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Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team celebrated its three seniors before Saturday’s doubleheader against La Salle, as Tara Klee, Caitlyn Hickey and Ashton Wince play their final home series in a UMass uniform at Sortino Field this weekend.

The pre-game festivities were a big moment for all three, as they close out their careers as Minutewomen.

“It’s definitely surreal,” said Hickey, “that four years have finally gone by and I’m the one out there on senior day, but it was a great experience and overall just a great day.”

Hickey, who often plays the field but doesn’t get many chances to hit, was given the opportunity at the plate Saturday and ran with it. Only hitting .158 in 19 at-bats entering the weekend, Hickey went 2-3 with two doubles and a run batted in in game one, before picking up another hit along with a stolen base in game two.

“She impressed me,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “She showed up big time today. She’s been waiting in the wings or a while, she’s been working her butt off in practice, both in the cages and in the outfield, just waiting for that time to come. Recently it’s been coming for her, and she really showed up big time, so really big kudos to her, I was impressed.”

“It felt amazing,” said Hickey. “I definitely just wanted to do anything I could to help the team when we were down, just trying to push runs across and get the team win.”

All three seniors came up huge in the seminal moment of game two, as UMass trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh with Klee, Wince, and Hickey coming up.

Klee started the rally with a leadoff triple, and Wince doubled her home moments later to tie the game. Hickey singled through the infield to move Wince over to third, before stealing second base to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. A batter later, the stage was set for sophomore Erin Stacevicz to drive in Wince and give the Minutewomen a walk-off victory.

“They did an absolutely phenomenal job today,” Stefanoni said of her seniors, “if it wasn’t for the three of them in that last inning we wouldn’t have won. With Tara coming up the way she did, Ashton scoring her, and Hickey getting on base, kind of paving the way for everyone else, that was really awesome. I know it wasn’t the senior day sweep that they would have wanted, but those kids did a really good job today.”

For these three seniors, playing the collective role of catalyst was big, ending Senior Day on a high note.

“It was huge,” said Hickey. “We definitely knew that as seniors this was our day, we wanted to be able to do it together for the team, and we knew we had to come through for the team.”

Though neither Klee, Wince, nor Hickey is a superstar for this team, their presence will absolutely be missed next season.

“Both on the field and in the dugout, they’ve been big,” said Stacevicz. “Even when they’re not on the field and they’re in the dugout, they’re just cheering everyone on.”

The seniors will play their final game at Sortino Field in the series finale against La Salle on Sunday at 12:00 p.m.

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

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