It may have been a cloudy home opener at Burrill Family Field, but the University of Connecticut softball team was bursting with radiant energy in front of their fans.
Marybeth Olson took the mound for the Huskies and escaped some minor trouble in the top of the first inning. Jolie Duong led the game off with a walk, but despite that and a two-out single from Maddie Wilkes, Army was unable to get any runs home. Duong started for the Black Knights and sent the Huskies down in order.
The Huskies got on board in the bottom of the second inning after Olson sent the Black Knights down in order in the top half. Following two quick outs, Lexi Hastings got the offense going with a single to left field and then collected her 16th steal of the season. She came around to score when Olivia Sappington singled to center field. Erika Coreth singled to give UConn a chance to tack on more runs, but that was all they could muster.
However, the offense was not going to stop there, and they had their chance after Briana Marcelino dazzled on defense in the top half of the third. Two quick outs turned into another offensive rally as Rosie Garcia ripped a double into center field. Jana Sanden followed that up with a double to the center field wall that brought in Garcia and doubled the Husky lead.
The Black Knights may have entered with an 8-18 record, but there was more beneath the surface. Leila Hurst got things started with a single to center field and made it to second on a wild pitch. Wilkes then doubled down the left field line, which allowed Hurst to score and make it a 2-1 game. After Madi Gilmore grounded out, Lauren Little brought in Wilkes from third with a single down the right field line to tie the contest at two apiece.
The Black Knights continued to get to Olson. Ellie Caldwell reached on an error and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two runners in scoring position, Army took the lead as Angelina Bebek reached on a fielder’s choice and knocked Olson out of the game.
Olson lasted 3.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout.
Elise Sokolsky relieved Olson and, after allowing Bebek to steal second base, prevented anyone else from touching home plate as she got the next two batters out. Duong was checked out for Olivia Farris, who subsequently sent the Huskies down in order.
Duong tossed three innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two punchouts.
In the fifth inning, Kayla Edwards got on base for the Black Knights before the next three hitters went down in order. After Aziah James was ruled out on video review, the Huskies got their next two hitters on base as Marcelino walked and Reese Guevarra, the reigning Big East Player of the Week, reached on an error. The Huskies kept two runners on base after Garcia reached on a fielder’s choice, but no one came around to score.
Army added an insurance run in the top of the sixth. Little singled and made it to second on a single from Maaika Dones before she got caught stealing by Coreth. Dones made it to second on the play and scored on a double from Bebek to make it a 4-2 game.
Sokolsky got the next two batters out, but the Huskies needed an answer. Sami Barnett lined out to left field and Hastings struck out swinging to start the bottom of the sixth, but that’s when the game’s momentum started to shift.
Sappington sent the first pitch she saw onto Jim Calhoun Way to spark the Husky offense back to life and cut the deficit down to one. With that solo home run, Sappington had four home runs and 11 RBIs.
That was all the Huskies could get in that inning, but the best was saved for last. The Black Knights went down in order in the top of the seventh, leaving the Huskies with one final chance to rally for the victory.
Following a foul out from Giuliana Abruscato, Marcelino hit a softball down the left field line for a double. Guevarra followed suit with a single to put runners on the corner with one out, and that’s when the damage was done. Garcia flew out on the first pitch but sent the ball far enough to bring in Marcelino on the sacrifice fly. Guevarra was able to get to second base as the ball got away from Farris.
That brought Sanden to the plate and three pitches later, the Huskies completed the comeback. Sanden hit a softball down the third base line that trickled past Gilmore into left field. That allowed Guevarra to score the winning run and give the Huskies the 5-4 victory.
Sokolsky picked up the win as the Huskies’ last pitcher, going 3.2 innings while allowing a run on four hits with five strikeouts. Farris took the loss for the Black Knights, her 11th of the season, after giving up the winning run, going 3.2 innings while allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
Sappington led the Husky offense by going 2-3 with a home run and two RBIs, but Sanden was just as productive, going 2-4 with two RBIs. Little led the Army offense by going 2-3 with an RBI while Wilkes went 2-4. UConn was 4-9 with runners in scoring position while Army went 3-10. Defensively, Army committed two errors while UConn committed one. Each team had six defensive assists.
The Huskies (15-11, 5-1 Big East) resume conference play with their first conference home series, a three-game series, against the DePaul Blue Demons. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. on ESPN+ with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.