Softball: Huskies run-rule Red Storm twice in Friday doubleheader

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St. John’s is called the Red Storm for a reason. The weather may not have been red, but Mother Nature played a role in the University of Connecticut softball team’s Big East opening weekend in Queens. After avoiding weather-related postponements and delays during their four invitationals, the Huskies went from playing one game on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to a Friday doubleheader because of an impending snowstorm.

After going 1-4 in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Huskies got on the board immediately as Reese Guevarra singled in Lexi Hastings. London Jarrard doubled and Anese Thompson walked to give the Johnnies an early threat in the bottom of the first inning, but Melanie Santos grounded into a fielder’s choice and no runs scored.

A quiet second inning led to the Huskies cracking things open in the top of the third. Aziah James made her way around the bases via a single and a stolen base before scoring on an RBI single from Hastings. She advanced to second on a passed ball and came around to score when Guevarra collected her second RBI of the game. Jana Sanden followed suit by doubling in Guevarra and advanced to third on a wild pitch. She touched home plate when Olivia Sappington reached on a fielding error to turn a 1-0 game into a 5-0 Husky lead.

UConn kept it going in the top of the fourth as Brianna Marcelino stole her 16th bag of the season after reaching on a fielding error. Instead of a 1-2-3 inning, Hastings brought in Marcelino with a double that knocked Red Storm starter Hannah Mearns out of the game. Hastings then stole third and scored after Guevarra reached on an error with Erin Brown pitching in relief. Down 7-0, the Johnnies got two runners on in the bottom half as Peyton Cody singled and Santos was hit by a pitch, but Amy Mallah and Natalie Alheidt both struck out swinging.

UConn loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning as Sami Barnett singled and stole a base, Hollis Wivell stole a base after pinch-running for Sappington and Lauren Benson walked. However, the Huskies failed to score a run as Erika Coreth grounded into a fielder’s choice and James grounded out. Instead, they added another insurance run in the top of the sixth as Marcelino tripled for the second time this season and scored on Guevarra’s third RBI of the game, a groundout to first base.

Marybeth Olson sent the Johnnies down in order in the bottom half as the Huskies run-ruled the Red Storm 8-0. Meghan O’Neil grabbed her fourth win of the season behind five shutout innings, allowing no runs on one hit, a walk and three strikeouts. Mearns went 3.2 innings for the Johnnies, allowing seven runs (three earned) on seven hits with four punchouts.

The Huskies played both at noon and 3 p.m. on Friday because of the doubleheader. The fatigue arrived early in the second game as both teams put a runner on base in the first inning and did nothing else. The Huskies threatened in the second inning as Barnett singled up the middle, but she was caught stealing. The threat continued when Hastings made her way to third base while Coreth reached on a fielding error to put runners on the corners, but James flew out to center field.

UConn’s offense woke up in the third inning as Guevarra hit a full count home run to right field for her fourth RBI of the series. The Johnnies got two runners on in the bottom half of the frame, but Thompson flew out to keep the Red Storm off the board.

The Huskies wreaked havoc in the fifth inning. It started with a single to right center for Coreth, who was substituted for Wivell’s speed. Wivell reached second on a groundout by James and scored after Marcelino reached on a fielding error. Guevarra singled and stole second while Rosie Garcia walked to load the bases and knocked Carolina Zamudio out of the game, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Huskies. Sanden reached on a fielder’s choice that allowed Marcelino to score and Barnett followed that up with a two-run single to make it 5-0.

The bases remained juiced as Hastings reached on a fielding error and Benson reached on a fielder’s choice. Coreth checked back into the game and singled in two runs before James reached on a fielding error to add one more run. Marcelino loaded the bases again with a walk that took out Angela Saric, but the Huskies were not done yet.

Now up 8-0, Guevarra cleared the bases with a single to give the Huskies an 11-0 lead and give herself a total of seven RBIs in two games. The rally ended after Garcia struck out swinging, but the Huskies scored a season-high 10 runs in the frame.

St. John’s did not get shut out for the third game in a row as Meisha Murray stole second and scored on a Jarrard single following two quick outs in the bottom half. With a runner on second base, the Johnnies could have strung some runs together, but Thompson grounded out to third base as UConn mercy-ruled the Johnnies again 11-1.

Olson went three innings, allowing no runs on two hits with three strikeouts while Elise Sokolsky earned her fifth win of the year by going two innings in relief, allowing one run on two hits. Zamudio went 4.1 innings for the Johnnies, allowing five runs (three earned) on four hits.

The series finale, initially scheduled for Sunday, has been moved to Tuesday, March 15, in Queens due to inclement weather. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. on ESPN+ with live stats provided by StatBroadcast. The Huskies (11-10, 2-0 Big East) then prepare for their three-game series against the Georgetown Hoyas in Washington DC, which starts Friday, March 18.

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