UConn softball participated in its last invitational before Big East play begins. The Liberty Invitational, which included the Huskies, Liberty University, Radford University and Iona University, ended with UConn taking three out of four games.
Day one featured games against both Liberty and Radford. While the first game of the weekend was canceled due to rain, UConn was able to play in the other two games Saturday.
Liberty shut out UConn in the first game, winning 3-0. The Lady Flames landed their first three batters on base, applying pressure early on in the first inning. UConn limited the damage, only allowing one runner to score on the situation. No more runs were scored until the fourth inning with two runners in scoring position, left fielder KK Madrey singled, plating the final two runs for the Liberty Lady Flames putting them up three. Liberty’s Karlie Keeney pitched the complete game shutout, striking out seven batters and allowing just two hits in seven innings. This was Keeney’s fourth win on the season, bringing her to a 4-5 record so far. Payton Kinney gets tagged with the loss for UConn, surrendering an earned run over two innings pitched. Hope Jenkins pitched the other four innings, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out three batters.
Connecticut rebounded quickly in its next matchup. Taking on Radford University, UConn pitched a shutout and routed the Highlanders with a win of 8-0. Seven different Huskies tallied an RBI in the game while Aziah James and Makenzie Mason were the only UConn players with a multi-hit game. James started the scoring in the third inning, doubling to left, scoring Taylor Zatyk. A few batters later, James scored on a wild pitch to put the Huskies up two. To top off this innings, shortstop Jada Sanden hit a sacrifice fly to right field bringing in catcher Grace Jenkins to increase UConn’s lead to three. In the fourth, third basemen Haley Coupal beat out an infield single allowing Mason to make it home. Grace Jenkins grounded out to second, which was just enough to bring in Coupal. Despite being up five, UConn wasn’t satisfied. Now in the fifth inning, Savannah Ring singled to center to push the Huskies sixth run of the game in, with Jada Sanden coming in from third. Mason reached base on an error while Ring made it all the way home. To end the game, Zatyk singled leading to yet another Highlanders error, which Mason would score on. The eight-run lead activated NCAA’s mercy rule. Hope Jenkins collected the complete game shutout for UConn, allowing a single hit over five innings pitched and striking out three.
Day two was a doubleheader against Iona University. The Huskies picked up right where they left off against Radford, with a day highlighted with great offensive performances. The Gaels lost their two previous games in the tournament, suffering an 11-0 loss against Liberty and a close 1-0 pitchers’ duel against Radford. On the season, they had only won two games coming into the weekend and these were their last chances to secure a win.
Sunday’s first game ended with a UConn win, the final being 5-3. Coupal brought in another two RBI’s, one in the second and the other in the sixth. Grace Jenkins continued her hot hitting with a double in the third inning that scored James. Mason singled with the bases loaded in the third as well, this time scoring Jenkins. This resulted in a 4-0 Huskies lead entering the bottom half of the sixth inning. Up to that point, pitcher Megan O’Neil had been cruising for Connecticut. Iona’s bats came alive, plating three runs in the sixth to decrease the Huskies lead to just one. The Gaels collected four hits in five batters but O’Neil was able to keep UConn leading by the end of the inning. Ring’s seventh inning single plating pinch-runner Giuliana Abruscato was all the insurance runs that UConn need. Delaney Nagy came in and closed the door on Iona, earning her first save on the season and handing Iona their third straight loss of the invitational. O’Neil earned her third win on the season in a six-inning effort where she struck out eight batters and conceded three earned runs.
The final game of the doubleheader would be yet another UConn win, this time with the final of 8-3. Hope Jenkins picked up another win, giving up three runs with five strikeouts in five innings pitched. Alyssa DeJianne took the loss for Iona, allowing seven runs in two innings pitched. Zatyk hit a bases clearing double to put the Huskies ahead by three in the first inning. Iona’s Jessica Chilcott responded with a two-run double of her own to keep the game close, but UConn’s offense exploded in the third. Lexi Hastings took a bases loaded walk to get the scoring started. Zatyk earned yet another RBI with a bases loaded walk to bring in Ring. Catcher Lauren Benson singled to right field driving in UConn’s third run of the inning followed by an Abruscato sacrifice fly to left-center field that scored Hastings. Iona scratched another run across in the fifth, but an Abruscato single in the bottom half brought the score to 8-3.
Connecticut will face Seton Hall this coming weekend at home. The Pirates (7-7) will be coming off their most successful weekend so far in which they won three out of five games. UConn and Seton Hall will face each other on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Burrill Family Field at the Connecticut Softball Complex. The games are free for all students and are available on the new streaming service, UCONN+.