TROY, Ala. – The University of Connecticut softball team opened up its 2015 season with a split against Kennesaw State and Troy on Friday, Feb. 20 on Day One of the Trojan Invitational in Troy, Ala. The Huskies topped the Owls, 4-2, in game one at the Troy Softball Complex before falling in extras, 6-5, to the Trojans in the evening.
Game One Recap
Senior RHP Lauren Duggan (Norwood, Mass.) earned the starting nod in the opener and picked up the win, going the distance and allowing just two runs on seven hits to go along with a walk. KSU’s Paige Matthews was tagged with the loss after failing to get out of the first inning.
The Huskies improved to 22-19 all-time in season openers and have now emerged victorious in three of the last four openers. First-year head coach Jen McIntyre earned her first coaching victory at the helm of the program.
The Huskies jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after Alyson Ambler (Walla Walla, Wash.) crushed her fourth-career home run to center field, plating Ryne Nakama (Irvine, Calif.), who reached on a fielding error by the pitcher.
The Owls grabbed a run back in the top of the second, taking advantage of a pair of two-out hits. Lauren Bennett singled up the middle, scoring Noelle Winkles and pushing the score to 2-1. Duggan was able to work out of further trouble by inducing a ground ball to second base.
Connecticut threatened in the ensuing half inning, putting the first two on after consecutive walks but Monica Vickery worked around the jam, getting a pair of ground outs and a foul out to keep the score at 2-1.
The Huskies manufactured a run in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of a two-base error by the right fielder to open the inning on a fly ball from Alyssa Gardea (Corona, Calif.). Lexi Gifford (Natick, Mass.) laid down a sac bunt, advancing Gifford to third. Taylor Townsend (Yorba Linda, Calif.) walked and then stole second, allowing Gardea to race home safely on the delayed steal. UConn’s fourth run of the afternoon crossed the plate via a bases-loaded passed ball.
KSU moved within two after Winkles opened the top of the seventh with an inside-the-park homerun but Duggan regrouped and finished off the game, getting a groundout to second base to seal the win.
Junior catcher Jacklyn Dubois delivered the game’s only multiple-hit afternoon, going 2-for-3 at the dish.
Game Two Recap
Kayla Doty went five strong innings in her season debut, allowing four runs (two earned), on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts. Duggan (1-1) took the loss after pitching 2.2 innings of two-run relief.
Connecticut struck first again, courtesy of sophomore Dominique Pinto’s first career home run. The Husky first baseman cranked the solo shot with a 2-2 count in the top of the third, giving UConn a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans took their first lead in the third after Hannah Day doubled down the left field line, driving in Chelsea Eytel who reached on an error. With the score knotted at one, Michelle Phelps ripped single up the middle, scoring Day and giving the home team a 2-1 advantage.
Troy threatened in the home half of the fifth, putting two runners on with just one out but Doty rose to the occasions, striking out Day before getting Phelps to fly out to shallow center.
The Huskies reclaimed the lead in the sixth inning, grabbing four runs on three hits, while taking advantage of a Trojan error. Nakama started the inning with her first collegiate base hit and advanced to second following an error by the shortstop. Dubois singled to left to load the bases before Duggan and Pinto drew back-to-back RBI walks, giving UConn a 3-2 edge. Gifford added an RBI sac fly before Townsend singled through the right side of the infield to score Alaina Montgomery, who pinch ran for Duggan.
Troy pulled within one in the sixth but Duggan, who relieved Doty with the bases loaded and no one out, delivered back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the Husky lead. The Trojans tied it up in the bottom of the seventh before Duggan struck out Eytel with two in scoring position.
The Trojans walked off with the win in the bottom of the eighth after Phelps delivered a two-out infield single to plate Eytel with the winning run.
Nakama and Townsend each recorded multi-hit games in the setback.
The Huskies return to the diamond on Saturday, Feb. 21 for a pair of games against Troy and Evansville. First pitch against the Trojans is set for 4 p.m. ET.