santa Cruz, who is 2-1, has thrown two complete games and allowed 13 runs (seven earned) on 21 hits through 18.1 innings pitched. She has also struck out 15 and walked 17.
Next is senior Parker Boyd, who has been a workhorse this season. She has started six games and has thrown a complete game in half of those starts. Through 35.1 innings, she has a 4.16 ERA having walked 18 and striking out 29 batters despite allowing 23 runs (21 earned).
Finally, there is freshman Jena Lawrence, who is starting to make a name for herself this season. She has been used mainly as a relief pitcher but has started one game this season and she may add a second this weekend. Through 11.2 innings, Lawrence has allowed 10 runs (eight earned) for an ERA of 4.80 while walking seven and striking out nine.
One could say that the pitching is relatively equivalent for both teams and could possibly be a matchup to look out for.
Unlike previous weekends, this is the only team the Huskies will face before heading back for their first home games of the year. The Huskies lost their previous matchup with the Blue Jays back in 1991 and will look to take a 3-1 series lead after this weekend.
The Huskies will take on the Blue Jays in a doubleheader on Saturday with the first game starting at 1 p.m. EST and the second game starting at approximately 3 p.m. EST. The two teams will wrap up their series on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. EST.
All games are available on YouTube via the Creighton Athletics page.