The UConn softball team, projected to finish third in the Big East, entered the weekend leading the conference at 13-2. The Providence Friars were projected to finish eighth, but entered in second place at 8-4. Something had to give.
The opening game was played both under the lights and on FS1. Elise Sokolsky started the game hot, striking out three consecutive hitters following a leadoff single. The Huskies loaded the bases on three walks in the bottom of the first, but Sami Barnett grounded out before any of them could touch home plate.
UConn got on the board in the bottom of the second whenBriana Marcelino ripped a triple to the outfield wall, bringing inErika Coreth and firing up the home crowd. Reese Guevarra reached on an error in the following at-bat to make it a 2-0game.
Jessica Tomaso had a chance to cut the lead with two runners on base in the top of the fourth, but Sokolsky struck her out lookingto escape the jam. Makenzie Mason, playing in her first game in a month, scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half to make it a 3-0 game. Providence got a run back in the fifth after Micaela Abbatine reached on an error and scored on a Harrington singlefollowing two Sokolsky strikeouts.
If a lunging grab and throw from Jana Sanden’s knees was not enough, then Coreth catching Tiana Wren stealing defined theHusky defense in the sixth. Giuliana Abruscato was caught in a run-down during a Guevarra single in the bottom half whileattempting to add insurance runs. Marybeth Olson, who relieved Sokolsky in the sixth, sent the Friars down in order in the seventh as the Huskies won their ninth straight game 3-1.
Sokolsky went five innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits while striking out 10. Olson pitched the last two innings and struck out three for the save. Tori Grifone took the loss for Providence, allowing three runs (two earned) with five walks and five punchouts.
Jacque Harrington started the second game off with a bang,hitting a leadoff homerun and her team-leading eighth of the season, to put the Friars up early. The Huskies got a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first as Lexi Hastings singled and stole second base, but she did not score. Meghan O’Neil escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the second, created by a single and two hit batters, on a strikeout and a flyout.
Harrington walked to start the top of the fifth, but fielder’s choices on consecutive pitches and a strikeout from Sokolsky prevented Providence from adding insurance runs. UConn tried to tie the game in the bottom half as Olivia Sappington ripped a leadoff double, but the next three hitters all flew out.
In the bottom of the sixth, Marcelino stole the team’s 100th base of the season and scored when Hastings’ speed turned an RBIsingle into a double as UConn tied the game at one. Providence loaded the bases in the seventh on a walk, a single and an HBP, but Wren grounded out and gave the Huskies a chance to walk it off. Barnett reached on an error, but that did not spark any late-inning magic as the contest went to extra innings.
The Friars threatened with two straight singles to begin the eighth and took the lead after Elysia Cunnigan singled in Lauren Nunez with two outs. The Huskies had a chance walk it off in the bottom half as James doubled and Marcelino walked, but apitching change, double play and a strikeout ended UConn’s nine-game winning streak 2-1.
Sokolsky took the loss after conceding the winning run in the eighth while Daniela Alvarez earned the win after allowing one run in seven innings without a punchout.
After observing Easter Sunday, the two teams squared off in the rubber match looking for a statement series victory. Sokolsky found herself in an early hole after Petrarca was hit by a pitch and Lea Kosinski walked, but Wren lined out as Sokolsky escaped the jam.
UConn got on the board in the bottom of the first as Hastings singled and stole second before scoring on a Sanden single to center field. After Sokolsky worked a 1-2-3 second inning, UConn added runs as Rosie Garcia scored on an error to double the lead. Barnett scored from third base when James reached on an error herself as the Huskies jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage.
Providence had chances to make things interesting in the thirdand fifth, getting two runners aboard both times, but a strikeout and a fielder’s choice in the third as well as two fly outs in the fifth kept the Friars off the board.
UConn took full advantage of the missed opportunities, getting the first two hitters aboard via a walk and a double in the bottom half of the fifth before Marcelino slid under the catcher to make it a 4-0 game. Sappington walked to load the bases before Garcia hit a two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 ballgame.
UConn put this game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on a Coreth HBP, a Marcelino double and a Guevarra single. Sanden reached on an error, Providence’s fifth of the game, that brought Coreth and Marcelino home as the Huskies mercy-ruled the Friars 8-0 for the series win.
Sokolsky pitched all six innings, allowing no runs and surrendering two hits while striking out five. Alvarez took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) in 1+ innings of work.
The Huskies (28-14, 15-3 Big East) begin a five-game road tripwith a midweek one-off against the Merrimack College Warriors. First pitch is on Wednesday, April 20, at 4 p.m. EDTwith live stats from StatBroadcast.