2023 St. John's vs Butler

Can UConn Softball Finally Win The BIG EAST Softball Championship?

Can UConn Softball Finally Win The BIG EAST Softball Championship?

The last team standing this weekend will claim both the BIG EAST tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament later this month.

May 10, 2023 by Briar Napier
Can UConn Softball Finally Win The BIG EAST Softball Championship?

Six teams. Four days. One goal.

The format may be revamped in this year’s BIG EAST Softball Championship (the annual conference tournament features an expanded field this season, growing from four teams to six), but the aim remains the same for all of the programs still playing – be the last one standing this weekend and claim both the BIG EAST tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament later this month.

Not since 2006-2013, when the BIG EAST temporarily switched to an eight-team format, have as many teams been able to qualify for the conference’s year-end event.

The endless possibilities and storylines that have come with it make this season’s event one of the more intriguing in recent memory.

There’s a two-time defending champion in the hunt once again – plus the two teams that fell short in each championship series now looking for revenge. 

There are teams on breakout seasons looking to ride momentum all the way to a regional appearance – and former powers looking to find a boost with their seasons on the line.

There has never been a BIG EAST Softball Championship like the one coming this week, so strap in and enjoy the ride, but stick around on this page to find out a little more about the teams competing. 

Here’s a look at the top-seeded programs and why you’ll want to keep eyes on them this week at Burrill Family Field at the Connecticut Softball Complex, with numerous games in the tournament from May 10-13 being streamed live on FloSoftball.

No. 4 Butler

Record: 18-33 overall (12-9 BIG EAST)

The lowdown: Butler was in serious danger of seeing its season go up in smoke within the first few weeks, as the Bulldogs started the year 1-10, but they turned it around and now find themselves as a top-4 seed in the BIG EAST tournament. 


Well, they had a complete opposite start to conference play. 

They won their first eight games, including a pair of sweeps over DePaul and Providence, which set them up nicely for the late-season stretch, even though the rest of BIG EAST play didn’t go as well for Butler. The Bulldogs finished the year 4-9 against league opponents. 

Still, casting Butler aside as a non-threat in the BIG EAST Championship is foolish, especially with the power to change games junior outfielder Monique Hoosen (who led the league with 14 home runs and had double-digit blasts for the second straight season) possesses, as well as the talent of unanimous first-team All-BIG EAST selection Sydney Carter in the infield. 

Where the Bulldogs can be taken advantage of, however, is their pitching staff.

The Butler staff had the third-highest ERA (5.28), allowed the most hits (431) and had the second-fewest strikeouts (144) in the league, often forcing their offensive weapons to get them out of deficits. 

St. John’s wasn’t able to tango with Butler in regular-season play – their scheduled series in mid-March was canceled – so it’s yet to be seen how the two teams mesh, but a part of it likely will come down to how quickly the Bulldogs get out on the right foot. 

Butler standouts, such as All-BIG EAST second-team pick Paige Dorsett (.348 average, eight home runs, 30 RBIs, .643 slugging), certainly can help with that.

First game: vs. No. 5 St. John’s, Wednesday at noon

No. 3 Seton Hall

Record: 38-16 (18-6)

The lowdown: First and foremost, before getting into the nitty-gritty of the Pirates’ game, can we give a round of applause to head coach Angie Churchill and her assistants? They were named the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year.

They led The Hall to its most wins in a single softball season since 2005, and even though they missed out on a bye in the league tourney due to being on the losing end of a tiebreaker with Villanova, the Pirates can (and should) be overjoyed with how their season has gone to this point, especially after being picked to finish seventh in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll. 

Can all of that be capped with an epic trip to the NCAA Tournament, too? 

Time will tell, but the Pirates undoubtedly have the firepower to compete with the very best of the BIG EAST. 

This year’s Seton Hall offense set a school record for runs in a season with a league-leading 303, not to mention that the pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the BIG EAST at 2.68. 

Both of those numbers were heavily influenced by the Pirates’ two-way superstar (and recently named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year) Kelsey Carr, who returned off of an injury-missed 2022 campaign to have a regular season for the history books.

She posted a 10-4 record on the mound with a 1.87 ERA and hit for a .336 average, with 11 home runs and a BIG EAST-best 43 RBIs. 

With at least one regular-season win over every team in the conference tourney, the Pirates have proven they can win anywhere at any time and have the momentum and excitement of history on their side. 

Will it all culminate in a BIG EAST Championship trophy for the first time in 18 years?

First game: vs. No. 6 DePaul, Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT

No. 2 Villanova

Record: 35-20 (18-6)

The lowdown: When Villanova won the BIG EAST Championship for the first time in 2021, it had to win back-to-back games against UConn in the title series to make its NCAA Regional debut. 

When the Wildcats repeated the feat the next year, they instead rolled through the field by winning three straight games and not allowing a single run across those games combined. 

What awaits ‘Nova this time around as it guns for a three-peat? 

If we’re taking that literally and talking about its opponent, that’s to be determined, as the Wildcats earned a first-round bye due to winning their critical late-season series over Seton Hall, which tied them for the second place in the BIG EAST standings. 

But if we’re being figurative about it, it’s a dangerous Pirates team, a UConn squad that’s desperate for a return trip to the NCAA tourney and three others that all could have the potential to play spoiler in an expanded conference tourney field. It all could work together to create doom for the back-to-back BIG EAST Championship winners. 

How Villanova will hit back, though, is with plenty of force. 

Junior outfielder Tess Cites won the BIG EAST Player of the Year honor, awarded Tuesday, after batting .385 (and holding a .474 mark in conference play). She had 41 RBIs and .560 slugging, while sophomore Ava Franz’s superb late-year surge – one which saw her have a .227 average in mid-March and turn it into a .346 average by year’s end – has added a dangerous new wrinkle to the Wildcats’ already-stacked lineup.

Villanova finished tops across BIG EAST play with a .321 average, 205 hits and 152 runs scored. 

‘Nova’s had some good teams over the past few years, but this group might be the best of the bunch, which is bad news for the opponents that are up against it this week.

First game: vs. winner of Seton Hall/DePaul, Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT

No. 1 UConn

Record: 33-13 (19-5)

The lowdown: The Huskies are so, so tired of waiting for their turn. 

They were on the receiving end of Villanova’s BIG EAST Championship win in 2021, losing two in a row when they just needed one more win to earn the league’s auto-bid.

Then, they were subject to another title loss at the hands of the Wildcats, despite winning the conference’s regular-season title and being the top-ranked team in the tourney. 

Not since 2001 has UConn secured the BIG EAST Championship trophy (or qualified for the NCAA tourney at all, for that matter), and coach Laura Valentino’s team will be pressing to finally break the hex once and for all at the second time of asking as the No. 1 seed. 

Sophomore Lexi Hastings and junior Payton Kinney, both of whom have endured their separate shares of heartbreak in the BIG EAST tourney, had stellar seasons in 2023, both making the All-BIG EAST first team.

Hastings batted a career-high .402 to be one of just two players in the conference to cross the .400 barrier, while Kinney (who missed the 2022 season due to injury) returned to the circle with a vengeance by going 10-5 with a 2.36 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 89 innings. 

That duo, and the rest of UConn’s returners, got some added reinforcements in the form of newly named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and starting catcher Grace Jenkins (.382 average, five home runs, 37 RBIs), while the BIG EAST’s best defense (.974 fielding percentage, league-low 29 errors) and base-stealing unit (111 swipes) wraps everything together and makes the Huskies arguably the league’s most complete team. 

With the cloud of coming up just short still looming over them, UConn’s drought without a spot in a regional is in serious danger. The Huskies just have to finally finish the job and end the streak for good.

First game: vs. winner of Butler/St. John’s, Thursday at noon EDT