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Atlantic 10 Softball Notebook: Colleran, Cozza on fire for UMass as A-10 race heats up

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

With just two weeks remaining on the Atlantic 10 softball schedule, there are still several teams in contention for an A-10 regular season championship, and though five teams are just about guaranteed a spot in the tournament in two weeks’ time, the final spot is still up for grabs.

Massachusetts in the driver’s seat

Bolstered by back-to-back series wins over top challengers Fordham (36-13, 12-5 A-10) and Saint Joseph’s (18-22, 9-5 A-10), the Massachusetts softball team (22-19, 10-3 A-10) is in control of its own destiny. Taking on La Salle (18-20, 6-9 A-10) this weekend and Dayton (25-21, 11-6, A-10) the following weekend, clean sweeps for UMass would guarantee the regular season A-10 championship returning to Amherst for the first time since 2012.

Junior pitcher Meg Colleran continues to impress, winning each of her three starts last week, only allowing one earned run in 21 innings to earn her first A-10 Pitcher of the Week award this season. The North Attleboro native is 13-1 in her last 14 starts, and since taking a loss against San Jose State on March 10, Colleran has posted a 1.31 earned run average and continued to dominate last week, with a win against Boston College and two against St. Joe’s, with a 0.33 ERA across those three starts.

Meanwhile, the return of third baseman Jena Cozza has put a charge into the UMass offense, as Cozza is hitting .457 with nine runs batted in and a pair of homeruns in 12 games since re-joining the team. Cozza was named the A-10 co-player of the week on for the week of April 10-16, after hitting .500 with eight hits and slugging .750 over a five-game stretch.

Fordham leads the chase

The four-time defending A-10 tournament champions have plenty of reason to be confident. Despite dropping two of three in Amherst two weekends back, the Rams still sit in second place at 12-5, leading the conference in batting average, runs and home runs as a team, while their pitching staff has combined for the lowest earned run average and opponent batting average.

Led by the two most recent A-10 co-players of the week, sluggers Madison Show and Sydney Canessa, Fordham will also take on Dayton and La Salle in their final two conference weekend, and just one slip from the Minutewomen could allow the Rams to snatch the title at the finish line.

Dayton, George Mason, St. Joe’s still lurking

Each both just one game back from Fordham in the loss column, Dayton and George Mason (19-26, 11-5 A-10) are both still very much in the picture.

Dayton and Fordham will square off this weekend, with the results of that series likely deciding which team will mount the greatest challenge to UMass down the stretch. The Flyers have the most obvious path, as sweeps over the Rams and the Minutewomen over next two weeks, as daunting a task as that may be, would likely be enough to seal first place.

George Mason, meanwhile, closes out its season with series against Saint Louis and St. Joe’s, and would need some help to catch UMass or Fordham.

The Hawks took a major setback after getting swept by the Minutewomen on Sunday, but are still alive in the title chase. St. Joe’s likely needs the most help out of anyone, and are a longshot to make a serious challenge, finishing up the A-10 schedule against George Washington and George Mason.

Final playoff spot still undecided

While UMass, Fordham, Dayton, Mason, and St. Joe’s have all, barring a major collapse, just about locked up a postseason spot, three teams – GW, Saint Louis, and La Salle – are left to fight for the sixth and final spot in next month’s A-10 tournament.

The Colonials (24-21, 7-10 A-10) and Billikens (18-22, 7-10 A-10) are currently tied for that final place, while the Explorers have their work cut out for them, sitting a game back while finishing their season against conference leaders UMass and second-place Fordham. Rhode Island (8-30, 5-12 A-10) is a longshot, but not quite out of it.

Saint Louis has the advantage of taking on conference bottom-dwellers St. Bonaventure (10-33, 1-13) in its final series. St. Bonaventure is the only team that has already been eliminated from tournament contention.

The Atlantic 10 softball tournament will take place from May 10-13 at the George Mason Softball Complex in Fairfax, Virginia. Fordham has won the last four tournament titles, as well as last season’s regular season championship.

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu.

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