Head softball coach Karen Mullins says the years have gone by quickly since she returned to UConn. In 1984, Mullins became the University’s youngest head coach, five years after a stellar collegiate career as a Husky in both basketball and softball.
“I just couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to return to coach here,” says Mullins, who earned her 800th career win on March 12, a 17-4 victory over Colorado State. “It’s always exciting to reach a milestone. When I think back over the years, I’ve certainly had great players and tremendous support from the administration. That’s what makes it so much fun to be at Connecticut.”
Mullins has led the Huskies to eight NCAA Tournaments and one Women’s College World Series appearance; has crafted one of the leading softball programs in the northeast and the Big East; and has coached nine All-Americans. UConn’s overall Big East winning percentage is 61 percent.
This season, the Huskies are a young team seeking to return to a deeper post-season run, after the graduation of two key position players – first baseman Justyne Roy, and pitcher Tricia Sullivan – in addition to the loss of shortstop Jessica Arremony, who decided not to compete in her senior year.
“We feel we’ve been very inconsistent,” Mullins says of the team’s 11-12 start, which has seen the team struggling in road games. “We need to gain some momentum and put up some back-to-back-to-back wins. That’s our biggest challenge – consistency day in, day out with our ‘A’ game.”
The Huskies hope to move forward as they begin the major part of the Big East schedule this weekend with a three-game home stand against Rutgers. Conference games are played on weekends, with non-conference competition during the week.
Mullins says the growth of Big East softball from six teams to 13 teams has improved competition.
“When you look at the playing competition against schools [like South Florida and Louisville] that play year-round, it’s certainly made it real challenging,” she said. “On the other side, it’s been exciting. Our recruiting base has expanded tremendously.”
The Huskies are led by senior Julie Towers, who is hitting .375 and moved from second base to shortstop this season.
“Julie’s had a tremendous year. She’s a leader for us,” Mullins says. “She sets a tremendous tone at the plate. We hope she rubs off on the other kids.”
Sophomore third baseman Kim Silva has improved her play and is hitting .341 this season and putting runs on the scoreboard. But Mullins says the Huskies need to improve their pitching and defense in conference play.
“We’re a team that can score runs. The problems we’ve been having are on the mound and on defense. There are a lot more runs being scored, but it’s how they’re being scored,” she says. “We’re averaging almost four walks per game. That’s an area we’re looking to improve on.”
Sophomore pitcher Kiki Saveriano pitched 15 complete games as a freshman last year and is the Huskies’ top pitcher this year, along with junior Ali Adelman, who has stepped up from the top relief position a year ago to become a starter. Freshman Katelyn Callahan adds another strong arm to the Husky rotation.
“Ali has improved every year with us,” Mullins says. “She’s pitching some good innings this year. We expect her to improve.”
Mullins says freshman catcher Andrea Huelsenbeck and freshman first baseman Audrey Grinnell are gaining experience with each game, as the team looks to improve its play during the Big East schedule.
The softball team is scheduled to play Rutgers in a double-header on Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. and a single game on Sunday at noon, all at The Burrill Family Field at the Connecticut Softball Stadium on Stadium Road in Storrs.