The UConn softball team (3-4) headed to Gainesville, Florida, where the University of Florida hosted the Huskies, Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Delaware State in the T-Mobile Tournament.
UConn began its season in the Buzz Classic, going 1-2 before games against UIC and Saint Francis University were canceled.
For the Huskies, the T-Mobile Tournament began with a doubleheader on Friday, against Bowling Green (3-6) and No. 3 Florida (10-0) respectively.
For the first game of the tournament, pitcher Meghan O’Neil (Sr.) was on the mound to begin the game, where the Forest, Virginia native secured her first win of the season and allowed just one run.
The first inning started off with a bang for UConn’s offense. Infielder Grace Jenkins (Fr.) began the day with a double off the wall in dead center field that brought fellow freshman Savannah Ring in to score. With the bases loaded, catcher Laura Benson took a walk to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead. Outfielder Aziah James (Gr.) drove in two more runs as she hit a single up the middle. Five runs scored in the top of the first inning for the Huskies.
The Jenkins sisters, Grace and Hope, would drive in runs in the second and fourth innings, headlined by two solo shots by Grace Jenkins in back-to-back at bats.
Hope Jenkins (Fr.) closed the game, striking out the side to end the first game of the day. The final score was 13-1, UConn winning in five innings.
Payton Kinney (Jr.) was on the mound to begin the second game, against the No. 3 Florida Gators. The beginning of the second game leaned towards the opposite of the first game with the Gators scoring in the first two innings to get out to a 2-0 lead.
The third inning did the most damage, as Florida scored six runs to extend their lead to 8-0. In the fifth inning, Ring singled to bring outfielder Lexi Hastings (So.) in to score, but that would be the only highlight as the Gators scored in the bottom half of the fifth inning to close out the game. The final score, in favor of Florida, was 9-1.
UConn looked for revenge the following day as they took on the Gators once again. Hope Jenkins began on the mound for the Huskies. She went four innings and had two strikeouts and two runs.
Those two runs allowed were crucial as UConn led for most of the game. Benson brought in another run in the tournament after a double allowed Hastings to cross home plate. Ring would follow with a double of her own, bringing in Benson.
Doubles were the only way the Huskies could score, as Grace Jenkins brought infielder Makenzie Mason (Jr.) to give UConn a 3-0 lead. Both of the runs Hope Jenkins allowed came in the bottom of the fourth inning. That was enough for head coach Laura Valentino to take her out after the inning concluded, having Kinney replace her on the mound.
Kinney had three strikeouts and gave up three hits, but the last two were the deciding factor, as a bloop into right field allowed the Gators to walk off in the seventh inning. The final score was 4-3, Florida winning both games against the Huskies.
Despite giving up the winning run, Kinney was on the mound for the beginning of the second game, taking on Central Michigan (2-2). She had three scoreless innings to begin the game.
James had two hits, resulting in two runs and three stolen bases. She scored the third run in the fifth inning after a throwing error by the Chippewas allowed her to cross the plate.
Central Michigan cut the lead to one run after a two-run sixth inning, but that’s where the scoring would end as Hope Jenkins came out to close the game, with her first save of her college career. UConn picked up a bounce-back victory, defeating the Chippewas, 3-2.
The final game of the weekend came yesterday morning against Bowling Green, where the Huskies brought out throwback uniforms.
Hope Jenkins, who was the starting pitcher for the game, would continue to contribute to the team with a sacrifice fly to bring Ring in to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Bowling Green would even the game with a run in the third, but did damage in the fourth, bringing in two runs to give the Falcons a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom half of the same inning, Hastings singled to shortstop which brought infielder Haley Coupal (Fr.) in to score, cutting the deficit to one run.
Bowling Green extended their lead back to two runs with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning, but that would be the only runs scored as Rosie Garcia (So.) dove third base to get the inning-ending out, getting the Huskies out of the jam.
Taylor Zatyk (Jr.) fouled out, but Hope Jenkins continued her strong day on the offensive side, tagging up and crossing home in the sixth to cut UConn’s deficit to one.
Garcia didn’t stop her heroic efforts with the huge defensive play. She tripled to left center in the bottom of the seventh inning to drive Jana Sanden (Jr.) and Grace Jenkins home, giving the Huskies a walk-off victory.
UConn went 3-2 in the T-Mobile Tournament, capping off with back-to-back victories. The only losses came against Florida, one of college softball’s best teams.
Next weekend, the Huskies will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to participate in the UNCG Invitational, hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Along with the host team, the Huskies will also face Indiana University and the University of Delaware.