Coming off weekend victory, UMass softball prepares for series against St. Josephs

By Adam Aucoin

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

It’s been a rocky start to the season for the Massachusetts softball team. After starting with a respectable 4-4 record, it went on an eight game losing streak.

Sitting at 4-12 after last Saturday’s pair of losses in a double-header against George Mason, something had to change.

Luckily, one day can make all the difference as UMass looked like completely different team in their 9-2 win against the Patriots in the third game of the series..

Head coach Kristi Stefanoni believes that game could be a turning point for the team.

“When you can come off the weekend on a good note, it gives you so much more momentum as you try to move to the next game,” Stefanoni said. “Winning does wonderful things to you. It allows you to pick out the positives and build on them, so we plan on trying to build on those things going forward.”

If the Minutewomen (5-12, 1-2 A-10) want to continue this success, they will have to beat one of the top teams in the Atlantic-10, Saint Joseph’s.

The Hawks (15-6, 2-0 A-10) are coming off a weekend where they handily beat Rhode Island by scores of 14-6 and 9-3, respectively.

Saint Joseph’s is led offensively by senior first baseman Ashley Alden who is batting .385 on the season with eight homeruns and junior middle infielder Sarah Yoos, who is batting .426 on the season.

On the pitching side, freshman Madison Clarke has impressed with an 11-2 record and a 1.85 ERA.

“(Alden) is a phenomenal player and she is always a big home run threat, so shutting her down will be pretty key for us,” Stefanoni said. “I’ve known that program and that coach for a long time and they always put together a great team, so I think they all could be tough outs.

According to Stafanoni, the key to a successful weekend will be timely pitching. She highlighted preventing walks and inducing ground balls as important for the games. Offensively, she is looking for her team to get the job done driving in runners in scoring position.

Throughout the season, UMass has been led offensively by shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson. The Amherst native is batting .481 on the season, which is good for fifth in the conference. On top of that, she has hit four homeruns. The Minutewomen will need her to stay hot at the plate if they want any chance of coming out victorious this weekend.

Additionally, Stefanoni pointed out the leadership of seniors Bridget Lemire and Anna Kelley, as really helping the team this year.

“The three of them are seniors, so for that to come out of my mouth, they must be doing their job,” Stefanoni said with laughter.

Cutting Loose

Stefanoni knows it’s been a tough start to the season for UMass and she attributes that to one major fact: her team has yet to cut loose.

“I could sit here all day and talk about facilities and weather, but in the end everyone is having the same problems,” Stefanoni said. “We prepare like everyone else does. We’re given the same 24 hours in a day, so it all just comes down to playing how you know how.”

According to coach, her team is the best-kept secret on campus and in the conference. If her team were to “cut loose,” everyone would see what Stafanoni has seen all along.

“A lot of our mishaps recently have come from us putting too much pressure on ourselves,” Stefanoni said. “There’s really not a lot we can do anymore. It’s just you going out there and trusting in yourself and your preparation that you’ll be okay.”

The Minutewomen play the first two of the three game set Saturday starting at noon. The third game is Sunday at noon. All three games will be played at the SJU Softball Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected]