Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutewomen ride four-game win streak into road contest at UConn

By Joey Saade

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Cade Belisle/Collegian

Don’t look now, but the Massachusetts softball team is on a four-game winning streak, and playing its best ball of the season.

After getting off to a shaky start, the Minutewomen (6-16, 3-1 Atlantic 10) used some home-cooking to get back on track. UMass went a perfect 3-0 in its first homestand of the season, knocking off Boston College last Wednesday, and sweeping its doubleheader against St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

The Minutewomen’s offense has come alive in the past four games with an average of 10 runs and 11.2 hits per game. They have also hit seven home runs and 15 extra base hits during that span.

The pitching staff has also seemed to fix some of its early season problems. The Minutewomen have allowed only 15 total runs in their past three games, nine of which were earned runs and their opponents’ batting average has dipped to .297.

Freshman starting pitcher Emma Mendoker has won both of her last two starts after going winless in her first eight. She prevailed through high-pressure moments in both wins against the Eagles and Bonnies, showing that she’s not only learning, but also building on those types of experiences.

“She gave us a pretty good effort out there,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said after Saturday’s game. “She held them at bay pretty well.”
The Minutewomen will carry their four-game winning streak into Storrs, Conn., on Tuesday, when they will face Connecticut in a non-conference game.

The Huskies (13-13, 1-2 Big East) have had their share of ups and downs this season, including loses in three of their last four games, and will enter Tuesday’s game with one of the more balanced attacks on both offense and defense that UMass has seen thus far.

Starting pitcher Kiki Saveriano has a 10-4 record in 17 games for the Huskies. She has 11 complete games, three of which were shutouts and she leads her team in nearly every pitching statistical category, including a proficient 1.74 ERA, and an opponents’ batting average of .237.

Leading UConn’s offense is senior Kim Silva and junior Maddy Schiappa, who are both batting in the mid .300s and have combined for 60 hits and 25 runs through the team’s first 26 games.

Audrey Grinnell leads the Huskies with four home runs  and she is second on the team in RBIs (12) and slugging percentage (.446).

The Minutewomen will try to counter the Huskies’ high-powered attack by limiting UConn to a low-percentage offense, built around forcing ground balls and double plays.      However, converting on such plays and taking care of those easy outs has been a struggle so far for the UMass defense. Infielders Taylor Carbone, Teea Rogers and Quianna Diaz-Patterson have combined for a total of 42 errors this season. Sortino has made it known that this facet of the game must improve.

“Our defense just needs to be UMass defense,” Sortino said after Saturday’s game. “It doesn’t look like UMass blue-collar defense right now. It’s something we’re really committed to working on this week, and hopefully we’ll make a better effort.”

First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Joey Saade can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JSaade1225.

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