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Meg Colleran’s bounce back performance keeps UMass softball in title race

(Jong Man Kim/Collegian)

The Massachusetts softball team is still in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic 10 following its series win against La Salle over the weekend. After junior Meg Colleran got knocked around in a 6-5 loss on Saturday, the Minutewomen needed a resurgence from their ace, and they got it.

After freshman Candace Denis gave up three runs in the top of the second inning on Sunday, UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni didn’t hesitate to go to her bullpen, and the pitching change paid off.

Colleran was excellent, throwing 5 1/3 innings in relief, allowing just four hits and one run while striking out six Explorers, en route to her 15th victory of the season.

“I was really impressed with Megan,” Stefanoni said after Sunday’s game. “That’s something I know that she’s been working on, it just shows her strong mentality and her maturity. She did really well.”

Only one day removed from allowing six runs and nine hits, including a pair of home runs in the same inning, Colleran was clearly locked in when she got her chance for redemption.

“[I] definitely felt a lot better than [Saturday],” Colleran said after the win. “[Saturday] I just felt completely off my game. I think everyone else around me saw it, I just couldn’t get my stuff together, couldn’t hit my spots, but today I felt a lot better.”

After a rain delay postponed play for nearly an hour in the middle of the second inning, the Minutewomen came out swinging, finally getting the offense going while Colleran kept the La Salle bats at bay.

“We have so much confidence in Meg, she’s awesome,” sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha said. “I love seeing her out there and I always tell her that. I always tell her, ‘I love seeing you on the mound, I want you out here.’ The team really feeds off her energy, she’s always having a good time out there and we can tell and we really feed off of it, it’s awesome.”

As Colleran came out for the top of the seventh with a one run lead and a chance to close things out, she was confident as ever. Known to flash a smile when she’s on the field, Colleran was beaming as she carved her way through the Explorer lineup for the final time.

“I felt really good and really confident,” Colleran said. “I thought, you know what, no matter what, any ground ball I give up, any ball in play I give up, I knew everyone else behind me was ready to go, ready to catch whatever came at them, so I felt good.”

La Salle managed to get a runner into scoring position in the final frame, but Colleran got senior Suzanne Swanicke, the Explorers’ best hitter, to ground out and strand the runner at second. The door was firmly shut, and UMass escaped with a 5-4 win.

Colleran’s resurgence was vital, as it leaves the Minutewomen tied for first place with Fordham in the conference standings on winning percentage. However, by virtue of having played fewer games, UMass still controls its own destiny, as a clean sweep against Dayton next weekend will land the Minutewomen an A-10 regular season championship and the top seed in this month’s conference tournament.

UMass will first head to Rhode Island to take on Bryant University in a non-conference matchup Tuesday, before traveling to Ohio to face the Flyers in a three-game series with plenty on the line.

First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 pm in Smithfield on Tuesday.

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

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