Softball: Offense leads the way as Huskies sweep Villanova 

The UConn softball team was able to hold on to their early lead to win their match against Boston College at Burrill Family Softball Complex in Storrs, Conn. on March 21, 2023. A strong fourth inning from the Eagles that resulted in six points nearly flipped the result of the match. By Skyler Kim / The Daily Campus

While the men’s basketball team were dominant on offense, the UConn softball team (20-10, 9-3) swept Villanova University (18-16, 5-4) by an average of over 6.5 runs in a three-game series. 

The offense wasted no time going to work in the series, with a pair of home runs in the top of the first inning. Shortstop Jana Sanden hit a two-run shot to left-center field, while third base Rosie Garcia  hit a solo homer to extend the Huskies’ lead to 3-0. 

The only thing different between the top and bottom halves of the first inning was who was on offense, as the Wildcats tied the game up at three with two home runs of their own. 

Despite starting pitcher Hope Jenkins struggling to begin the game, with five runs given up in the first three innings, head coach Laura Valentino showed that she trusted Jenkins to pick up the pace. 

She did exactly that, holding Villanova to just one hit afterward and finishing with seven strikeouts in a complete game. 

A four-run fourth inning gave Connecticut the lead once again, and the lead didn’t change for the rest of the game. 

Infielder Makenzie Mason led off with a single and showed off her speed as she reached home plate after second base Savannah Ring hit a single to drive her in. 

Pinch runner Giuliana Abruscato crossed home after right fielder Lexi Hastings kept the hit party going. That party would continue with center fielder Aziah James driving in Ring and Hastings on a two-run single. 

Already with a 7-5 lead, UConn didn’t stop the scoring there, with an RBI double by James to score Hastings in the sixth inning. Just an inning later, Sanden hit a solo shot, continuing her phenomenal day at the plate. 

After defeating Villanova in the first game, 9-5, you would think the scoring stopped there. Unfortunately for Villanova and fortunately for the Huskies, the bats stayed hot on Saturday. 

With two outs in the second inning, Ring continued to bring in runs for UConn with an infield single that brought in Mason. Hastings made it 4-0 with a three-run shot. James would cross home plate on a Sanden single. Jenkins would do the same on a Garcia single up the middle. 

Despite a run scored in the second inning to cut UConn’s lead to 6-1, that’s all the scoring Villanova would do. 

In the fifth inning, James not only hit her first career home run, but it was a grand slam down the left field line. 

Starting pitcher Payton Kinney was phenomenal, with five strikeouts in four innings. Cleaning up in the fifth inning was Meghan O’Neil, who finished the job as the Huskies won the series 10-1 in their third run rule win of the season. 

It looked like Connecticut’s offense was all out of gas in the third game. The first, and only run scored for the Huskies was in the first inning by Sanden, who hit a single down the left-field line that allowed Hastings to cross the plate. 

Despite the bases loaded in each of the first two innings, Kinney got the job done, who replaced Jenkins after facing two batters in the first inning. Kinney struck out seven and earned their seventh win of the season. 

O’Neil closed the game once again, earning her second save of the season. 

It’s the first series sweep of the season for the Huskies, who will return to Storrs to face Fairfield University and UMass at Burrill Family Field. 

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