STORRS, Conn. – Three days remain until the UConn softball team begins the 2018 campaign in the Jacksonville Softball Tournament, which will provide fourth-year head coach Jen McIntyre a chance to see her team in action for the first time.
Among the topics of interest this season will be the development of the five-player pitching rotation of senior Chelsea Eckert, junior Jill Stockley, sophomores Carli Cutler and Katie Koshes, and freshman Marybeth Olson.
Last season, Stockley and Koshes combined for 213.2 innings and 192 strikeouts in the circle, good for roughly 70-percent of UConn’s total pitching production and 77-percent of punch-outs. McIntyre looks to take some of the burden off with a deep rotation in 2018.
“We scrimmaged for the first time two weekends ago and we saw a lot of great things and growth areas, which is what we are looking for this time of year,” said McIntyre. “I think all five of them have had bright spots, but all have things they need to improve on as we build.”
Olson (Victoria, Minn.) joins the staff from Chanhassen High School and hopes to make an immediate impact in her first taste of collegiate softball. The right-hander earned 2017 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the high school ranks, finishing her career at Chanhassen with 300 strikeouts in 189 innings.
“One of Marybeth’s best attributes is her mindset; she’s a competitor. She spins the ball well and can hit her spots,” said McIntyre. “She keeps the hitters off balance and that has been fun to see.”
During the 2017 season, the UConn pitching staff ranked third in opposing batting average (.269) and strikeouts (248) among all teams in the American Athletic Conference, showing promise for the upcoming year.
The only departure was senior Kayla Doty, as the Huskies return four pitchers from last season’s rotation, while adding Olson to the mix. Koshes returns as the team’s leader in innings (107.2), ERA (2.73), wins (8), appearances (30), strikeouts (122) and opposing batting average (.208).
The Huskies will open the season with five games this weekend, including a pair of doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. Six tournaments in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas await for UConn before conference play begins on March 23 at USF.
“We want to see all of our pitchers compete in the coming weeks. Once they get the ball in their hand and dig in on the mound, we want to see them hit locations, change speeds and really attack hitters,” said McIntyre of what she hopes to see in early-season action.
She added, “We will spot them early, probably mix up some lineups offensively and defensively to see what we have…I’m anxious to see what this group can do.”
A season-opening doubleheader against Army (10:30 a.m.) and Jacksonville (3:30 p.m.) will signal the start of the season for UConn on Friday.
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