During its eight-game homestand, the UConn softball team scored 53 runs, won two games via the mercy rule, threw a shutout and went 7-1. Merrimack College entered Wednesday’s contest on a four-game losing streak and had won two out of its last nine games dating back to April 5. It was the Warriors’ first home game since April 10 when they shut out the Long Island University Sharks 3-0.
Playing a one-off against the Merrimack Warriors for the first time ever (per UConn athletics), the Huskies looked to build another winning streak heading into the home stretch of the regular season.
The first inning was quiet for both offenses. The Huskies went down in order while the Warriors sent four batters to the plate after Jenna Wike struck out and reached first base on an error. No one else got aboard for Merrimack as Jana Sanden made a diving play in the infield to avoid an early threat. The offensive silence did not last long as UConn’s bats caught fire on a surprisingly chilly afternoon.
In the top of the second, Rosie Garcia got the damage started with a single to center field before consecutive walks by Sami Barnett and Lauren Benson loaded the bases. UConn got on the board when Erika Coreth drew a bases-loaded walk with one out. After Aziah James struck out looking, Briana Marcelino hit a two-run double to left center field that gave the Huskies the 3-0 advantage. UConn loaded the bases again as Reese Guevarra walked, but Bry Michitson struck out Lexi Hastings to avoid further damage.
Each of the next five half-innings involved a 1-2-3 inning. During that time, Marybeth Olson struck out six batters while Michitson punched out two hitters in the third and fourth. Out of the 15 possible outs, there were three flyouts, one of which was caught by Barnett at first base, and four groundouts.
In the top of the fifth, UConn added some insurance runs and brought some noise back into the game. Guevarra singled following a strikeout of Marcelino and scored in the following at-bat. While Hastings was at the plate, Guevarra stole her 26th base of the season and made it to home plate after an error by the shortstop for the 4-0 lead. Sanden doubled to center field with two outs, but the Huskies did not bring anyone else home.
After four dominant innings, Olson was relieved for Meghan O’Neil. O’Neil walked Madison Cerpa to begin the frame, but a 6-4-3 double play and a ground out by Sofia Paylan kept the Warriors off the board. UConn went down in order before Merrimack got another runner on in the sixth as Hannah Scarano was hit by a pitch with one out, looking to score a run. However, O’Neil got Sarah Reisler to fly out and struck out Courtney Lanpher swinging to avoid any trouble. After six innings, the Huskies had not allowed a hit.
The Husky offense was not done scoring insurance runs. In the top of the seventh, Marcelino and Guevarra singled in consecutive at-bats to give UConn a prime scoring opportunity. Hastings reached on a fielder’s choice as Marcelino was tagged out before Sanden was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought Garcia to the plate, and she made an impact.
On the first pitch she witnessed, Garcia ripped a long single to left center field that brought in both Guevarra and Hastings standing up for the 6-0 advantage. Emily Piergustavo had a chance to tack on to the lead with two outs, but grounded into a fielder’s choice.
UConn had a chance to finish off the no-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, but freshman Ellen Hubbard singled and stole second base following a Wike groundout, giving the Warriors their first runner in scoring position. Hubbard advanced to third on a groundout by Cerpa, but Nicole Koshes popped out to first base as the Huskies won for the 11th time in their last 12 games 6-0. It was UConn’s second shutout in as many games and fifth straight game where the defense allowed less than three runs.
It was a one-hit performance for the pitching staff, their first such instance since April 6. Olson picked up the win, pitching four innings of near-perfect softball with nine strikeouts while allowing one runner on base. O’Neil pitched the other three innings, striking out two while allowing one hit. In total, the Huskies threw 11 strikeouts and stranded three runners on base.
Madie Fornwalt took the loss for the Warriors, allowing three runs on two hits and four walks in 1.2 innings. Michitson pitched the other 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
While the defense shined for the Huskies, the offense was just as important. Guevarra went 2-3 from the dish and scored twice while Marcelino and Garcia both picked up two RBIs on two hits apiece. Hubbard had the Warriors’ only hit and stolen base of the game.
The Huskies (29-14, 15-3 Big East) play their penultimate Big East series of the season against the Seton Hall Pirates in South Orange, New Jersey. This will be the Huskies’ final road series of the season. UConn leads the conference at 15-3 in Big East play while Seton Hall enters the weekend at 6-9 and sits in sixth place. Seton Hall has two series remaining after this weekend while UConn has one more.
First pitch is Friday, April 22, at 3 p.m., Saturday’s game starts at 1 p.m. while the series finale begins at 12 p.m. All three games will be available on FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.