MANSFIELD, Conn. – When UConn softball needed a big performance, freshman pitcher Katie Koshes turned in a trademark performance with a season-high 13 strikeouts in a win over USF at the ECSU Softball Field on Sunday.
The Huskies (12-15, 1-1 American) split Sunday’s doubleheader with the Bulls in the opening series of American Athletic Conference play. A weekend tormented by poor weather eased up for one day, allowing a doubleheader to take place.
Koshes (5-3) was masterful in the second game, allowing just two hits in a complete-game shutout of USF – resulting in a 1-0 win for the Huskies. Redshirt senior Valerie Sadowl provided the go-ahead solo home run in the game.
“Katie did an absolutely outstanding job. I’ve said it all along – she has such tight spin on her ball. It moves all over, she hits spots and she keeps the batters guessing,” said head coach Jen McIntyre.
UConn dropped the first game on Sunday, 9-0, in a six-inning game. Freshman Devon Casazza had the only hit for the Huskies.
Game 1 – USF 9, UConn 0 (F/6)
USF’s Astin Donovan finished just a single shy of hitting for the cycle, as her 3-for-4 performance with six RBI and three runs scored helped the Bulls shoot past the Huskies in Sunday’s early game.
Sophomore Jill Stockley (4-7) started in the circle for the Huskies, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits in just 1.2 innings of work. Junior pitcher Chelsea Eckert threw 3.2 relief innings, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits.
Casazza had the only hit of the game for UConn – a ripped single down the left field line in the second inning. The Huskies left three runners on base against USF pitcher Kalen McGill, who earned the complete-game shutout.
Donovan had RBI hits in each of the first two innings – a double in the first and a triple in the third. Her three-run homer came in the sixth inning off Eckert to put the game out of reach.
Game 2 – UConn 1, USF 0
Already with a pair of double-digit strikeout performances heading into Sunday’s action, Koshes added to her total in a big way – fanning 13 USF batters on her way to a complete-game shutout of the Bulls.
UConn’s leader in ERA (1.56) and strikeouts (80) this season, Koshes recorded six strikeouts in the first two innings of the game. By the end of the fifth inning, her total was up to 10.
While Koshes was in a pitcher’s duel with USF’s Chelsea Eggens, it was one crack of the bat that helped UConn to a hard-fought victory in the second game.
Sadowl cranked her third home run of the season in the fourth inning – a soaring shot to right field – to put the Huskies on the board. It wasn’t much insurance for Koshes, but it was all she would need in her first conference appearance.
“I think that’s the beauty of freshmen; ignorance is bliss in some cases. They just come out and compete and Katie has done that all year,” said McIntyre of Koshes’ first AAC appearance. “It doesn’t matter who is in the batter’s box, she is just attacking and trying to put our team in a position to win.”
Koshes allowed just two hits and only a pair of runners reached second base for the Bulls. She stranded three base runners in total, while walking just one batter in seven innings of work.
The Huskies left five runners on base, including the bases loaded in the second inning. Three singles in the frame set-up a scoring chance for UConn, but sophomore Ally Hernandez grounded out and senior Taylor Townsend flew out to center.
It wasn’t until Sadowl’s big hit in the fourth that the scoreless tie was broken, setting the stage for Koshes to finish the job.
“I challenged Valerie a little bit between games. I told her, ‘hey you’re an upperclassman. Lead the way and we’ll follow’,” said McIntyre. “She did just that and that’s what we want to see from her.”
With the win, UConn has won four of its last five games heading into the midweek schedule.
The Huskies host UMass-Lowell on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Hofstra on Wednesday in a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. All games will be played at the Burrill Family Field in Storrs.