ORLANDO, Fla. - Freshman Chloe Kerns helped the UConn softball team break out of its hitting woes with runners in scoring position on Friday, delivering a grand slam in the fifth inning to help the Huskies to an 8-3 win over UCF in the series opener.
Prior to Kerns' third home run of the season, the Huskies (16-26, 2-10 American) were just 5-for-25 (.200) as a team with the bases loaded in 2017. Trailing 3-1 at the time, her hit gave UConn a permanent lead.
"It was a huge hit, and to have it be part of four hits with three singles in front of it, it set the table for Chloe and she got a good cut on the ball," said head coach Jen McIntyre.
Recording their first American Athletic Conference win since April 2 against USF, the Huskies relied on multi-hit games from Kerns and senior Taylor Townsend to lead the way. The duo combined for five of eight RBI.
UConn had four straight hits in the fifth, with singles from freshman Kiwi McDaniel, freshman Carli Cutler and junior Emma Stanley loading the bases for Kerns. The Huskies had stranded five runners before the fifth.
Kerns almost didn't even play on Friday, though, due to a cold.
"It was (considered)," said McIntyre about sitting Kerns due to illness. "We're dealing with a couple injuries and illnesses, so for her to step in and do her job was great."
The Huskies exploded offensively, accounting for 11 hits off UCF starter Alea White. Even with five runners left on base throughout the game, UConn managed eight runs - its most since nine against Bryant on March 29.
With a 5-3 lead, redshirt senior Valerie Sadowl capped the win with a three-run homer in the seventh, her team-leading fifth this season. She leads the team with 20 RBI this season.
"Hitting is always contagious. I tell the players when they're hot, get nice and close to each other. When you're cold, get far away," said McIntyre. "Probably to mirror the weather, we were pretty hot today, so we'll take it."
The Knights had taken a 3-1 lead in the fourth, scoring twice on three straight hits off sophomore pitcher Jill Stockley. Freshman Katie Koshes (7-7), who earned the win, picked up two strikeouts to end the threat.
Koshes pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Stockley, allowing just two hits while striking out four. UConn's defense was especially strong, as Sadowl made a great diving stop at third base in the second, potentially saving a run in the process.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, Townsend's RBI single down the left field line in the fourth inning plated redshirt senior Valerie Sadowl from second base for UConn's first run.
Kerns finished the day going 3-for-4 with four RBI and a pair of runs scored. Stanley contributed with two hits and two runs of her own.
McDaniel went 2-for-3 with a run in the victory, which snapped a four-game losing skid overall and a six-game losing streak in conference matchups on the road.
It was UConn's second all-time win against UCF and the first since 2013.
The Huskies play the Knights in the second game of a weekend set on Saturday. First pitch is at 2 p.m. (ET) at the UCF Softball Complex.