By Aaron Esposito and Peter Harasyko
The UConn softball team heads to Orlando, Florida this weekend to take on American Athletic Conference frontrunners UCF. The Knights enter the series with a 31-5 record overall. The Huskies are currently 10-17, but ride a two-game winning streak into the weekend.
UConn head coach Jen McIntyre recognizes that UCF will be a very difficult opponent.
“They are probably the favorites in the conference right now,” she said. “They have a great one-two punch on the mound, a great defense and speed. They’re just a really well-rounded team.”
UCF’s two starters have both been dominant this season. Senior Mackenzie Audas is 15-0 in 18 starts with a 0.90 ERA. Junior Shelby Turnier is 14-5 with an equally impressive 0.93 ERA. UConn will have their work cut out for them.
This will be the Huskies first three-game series of the season, as opposed to five games in weekend invitationals. McIntyre explained the advantage of playing a three-game series against the same opponent.
“The biggest difference is that by the second or third game you really know your opponent,” she said. “When we’re playing the five-game tournaments we’re facing a different opponent virtually every game.”
As UConn begins conference play they are still making adjustments to try to improve their lineup. McIntyre recently moved freshman Ryne Nakama from outfield to second base and moved sophomore Taylor Townsend to the outfield.
“We’re still trying to put together the best defensive lineup we can come up with,” McIntyre said, adding, “The last two games it’s worked out for us.”
As far as pitching goes, the plan is to continue with a pitch-by-committee approach. McIntyre has noticed freshman Chelsea Eckert taking some important strides recently.
“She’s learning how to really navigate through the heart of a lineup, especially the second and third time through the order,” she said. “She’s really learned to get crafty with her pitches and throw into her strengths and into the batter’s weaknesses, which has been great.”
The Huskies had their first home game postponed, but are hopeful to make their home debut on April 3rd against USF. McIntyre credited the grounds crew with their hard work in recent days to make the field playable. The team is looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd.
“An opportunity to play at home and show everybody here what we’ve been working for will be fun,” Mcintyre said.
If all goes well for the Huskies they will show everybody in Orlando what they’ve been working for with some impressive wins in the American.