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May 10, 2017

Dayton takes two from UMass softball in weekend series

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

It was a tough weekend for the Massachusetts softball team, as the Minutewomen lost a conference series for the first time all season, and lost out on an Atlantic 10 regular season championship as a result.

While the Fordham Rams put a pair of beat downs on La Salle to clinch the title for themselves, UMass (26-22, 13-6 A-10) lost two of three against Dayton (29-25, 13-10 A-10) to slip to second place in the final standings.

After going 1-1 in a Saturday double header, the Minutewomen looked like they might steal the finale. However, a late error by Tara Klee turned a Katie Ryan RBI single into a walk-off base hit as the Flyers claimed a 3-2 victory.

“I think we were just very inconsistent after we won game one of the series,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni after Sunday’s loss. “Inconsistent with our mental and physical part of the game.”

In a surprise move, freshman Quinn Breidenbach got the ball to start game three for the Minuntewomen. Breidenbach had not thrown an inning in conference play this season but the rookie took the opportunity and ran with it, allowing only two runs in six innings of work in her best start of the season.

“Quinn has been working hard to earn a start and Dayton also hadn’t seen her yet,” Stefanoni said. “She did a nice job with them, we thought as a staff. We all know that’s the Quinn that was recruited to play here and help us win championships.”

After senior Jena Cozza launched a solo homer in the top of the seventh to give UMass a 2-1 lead, junior Meg Colleran came in to try and close the door in the bottom of the seventh. Breidenbach’s strong outing would go to waste, however, as Colleran allowed a two-out, two-run single and the Flyers walked off with a 3-2 victory.

Saturday’s doubleheader was an up-and-down afternoon for the Minutewomen. Dayton exploded for eleven runs in game two, battering Colleran for five earned runs in two innings of work, before tagging Candace Denis for six more in her 2.1 innings in the circle.

UMass had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning but the game didn’t even make it out of the fifth. After the Flyers took an 11-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, the game was called due to the run-rule, the first time the Minutewomen had been run-ruled since a pre-season tournament in mid-February.

The sole UMass victory of the weekend came in the opener on Saturday, as the Minutewomen rode a strong performance from Colleran to a 6-3 victory. Sophomore Kaitlyn Stavinoha had herself an excellent day at the plate, going 3-5 with two runs batted in. Sophomore Kaycee Carbone and senior Klee each went 2-4 with an RBI and senior Ashton Wince hit her first homerun of the season with a two-run shot in the fifth.

Going 1-2 on the weekend, UMass fell to second in the final conference standings, as Fordham claimed this year’s A-10 regular season title. However, the true prize of the year is next weekend’s A-10 tournament and having taken the conference by storm this season with series wins over teams like Fordham and Saint Joseph’s, the Minutewomen are still riding a wave of confidence.

“[We’re] extremely confident,” said Stefanoni. “This is the best team we have had in a while to take to the tournament and I am so excited to see what they can do when we get there.”

With the second seed in the tournament, UMass still has a bye, and will face the winner of St. Joe’s and George Mason on Thursday, May 11 at 2:30 p.m.

“This team is ready,” Stefanoni said, “they know they are ready, they have prepared all year for this exact moment. Now they just have to trust their preparation and let it happen.”

This year’s Atlantic 10 softball tournament will be held at the George Mason Softball Complex on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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

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