UMass softball sweeps Saint Joseph’s on Senior Day
Rain may have pushed the Massachusetts softball team’s doubleheader against Saint Joseph’s to Sunday, but it turned out to be worth the wait as the Minutemen clinched the doubleheader sweep in exciting fashion.
With the Minutewomen clinging to a 6-5 lead in the final inning, the Hawks’ Hannah Dionne hit a hard line that was bound for a hit until Tiffany Meeks made the impressive grab and threw to Quianna Diaz-Patterson at second base for a game-ending double play.
“I was really nervous about that whole last inning,” said Meeks, who went 2-for-3 in the doubleheader with two home runs and five runs batted in. “When I caught the ball, I saw (Quianna) running over. I knew she’s very fast and that she would get over there in time to get the double play.”
Meeks was one of four seniors to be honored before the game as part of Senior Day at Sortino Field. UMass also recognized Lindsey Webster, Maggie Quealy and student coach Paige Hansen.
Unlike a fairly easy win in game one for UMass (13-19, 7-5 Atlantic 10), game two’s win was anything but. Defensively, the Minutewomen committed five errors that led to four unearned runs for the Hawks (24-20, 8-6 A-10).
“Five errors makes my skin crawl,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “But the fact that they were able to come back and play the way they were able to play, I think is a true testament of just how much they want to win for UMass and each other. To not give up and to keep the fight, it was great.”
With the score tied at two and two outs in the top of the fourth inning, UMass looked to be out of a jam when Hawks’ outfielder Isabella Picard hit a ground ball to second base. But a throwing error and a dropped ball by pitcher Tara Klee covering home plate allowed two more runs to score, giving Saint Joseph’s a 4-2 lead.
“I was frustrated. I knew I should’ve held on to that ball,” Klee said. “But I have faith in my team and I knew that they were going to come through. Stuff happens.”
The Minutewomen made up for it in the next two innings. Mikayla Panko walked with the bases loaded to cut the deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth. Then in the fifth, after a Jena Cozza double and Bridget Lemire walk, it was Meeks who got the green light and connected on a 3-0 pitch over the wall in left-center field to give UMass a 6-4 lead it would not relinquish.
“I went over and talked to the coaches before,” Meeks said. “I was feeling good and I (said), ‘Man, I really hope they pitch to me.’ Sure enough, I got one, put a good swing on it and it went out.”
For Klee, the three-run home run was enough to propel her to finish the game for UMass.
“Oh my God, it gave me a great (state of mind),” Klee said. “It’s still tough and anything can happen. We had rough moments but we picked each other up.”
There was no better example of that than in the top of the second inning. With two outs and two runs already in for the Hawks, Panko saved an errant throw from freshman catcher Ashton Wince trying to throw out Picard at third base. The save kept the play alive where Cozza ultimately tagged out Picard trying to score.
“It’s huge,” Stefanoni said. “Anything like that gives you (just) that much fight. That’s hard work. And when you can push through something like that and come out with a victory, it makes you so much better and it helps you grow up.”
Klee earned her fifth victory of the season, pitching a complete game and allowing four walks to three strikeouts. Saint Joseph’s Liz Mendez picked up her second loss of the game, allowing three earned runs in her two and one-third innings of work.
“It’s great,” Klee said. “We all did a great job and played aggressive today. Coach tells us to stick with the plan and it will work out. It did today.”
UM cruises through opener
Highlighted by a 2-for-3 day at the plate by Cozza, UMass started off Senior Day right with a 4-1 win over Saint Joseph’s in the first game of a doubleheader at Sortino Field on Sunday.
Diaz-Patterson led off the bottom of the first inning with walk and Cozza followed with an RBI-triple into the right-center field gap to give UMass a quick 1-0 lead.
Then in the third, it was Cozza again who sparked the offense. The freshman sent a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left field for her fourth home run of the season, pushing the Minutewomen lead to 2-0. Following two quick outs and a walk by Quealy, it was Meeks who delivered her first of two home runs on the day. A two-run shot that increased UMass’ lead to 4-0.
The Hawks scored their lone run in the top of the sixth. After stealing second, Picard scored when Cozza’s throw from third base sailed wide past Meeks at first.
Caroline Raymond (8-10) walked two and struck out three on 96 pitches in the complete-game victory.
Marc Jean-Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @marc_jean93.