Two days. Two games. Two wins. The UConn softball team, in the middle of an eight-game homestand, clashed with the University of Rhode Island Rams and the Fairfield University Stags this week in the hopes of extending its six-game winning streak.
The Huskies broke the ice first, like they have been most of this season. After two quick outs in the first, Lexi Hastings doubled down the line and scored when Rosie Garcia reached on an error. Jana Sanden, who was hit by a pitch, scored when Olivia Sappington singled to right field.
Briana Marcelino extended the lead in the second when she hit an opposite-field double that brought in Lauren Benson from first base before scoring after Hastings grounded out to first. Reese Guevarra, who singled and stole second base, scored when Sanden doubled to left field and made it a 5-0 game.
Hastings picked up an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth before Rhode Island made things interesting in the fifth. Delaney Nagy relieved Meghan O’Neil and allowed the first two hitters to get on base. After Emily Power flew out, Skyler Rapuano ripped a bases-clearing triple to make it a 6-2 game and scored when Caitlin O’Leary grounded out with two runners in scoring position.
Up 6-3, UConn got some of its runs back in the bottom half. What started as two consecutive walks turned into two consecutive RBI singles as Marcelino and James brought in Benson and Aziah James to extend UConn’s lead to 8-3.
Rhode Island kept butting at the lead as the Rams loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in the sixth. Jessica Hennelly then singled in Margaux Lesser and Rapuano brought home another run on an error and suddenly, the Huskies were leading 8-5.
UConn nearly put this game out of reach the following half-inning. With the bases loaded on three straight singles and two out, Marcelino put a 1-0 fastball into orbit and sent the crowd into a frenzy. That home run, her team-leading sixth of the season, made it a 12-5 ballgame.
Like Creighton’s rally in Friday’s series-opening game, the Rams put up a fight in the top of the seventh. Each of the first four Ram hitters got on base via a walk, two singles and a double. Two runs scored when Sami Villareal doubled to left field on a 1-0 pitch. O’Neil checked back into the game, allowing Victoria Viaclovsky to score on a groundout but getting the next two hitters out as the Huskies survived Rhode Island 12-8.
O’Neil picked up the win after pitching five non-consecutive innings with seven strikeouts. Nagy pitched two innings, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits. Each Rhode Island pitcher allowed more than two runs, with Liz Lynchard allowing five (three earned), Piper Maguire allowing four and Cameron Whiteford allowing three.
After butting heads with the Rams on Tuesday, the Huskies bucked antlers with the Stags on Wednesday, kicking the game off in the wildest fashion. Marcelino led the bottom of the first with a single and advanced to second on a single from Guevarra. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch during Hastings’ at-bat, but Marcelino was thrown out before she could make it to third.
UConn loaded the bases as Hastings walked and Sanden reached on an error to load the bases before more wild antics occurred. After Garcia struck out swinging, Guevarra scored the Huskies’ first run as a wild pitch advanced all three runners. Sappington walked to load the bases, but UConn did not bring anyone else home.
UConn’s offense sparked to life in the bottom of the fourth. Sappington led the frame off with a single before Hollis Wivell pinch ran in her place. Sami Barnett got on base following a hit by pitch before the Huskies loaded the bases on a single from James.
With the bases juiced and a 1-0 count, Marcelino collected her seventh RBI in two days as she knocked a softball into right field. That allowed Barnett to score and make it a 2-0 game, expanding that lead to 3-0 when Guevarra grounded into a fielder’s choice.
After five dominant innings, the Stags thought they had their best chance of the game when O’Neil relieved Marybeth Olson. A Haley Updegraff walk and a Charli Warren single put two runners on with one out, but O’Neil got both Mikayla Rubin and Kaitlin Hoffman to fly out and escaped the jam.
UConn capitalized off the missed chance in the bottom half of the sixth. The first two pitches from Lauryn Rhinehart resulted in a triple by James and Marcelino getting hit by a pitch. The very next pitch was a called strike on Guevarra, but Marcelino stole second base standing up during the play. That stolen base, Marcelino’s 26th of the season, broke the record for most swiped bags in a single season. UConn made it a 4-0 ballgame when James scored following a Guevarra groundout.
After taking Tuesday off, Elise Sokolsky checked into the game to try and secure the shutout. She nearly did so after getting the first two Stags out, but consecutive doubles by Tahlia Brown and Drew Westford gave Fairfield their first run of the game. Kasey Sekula grounded out on the very next pitch as UConn won their eighth straight game 4-1.
Olson earned the win for the Huskies, pitching five scoreless innings while allowing two hits and striking out eight. Rhinehart pitched all six innings for the Stags, allowing four runs on eight hits with three punchouts.
The Huskies wrap up their two-weekend homestand with a three-game series against the Providence Friars. The Friars are currently second in the Big East standings with an 8-4 conference record. The first pitch is Friday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. on FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.