The University of Connecticut softball team embraced the sunshine as they took part in the Cougar Classic. The Huskies were looking for a better result after scoring 20 runs against their competition in the Charlotte Invitational and winning one game.
First up were the Western Carolina Catamounts. The Huskies came up short in two of the first three innings despite stealing five bases.
West Carolina’s best chance came in the fourth, but with two runners on, Meghan O’Neil struck out Bethany Dobias to open the Husky floodgates. Erika Coreth doubled in Reese Guevarra before being subbed out for Hollis Wivell, who scored on a Brianna Marcelino single. With the bases loaded, Rosie Garcia reached via a throwing error, allowing two runs to score and making it a 4-0 game.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, O’Neil was relieved for Delaney Nagy, who sat down Riley Lambert to avoid any damage. Nagy sent down the Catamounts in order in the seventh, proving that dogs are better than cats (again) with a 4-0 victory. O’Neil pitched 4.2 innings, allowing no runs on four hits with three strikeouts for the win while Nagy pitched the other 2.1 innings and struck out three.
The Huskies’ Friday continued against the host College of Charleston Cougars. The Huskies had a runner on second in each of the first three innings but came up short every time. Charleston got a runner on third in the bottom of the fourth, but Shealyn Starks flew out.
UConn’s fortunes changed in the fifth when Coreth ripped a double to left field. With the bases loaded again, Garcia picked up an RBI via a fielder’s choice, Sanden walked in a run and Barnett hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-0 game. UConn added two more runs in the sixth as Garcia singled in a run and Marcelino scored on a wild pitch.
Charleston nearly got a run on the board in the bottom half when Kelli Anne Carter singled, but Aniz Roman was thrown out at home plate. Giuliana Abruscato ripped a triple and then scored on a wild pitch in the seventh to seal a second consecutive shutout 6-0. Olson went five innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven.
The Huskies got up bright and early for their next contest against Appalachian State. UConn got runners in scoring position in the second and third innings but came up short both times. The Huskies did not score first, as a fielding error became an RBI single by Emily Parrott and a Mountaineer 1-0 lead.
The Huskies cracked the surface immediately, as Barnett hit one out to right field for her second homerun of the season. O’Neil kept holding down the fort, retiring the Mountaineers in order in the bottom of the fourth.
UConn got the lead in the fifth inning as Guevarra singled in Wivell, giving them momentum for the next three innings. O’Neil allowed a triple in the bottom half but did not flinch and prevented the runner from scoring.
The Mountaineers got a runner on second in the seventh inning, but O’Neil struck out Kennedy Upshire to complete the 2-1 win. O’Neil went the distance, allowing an unearned run on three hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. Taylor Nichols went the distance for the Mountaineers, allowing two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts.
The Huskies then played Western Carolina again and scored early as Barnett singled in Guevarra. The Huskies kept getting runners on-base while Elise Sokolsky kept shutting down the opposition.
The top of the fourth was where the runs poured down. Behind six hits, Lexi Hastings’ speed and three walks, the Huskies dropped seven runs and knocked Savannah Rice out of the game. By the time it came to an end, the Huskies were up 8-0, having collected six hits.
Neither team got a hit the rest of the way, as the Huskies mercy-ruled Western Carolina in five innings 8-0. Sokolsky had a near-perfect performance, striking out five and allowing one hit in the third.
To wrap up their weekend, the Huskies took on Appalachian State for the second time. Hastings drew first blood in the second inning, scoring Barnett on an RBI triple.
The Huskies went to their bullpen in the fourth, and the Mountaineers took advantage by tying the game on a throwing error. The Husky offense then retaliated in the fifth inning, scoring four unearned runs on five hits as Abruscato, James, Guevarra and Garcia all touched home plate.
That 5-1 lead did not last, as the Mountaineers piled four runs the following half inning. Sokolsky loaded the bases and Emma Jones cleared the bases before Parrott reached on a fielding error to tie the game at five.
After getting runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh, the Huskies played their first extra-innings game of the season. The runner on second rule still exists in college softball and Appalachian State used it to their advantage, bringing their runner in on a single by Parrott. UConn kept the game alive as Hastings ran half the bases and scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom half.
The Mountaineers went down in order in the top of the ninth, leaving the door open for the Huskies to walk off the weekend. Marcelino was placed on second to start the bottom half and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Garcia provided the walk-off single to right center for the invitational sweep and the 7-6 victory. Sokolsky picked up the win, pitching six innings in relief and striking out seven.
The Huskies (8-6) have one more invitational this season at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Huskies will play the North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans, the University of Oregon Ducks (2x), the Penn State University Nittany Lions and the host University of North Carolina Tar Heels from March 4 to March 6.