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UMass softball travels to California for final preseason trip

Robert Rigo/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team has shown minimal support on offense through all of preseason. General struggles at the plate and a lack of run production continued last weekend for UMass as it posted a 1-4 record at the Bulldog Slamboree in Mississippi.

In the five games, the team scored a total of 21 runs, 13 of which came in a single contest against Samford University.

The Minutewomen (3-12) are back in Amherst and are practicing for the final week of the preseason before traveling to California to compete in six games over a four-day stretch.

UMass is preparing to make its final trip of the preseason more of a success than its previous three exhibition tournaments.

“We’re really just working to get some hits as a team and string some wins together,” sophomore Erin Stacevicz said.

The team will have the opportunity to do just that at the University of California, Davis, before playing a doubleheader in Stockton against Lehigh and Pacific University on Wednesday.

If there’s one player on the Minutewomen roster that can lead the team’s offensive charge going forward, it’s Stacevicz.

As a member of last year’s Atlantic 10’s All-Rookie team, the sophomore has started this preseason right where she left off in 2016.

Through 15 games, the New Jersey native’s play has featured consistent showings at the plate which she hopes to continue through the start of the regular season later this month.

“Just working hard at practice, doing extra hitting and getting the work in with the coaches when you need it,” is how Stacevicz hopes to move forward and maintain the high level of performance that she’s currently at.

In Mississippi, she picked up at least one hit in four of the five games and highlighted her showings with two-for-three and three-for-four performances in games against Central Arkansas and Samford.

Fellow sophomore Kaitlyn Stavinoha looks to continue her early success at the plate this weekend as well. In Mississippi, she went four-for-four in the win over Samford and belted a grand slam against Saint Francis the weekend before in Texas.

In the pitching circle, the Minutewomen look to see more of the same from freshman righty Candace Denis who has impressed many in her first month with the team.

“She’s doing great and really helping us,” Stacevicz said. “Meg [Colleran] was our only pitcher last season and she did really well, but it’s going to be good to have [Denis] behind her as another arm in the rotation.”

After getting the ball in her first collegiate start the week before, Denis started three of the five games in Mississippi last weekend while junior Colleran got the nod in two.

Over the three appearances, Denis threw a total of 21.1 innings, allowed six runs and struck out 21 at the plate.

In her freshman season, throwing such a high number of innings might seem startling at a glance, but Denis feels comfortable with the load she’s been given and credits her early season success to pitching coach Chelsea Plimpton.

“[Plimpton] has prepared all of our pitchers tremendously to be able to carry ourselves for that long,” Denis said. “All of our workouts and everything that we do has prepared us to throw even more than 20 innings if we have to.”

Denis’ weekend at the Bulldog Slamboree was highlighted by a one-hit shutout victory over Samford and a 10.1 inning appearance in a 2-1 loss to Central Arkansas.

“It’s a lot more relaxing being able to throw behind thirteen runs,” she said. “But even when we just have one I still find it kind of relaxing because I’m confident enough in my skills to hold them to that.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at lpflaherty@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Liam__Flaherty.

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