STORRS, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut softball team split a pair of games against conference foe USF in UConn's first two home games of the season on Friday. After a 3-2 loss to the Bulls in game one, the Husky bats came alive in the second contest, as Connecticut earned an 8-7 victory.
The win marked the first victory over South Florida (31-12, 3-4 American) for the Huskies since April 14, 2012, and UConn now sits at 11-22 (1-4 American) on the season.
Friday's first game two featured a pitching duel between UConn freshman Chelsea Eckert (Branchville, N.J.) and USF's Erica Nunn. Eckert went the distance, finishing with five strikeouts and just one walk, while Nunn earned her ninth win of the season after totaling two strikeouts.
The Bulls struck first in the top of the third when Astin Donovan produced an infield single, scoring Cassidy Boyle. South Florida's lead didn't last long, as Connecticut's Lexi Gifford (Natick, Mass.) homered in the bottom of the frame to even the game at one. It was the second home run of the season for the junior infielder.
USF grabbed the lead back with two RBI doubles in the top of the fourth inning. Karla Claudio and Lauren Evans both sent shots to the outfield in the frame before Eckert induced a ground ball to end the inning and get out of the jam.
The Huskies closed the gap to just one (3-2) when freshman outfielder Alaina Montgomery (Greensburg, Pa.) scored on a passed ball after pinch running for Alyson Ambler (Walla Walla, Wash.), who was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the sixth. The game would end at 3-2 after the Huskies failed to generate any offense in the final inning.
Senior Lauren Duggan (Norwood, Mass.) got the nod on the mound for the Huskies in game two on Friday. She lasted 4.1 innings, surrendering four runs and finishing with one strikeout. Eckert earned the victory for the Huskies after allowing no runs in the final two innings of the contest, which was tied in the top of the fifth following a five-run outburst from the Bulls.
Two South Florida errors in the bottom of the first led to three runs for the Huskies, as Gifford, Ambler and Heather Fyfe (Bedford, N.H.) all reached home. UConn extended its lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the second off of RBI singles from Ambler and Taylor Townsend (Yorba Linda, Calif.). Ambler singled up the middle, while Townsend recorded an infield single.
An RBI double by Emily O'Donnell (Niskayuna, N.Y.) pushed the Connecticut advantage to 6-0 in the fourth inning before the Bulls answered back with five runs in the fifth. Mia Fung provided the big at-bat for USF, as she homered with one out to bring in three runs and tie the game.
Another RBI double from O'Donnell gave the lead (7-6) back to the Huskies, who added one more in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly from Jacklyn Dubois (Mt. Vernon, N.H.). USF came within one run of evening the game in the top of the seventh, but a ground out from D'Anna Devine sealed the victory for the Huskies, who earned their first victory in conference play with the win.
UConn and USF will battle for the series tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Storrs at the Connecticut Softball Stadium.