Feb. 13, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut softball team opens the 2013 season on Friday at the Florida International Tournament in Miami, Fla. The Huskies will face Binghamton at 11 a.m. followed by a contest against the hosting Panthers at 6:30 p.m.
UConn was tabbed to finish ninth out of 13 teams in the BIG EAST Conference this season. This selection comes after the Huskies concluded the 2012 season with a 21-27 overall record, a 9-13 league mark and the squad’s first trip to the BIG EAST Championship since 2009.
Connecticut has a plethora of veteran options to turn to in 2013 with seniors Kiki Saveriano and Kim Silva leading the way for an experienced and determined core group of veterans along with an impressive freshman class. Saveriano is the Huskies top returning pitcher as she totaled 30 appearances in 2012 compiling an 11-16 record and 3.29 ERA. Silva, a 2012 All-BIG EAST First Team selection, concluded 2012 with a .896 fielding percentage and was second on the team with a .299 batting average.
The Huskies will look to Saveriano to lead a relatively unproven pitching staff this season. Kiki saw action in the circle more than any other Husky pitcher pitching 161 innings and tallying 137 strike outs in her 30 appearances. The senior hurler has been tried and tested the past three seasons and knows what kind of game she has to deliver from the mound to beat the great teams.
Saveriano will be joined on the hill by junior Katelyn Callahan, sophomore Lauren Duggan and freshman Alyson Ambler. Both Katelyn and Lauren saw limited time last season and are poised and determined to step up and help this team succeed this spring. In addition, when not on the mound Lauren also has the ability to handle the ball at the corner infield spots for the Huskies.
Rounding out the UConn pitching staff is freshman and Washington State Gatorade Player of the Year, Alyson Ambler. Ambler is an exciting player and talented pitcher who the coaching staff hopes to see grow throughout the season.
The Huskies sport plenty of options behind the plate with two returning players, junior Andrea Huelsenbeck and sophomore Tori Thomson, as well as freshman newcomer Jackie Dubois. Huelsenbeck will be counted on both offensively and defensively as the most experienced receiver of the group. One of our most versatile athletes, Andrea finished the season with a .291 batting average, .409 on base percentage and a team-high 19 walks. Thomson has worked very hard behind the plate to solidify her skills and bring positive reinforcement to the pitching staff. A lefty hitter Tori also may be counted on to deliver some key at bats at the plate. Rookie Jackie Dubois is working to make an immediate impact behind the plate. Her strong arm and powerful bat make her a great addition to the program.
A key ingredient of the 2013 squad will be tough and aggressive infield play. Leading the way will be sophomore shortstop Emily O’Donnell. Emily started her career with a bang her freshman campaign starting in all 48 games at shortstop and sporting a team-high of 39 runs scored and was second on the team in slugging percentage, hits, RBI’s, and homeruns. A dynamic defender, O’Donnell always finds a way to make the play.
Senior Brittany Duclos returns to second base. A poised player that delivered some key hits last spring, Dulcos started in every game in 2012 and finished the season with a .257 batting average, including 26 hits, six doubles, one triple and three homeruns. Also vying for playing time at second is freshman Val Sadowl. Val is a sure handed infielder that brings a lot to the team up the middle. At first base, the Huskies will rely on workhorse Audrey Grinnell. A determined player, Grinnell manned first base for the Huskies in 45 games last season finishing with a team-high of 293 putouts. The coaching staff expects great things for Grinnell who showed a total metamorphosis this fall playing with confidence and leading the way both offensively and defensively.
Third base is the spot on the infield that’s really up for grabs. Vying for playing time at the hot corner are Huelsenbeck, junior Maddy Schiappa and freshman Lexi Gifford. Huelsenbeck has great hands, a strong bat, and tremendous versatility. One of the team’s speedsters, Schiappa has stepped up her play at third base and in the outfield after seeing action in 38 games last spring tallying 12 hits and 10 runs. Gifford will also compete for playing time showing great game sense and a knack for making the play. Rounding out the infield and adding depth is sophomore Ashley LaPenta. One of the teams hardest workers, Ashley saw action in 10 games her freshman season.
The Huskies have a talented group of players that will offer a variety of options in the outfield for UConn this season. After seeing plenty of action at third base the past two seasons senior Kim Silva has moved to the centerfield position. The coaching staff moved Silva to the centerfield position this season to capitalize on her leadership abilities and take charge attitude. Silva’s great speed and aggressive play make her a dangerous player both on the field and on the base paths.
This season marks the final year for NFCA All-American Scholar-Athlete Marissa Guches. She started in right field all 48 games last spring batting .275 with five homeruns, one triple, three doubles and delivered 24 RBIs. Classmate Jess McDermott has improved every year and is expected to challenge for a starting position in the outfield as well. A valuable role player, McDermott saw action in 16 games last season collecting three hits and two doubles.
Also vying for outfield positions is Schiappa and freshmen Heather Fyfe, Alyssa Gardea, and Gifford. Both Gardea and Fyfe are looking to gain experience at this level and figure prominently in the team’s plans for this season and the future. Gifford is a gifted athlete with great game sense and all the tools to blossom into a great collegiate player.
Overall the coaching staff has a lot of flexibility in our outfield players with offensive production being the determining factor in deciding the starters.