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UMass softball stumbles, splits doubleheader with La Salle

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team took a hit to its regular season title chase on Saturday, splitting a doubleheader with La Salle and dropping to second place in the Atlantic 10.

Senior Day at Sortino Field was only partially successful for the Minutewomen, as they lost the opener 6-5 before turning the tables and taking a 6-5 win of their own in game two.

“I think we played a tad bit tight at the very beginning,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “It was senior day, and that always brings a random bunch of emotions, any year that we have it, so I think we played just a little tight to begin with. After that I that I thought we opened up a bit.”

An uncharacteristically shaky start from junior Meg Colleran in game one was an outing the Minutewomen couldn’t overcome.

“I’m not really sure [what went wrong],” said Stefanoni, “La Salle did that a bit to her last year too, and I think it’s something we’ll look at overnight and we’ll be different for tomorrow. I’m not worried about it, I don’t think Megan’s worried about it, I don’t think Chelsea’s worried about it. I think it was just one of those days.”

Colleran was tagged for five runs and nine hits in 5.1 innings in the circle, giving up two home runs in the sixth inning alone, after permitting just one in her first eight starts in conference play this season. The loss was only Colleran’s second in her last 14 starts.

Outfielder Caitlyn Hickey took advantage of her chance to start on Senior Day, going 2-3 with a run batted in in game one. Sophomore Kaitlyn Stavinoha went 1-3 at the plate with a pair of runs batted in, while sophomore Erin Stacevicz went 2-4 and scored a run herself.

“We could’ve come out a little better in the first game,” said Stacevicz, “we could’ve used more energy all around. When we lost we came out with a more ‘get them back’ attitude in the second game, so I think we definitely could’ve come out with more energy.”

Denis got the ball to start a back-and-forth game two. Senior Jena Cozza got UMass on the board early, launching a three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. The lead didn’t last long, as La Salle senior Lindsey Gains hammered a three-run blast of her own to tie the game in the top of the fourth.

Denis had a chance to close things out with a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, but the Explorers pushed across two runs to take the lead, and looked like they might complete the Saturday sweep.

The Minutewomen needed a rally in the bottom of the seventh, and they got it. After Ashton Wince doubled home Tara Klee to tie the game, Stacevicz stepped to the dish with the bases loaded and no outs. La Salle went to a five-man infield to try and get a force out at home, but Stacevicz laced a single into left field to score Wince, and UMass walked off with a 6-5 win.

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Stacevicz of her final at-bat, “I felt like I could come up with it, but if I hit a line drive or something and it just didn’t fall for me, I know that Kaitlyn Stavinoha can come up and get it for us.”

The win in game two ended the afternoon on a high note, but the Minutewomen are left playing catch-up after Fordham took two against Dayton to move into first place. UMass will need a win in Sunday’s finale to keep pace with the Rams for the A-10 regular season title.

“I think we’re just going to have to take a look at some video throughout the night and just see where we’ll make some adjustments if any” Stefanoni said. “I think we’ve seen all their pitching, so I don’t have any right now, it’s something as a staff we’ll have to talk about.”

The Minutewomen will close out the series against La Salle at home on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.

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

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