After taking one game of a three-game series at East Carolina, the UConn softball team returns to action for a five-game home stand to finish the regular season. The Huskies take on Quinnipiac Wednesday and UMass Thursday, before finishing with a three-game series against American Athletic Conference rival Tulsa.
Although the Huskies (17-30, 4-10 American) took game one against the Pirates, they were plagued all series by inconsistent hitting and rough outings on the pitching mound. UConn desperately needs to get the bats going again before the crucial weekend series against Tulsa.
UConn’s Wednesday opponent offers a good chance to do just that. Quinnipiac (14-32) has had pitching and defensive issues all season, highlighted by a team ERA of 5.24. They use a three-pitcher rotation, and only one starter, senior Hannah Lindsley, has an ERA under five.
Despite their pitching struggles, they still pose a reasonable threat at the plate. Senior Nikki Barba leads the team with a .354 batting average and 51 hits, and Lindsley tops the team with six home runs. UConn will look for their own pitchers, senior Lauren Duggan, freshman Chelsea Eckert and sophomore Kayla Doty, to neutralize that threat.
With the return date of injured senior Emily O’Donnell unknown, the Huskies will need someone to step up in her absence and carry the offense. While O’Donnell, who leads the team in batting average, hits, home runs and RBI is irreplaceable, UConn has several players who can combine to produce in her absence.
Alyssa Gardea is second on the team with a .280 average and four home runs. Although she struggled last year, a new coaching staff and new game plan has helped her turn her game around. She has been on a tear recently, climbing the team charts in all offensive categories.
Taylor Townsend leads the team in on-base percentage with .428. Her discipline at the plate and ability to get on base put her in position to score, something UConn has struggled with. Finally, Lexi Gifford has been consistent at the dish all season for the Huskies, second on the team with 37 hits and hitting .270.
First pitch against Quinnipiac at Burrill Family Field is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday.