Feb. 18, 2014
STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut softball team opens its 2014 campaign on Friday when it travels to Florida for the NFCA Division I Lead-Off Classic in Clearwater, Fla. The Huskies begin competition with a pair of Friday games against Hofstra and DePaul on Feb. 21 before facing Charleston and UMass on Saturday, Feb. 22. Connecticut wraps up tournament play on Sunday, Feb. 23 with an 11am matchup against Illinois State.
Head Coach Karen Mullins (UConn ’79) will direct the Huskies in her 31st season in 2014. Mullins, who has guided Connecticut to eight NCAA Tournaments and a Women’s College World Series appearance in during her tenure in Storrs, will lead the Huskies in their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference. Mullins has amassed impressive numbers throughout her 30 seasons, entering 2014 with an 859-598-5 all-time coaching record and an 849-588-5 marker at the helm of Connecticut. In 2011, Coach Mullins became the 43rd coach in NCAA history to reach 800 career wins.
Assistant Coach Alex Gray (Valdosta State ’02) returns in 2014 for his second season with the program. New to the Huskies’ dugout in 2014 is assistant coach Megan Brown. Brown graduated from Florida Southern in 2007 as one of the most distinguished pitchers in program history, becoming just the seventh Moccasin to be inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in addition to receiving an invitation to the Florida Southern College Athletics Hall of Fame. Coach Brown was a two-time Academic All-American and three-time All-American pitcher in her collegiate career, earning All-Sunshine State Conference laurels in all four years and Pitcher of the Year distinction in three. With extensive experience working at the professional and international level, Brown will look to make an impact with a young Connecticut pitching staff.
2014 Season Preview
The 2014 edition of UConn softball is passionate, focused and determined to embrace the challenge of the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. Six players from last year’s squad were lost to graduation, including four Husky starters in Brittany Duclos (second base), Marissa Guches (outfield), Kiki Saveriano (pitcher), and two-time All-Big East outfielder Kim Silva. To compensate for their losses, the Huskies have added three new rookies and a transfer to the group. This versatile class of athletes includes pitcher Kayla Doty, catcher/first baseman Dominique Pinto, utility player Taylor Townsend, and Florida Atlantic transfer Lauren Tremblay in the outfield/pitching rotation.
With a solid crop of veteran returners and young talent hungry to prove themselves, the Huskies are poised to make their debut in the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural season a success.
Pitchers and Catchers
A focused and determined group of pitchers have the potential to do some special things this season. Strong leadership, consistency and mental toughness on the hill will be crucial to the success of this year’s team. Returners include senior Katelyn Callahan, junior Lauren Duggan and sophomore/utility Alyson Ambler. Newcomer Kayla Doty rounds out the pitching staff, bringing composure and maturity beyond her years.
Calling the shots from behind the plate will be sophomore Jacklyn Dubois and a pair of freshmen in Dominique Pinto and Taylor Townsend. Dubois will be counted on both offensively and defensively as the most experienced receiver in the group and one of the top offensive threats in 2013. Townsend and Pinto are making a quick transition to the college game, impressing the coaching staff with their capabilities and game sense. Townsend is the most versatile player and an accomplished catcher. Pinto is a knowledgeable player and a capable hitter, with athletic prowess to succeed as both a catcher and a corner when called upon.
Every team has a core of key players who will ultimately help decide the fate of the team. Returning infielders Audrey Grinnell, Emily O’Donnell and Lexi Gifford are three such athletes. Coming off a solid junior campaign, Grinnell brings a strong defensive presence and a capable bat to the line-up. She has earned her stripes at first base and is ready to step forward and lead the way this spring.
Junior Emily O’Donnell will be making her debut at third base this spring after spending the past two seasons at shortstop. A strong, passionate player with a shotgun arm, UConn is counting on O’Donnell to continue to be one of the top producers in 2014. A bright spot in 2013, sophomore Lexi Gifford will take her strong glove skills and keen game sense from third base to shortstop this season.
At second base the Huskies will look to sophomore Valerie Sadowl and freshman utility Taylor Townsend. Valerie burst onto the college scene last year with some key hits as a situational player. She brings a lot to the middle infield, stepping in and handling the ball very well. Townsend received the opportunity to put her defensive skills and great game sense on display this fall at both middle infield positions as well as outfield.
Anchoring the outfield his season is Maddy Schiappa. Schiappa is a talented athlete with a strong arm and plenty of speed on the basepaths. Other players vying for outfield time include a trio of sophomores in Alyssa Gardea, Alyson Ambler and Heather Fyfe.
Ambler is an explosive offensive player who will challenge for both an outfield spot and designated player position when not contributing on the mound for the Huskies. Gardea is a sure-handed, aggressive defender with a strong arm in the outfield and good speed on the basepaths.
Other outfield options include freshman utility Taylor Townsend, who proved to be a real spark plug defensively this fall and transfer outfielder/designated player junior Lauren Tremblay, who brings a strong, capable bat to the Husky line-up.
2014 Schedule Preview
The road to postseason play will begin with the engines blasting as the Huskies take on a pair of top teams and familiar foes in Hofstra and Depaul, along with UMass, Charleston, and Illinois State at the NFCA Lead-Off Classic on Feb. 21-23, followed by a trip to college Station, Texas to compete against nationally ranked Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi from Feb. 28-Mar. 2.
The Huskies head to the Winthrop Invitational on March 7-9 to play Youngstown, Winthrop, Eastern Kentucky, Wright State and Norfolk State. After that, it’s back to Florida to participate in USF’s Michelle Smith Spring Break Tournament against Central Michigan, Wagner, Miami Ohio, Baylor and Wisconsin-Green Bay at the Eddie Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla. From there, the Huskies head to Fort Myers for a doubleheader vs. FGCU and to Boca Raton for a game vs. Florida Atlantic University.
The team’s conference schedule will feature road trips to 2013 NCAA Regional participants USF and Louisville. The calendar also features matchups with American Athletic Conference rival Rutgers. Home games include showdowns with new conference opponents Memphis, Houston, Temple and UCF.
A tough non-conference schedule will provide the team preparation for a run at the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship and the opportunity for NCAA post-season play.