Sixth inning rally propels UMass past Dayton 7-2
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Massachusetts softball team came alive.
The Minutewomen (16-20-1, 9-6-1 Atlantic-10) erupted for six runs in the bottom half of the sixth to mount a 7-2 comeback victory over Dayton (25-28, 9-9 Atlantic-10) in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
After an Ashton Wince strikeout, coach Kristi Stefanoni sent sophomore Lindsey Zenk to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two outs and runners on first and third. The substitution paid off, as Zenk delivered a two-run double to give UMass the 3-2 lead.
“I actually had it in my mind an inning and a half before that I was gonna put her in to hit,” Stefanoni said.
“I had it in my mind that we needed to change things up a bit, and it just so happened that everything fell in to place. Lindsey handled the pressure phenomenally and stayed calm so she did a great job.”
Following Zenk’s double, RBI singles from Cote Clark and Jena Cozza, as well as a two-run double from Lindsey Webster, extended the lead to 7-2. Cozza, this year’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, went 3-for-4 on the day with a run and two RBIs. Leadoff hitter Quianna Diaz-Patterson also put in a solid performance, picking up three hits and scoring two runs. Stefanoni said that her team was able to fight back by staying relaxed and not trying to do too much at the plate.
“We had a couple innings before where we were just trying to do things too big,” she said. “Somebody was looking for that big hit, but we didn’t need that. We just needed a couple base-hits here and there and just had to keep it simple. They came together and got the job done.”
Today’s win also signifies a first for Stefanoni, as it was her first tournament win as head coach of the Minutewomen.
“It feels great. Going into this game with Dayton we knew it was going to be a dogfight no matter what,” she said. “The fact that it was the opening game of the whole tournament and being able to come away with the win was fantastic. It makes me feel great all the way around.”
On the defensive side of the ball, pitcher Caroline Raymond recorded another solid outing, picking up her first win in tournament play. She went all seven innings, allowing only five hits and two runs with both runs coming off solo home runs.
“I think she (Caroline) did fantastic. Her demeanor and presence I thought was great throughout the game,” Stefanoni said. “The two home runs were right down the can. Other than that, she did a great job hitting her spots and got ground balls when we needed her to.”
UMass will now face No.1 seed Fordham, which swept the Minutewomen in regular season play. A strong start versus the top team will be crucial according to Stefanoni, and knows UMass will have to play a flawless game on both sides of the ball.
“We got really caught up the time we came here earlier in the season trying to do too much,” she said. “We just need to play our game and stay within ourselves and I think we’ll be OK.”
Jason Kates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org