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STORRS, Conn. – On average, college softball teams carry three to four pitchers on their roster to get through a season. UConn softball will be above that average, with five pitchers of various styles poised for the 2017 season.
Following a season where the Huskies had three primary hurlers in Kayla Doty, Chelsea Eckert and Jill Stockley, the addition of two freshmen arms will give UConn a multitude of options when the season starts on Feb. 10.
“We’re fortunate this year to have five healthy pitchers that all provide something different, which will give us options based on our opponents,” said Adrienne Clark, UConn pitching coach.
Freshmen Carli Cutler (Rocklin, Calif.) and Katie Koshes (Orange, Conn.) join the UConn staff, which ranked fourth in ERA (3.30) in the American Athletic Conference last season.
“They are ready to go and excited for the season,” said sophomore pitcher Jill Stockley. “It’s a good competitive atmosphere with them here. Both are great workers and seem confident, even as freshmen.”
For Cutler, who threw about 14 innings during the fall season, getting adjusted to the college game has been no small feat. Having laser focus, which is what Cutler is known for, has never been more important.
“I’ve learned it’s important to be aware of and smart with the count. In high school sometimes, you can get away with leaving a ball over the plate, but in college, you have to be aware of every pitch you throw,” said Cutler.
When asked about the first-year pitchers, Clark added, “They have come in and attacked whatever was thrown at them. It is standard for freshmen to look engulfed in what it means to be a college athlete, but it’s their competitive edge that makes them overcome it. In turn, it makes the upperclassmen better too.”
The return of Doty and Eckert, who combined for over 200 innings of work in 2016, provides the experience necessary to round-out the staff. Their influence will be key, as the young pitchers continue to transition to the college game.
“It’s been great having three older girls above Katie and myself, as we’re just learning from what they have experienced,” said Cutler. “Watching them stay composed in their approach to each game has been valuable.”
Both Doty and Eckert stayed at UConn over the summer working out, which helped them to get a head start on conditioning for fall practices and the winter session.
“Kayla and Chelsea have improved leaps and bounds from when they came in,” said Clark, who has worked with them for three seasons. “From a physical standpoint and adjusting their go-to pitches, to a mental side of staying focused – they are ready to go.”
Many workouts for the UConn pitching staff are competition-based, promoting the idea of encouraging everyone to perform their best in pressure moments.
The current UConn pitching staff is made up of competitors; players who vary in style, but share the similar trait of wanting to win. Splitting up the innings among five pitchers, rather than three, will make a big difference.
“I think we’re more prepared this season because everyone levels each other out in what they bring to the table. Everyone has a specialty pitch, something they didn’t last year,” said Stockley. “We have more arms, more options and can play to the opponents’ weaknesses.”
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