Softball: Huskies early offense keeps Rams at bay

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After a week and a half to regroup following their cancelled series against the Georgetown Hoyas, the UConn Huskies returned strong against the Rhode Island Rams with a 10-7 victory. 

The Huskies (7-9) hit the ground running as senior Brianna Marcelino brought in senior Reese Guevarra, who had reached first based on an error and then stole second, for their first run in three games. But the first inning was just a warmup inning for the Husky offense. 

After sophomore Meghan O’Neill struck out two consecutive batters with runners in scoring position in the bottom half, the Huskies proceeded to score six runs to increase their lead to 7-0. The flurry began when Guevarra doubled in freshmen Madisyn Estorga and Makenzie Mason. Junior Aziah James scored Guevarra on a single after a throwing error by shortstop Ari Castillo allowed Guevarra score from third.  

Freshman Jana Sanden followed suit by doubling in James from second and would proceed to score when freshman Taylor Zatyk singled in both her and Marcelino. Redshirt junior Hollis Wivell grounded out to prevent any more runs from scoring, but the damage had been done. 

In the third, UConn padded their lead even more when Guevarra singled in sophomore Cali Jolley and then proceeded to score herself when James’ steal led to a throwing error from pitcher Piper Maguire. This extended the Husky led to 9-0. 

However, before the Huskies could try to add on and end the game via mercy rule in the fifth inning, Castillo hit a 2-run home run for the Rams to get them on the board in the bottom of the third. The next inning and a half were uneventful, with Zatyk being left on second in the top of the fourth as well as both teams needing three batters to complete their part of the next two half innings. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Erica Robles of Rhode Island singled in Cassie Swenson to chip at the lead and make it a 9-3 ballgame. The Rams tried to add more, but Abby Fenbert struck out before that could happen. 

The Huskies got into double digits when Marcelino brought in James on an unearned sacrifice fly that widened the lead to 10-3. Despite having a seven-run lead, the Huskies almost let this one get extremely out of hand. 

After failing to score in the top of the seventh with runners on first and second, the Rams got right to work looking for a critical win. With the bases loaded, Robles singled in both Sami Villarreal and Swenson to cut the lead to 10-5. After a strikeout by Alex Pleasic and a walk from Susan Harrison, Hannah Desousa doubled in two runs of her own in Castillo and Margaux Lesser to trim the lead even more to 10-7. 

With the opportunity to tie the game on the line, Caileigh Holland flew out to left center, giving the Huskies a much-needed 10-7 win and ending a brutal cold streak that saw them lose four consecutive games. 

In terms of pitching, the Rams (0-9) started Liz Lynchard in the hopes she would keep the game close, but she only went 2.0 innings, allowing eight runs (one earned) on eight hits, one walk and one strikeout. After the second inning, Maguire entered the game and proceeded to go five innings, allowing two runs (none earned) on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts. 

For the Huskies, O’Neill went the distance, allowing seven runs (three earned) on 9 hits, three walks and nine strikeouts. Although she did allow seven runs, this was one of her best performances of the season thus far. 

The key thing to look out for in upcoming series is finishing off games. The Huskies had a comfortable lead and almost squandered it away in the last half of the game. Just remember, though, that the Huskies started five freshmen who are starting to make a name on this softball squad – the defensive skills to shut down the opposition will come with time and more games on a regular basis. 

Otherwise, this was an excellent game, and it was nice to see the softball team back in action after an unexpected 10-day layoff. 

Following this refreshing road win, the Huskies will travel to Omaha, Nebraska, where they will take on the Creighton Blue Jays (6-5) in a three-game series for their first Big East play of the season and in eight years with games occurring on Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21. 

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