Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Walk-off home run sinks UMass softball in pitching duel with UConn

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Pitching was the story of the day in Thursday’s matchup between the Massachusetts softball team and Connecticut.

But UMass (15-25, 8-11 Atlantic 10) fell one pitch short in its 4-2 loss in nine innings.

A home run belted over the right field wall by UConn sophomore Dominique Pinto put an end to Thursday’s pitcher’s duel and provided the Huskies (18-31, 4-13 American Athletic Conference) the walk-off victory.

Minutewomen freshman Meg Colleran was strong on the mound despite earning the loss, going 81/3 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out four batters.

Colleran retired 14 straight batters from the third to eighth inning before finding trouble in the ninth frame. She also induced 20 ground outs in the contest.

UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni praised Colleran’s performance Thursday, noting her exceptional control.

“(Colleran) had no walks today,” Stefanoni said. “She was zoned in from start to finish. For someone who has a rough time on the mound as of late, a game like this is all you need to get back on track.”

The North Attleboro native came off Tuesday’s game where she gave up eight earned runs and walked five batters in a 16-0 loss to Boston College. Stefanoni said she sent Colleran back to the mound Thursday hoping for a bounce back performance to increase her confidence.

“She looked like a whole new pitcher than we saw on Tuesday,” Stefanoni said. “It really gave me a lot more confidence in her going into the series this weekend.”

Colleran fell to 3-11 for the season after the loss.

Huskies freshman pitcher Chelsea Eckert matched Colleran on the mound, earning a complete game victory while giving up six hits and striking out nine.

“Her curveball gave us trouble throughout the game,” Stefanoni said. “We made a few adjustments but weren’t able to hit it consistently. It was very hit or miss (as) the game went on.”

The only Minutewomen player to record a multi-hit game Thursday was designated hitter Lindsey Zenk, who finished 2-for-4. Bridget Lemire and Taylor Carbone were responsible for UMass’ only two runs on an RBI single and a sacrifice fly respectively in the sixth inning.

This sixth inning rally tied the game and allowed for extra innings after UConn opened the game’s scoring with two runs in the first frame.

Despite the loss, Stefanoni said she was happy with how the team responded after struggling early on and falling behind.

“We started off the game slow. I attribute that to us getting there early and sitting around letting our legs get stale,” Stefanoni said. “We settled in real nicely though and we played well in all facets of the game.

“This is exactly how I wanted the team to be playing going into the series this weekend.”

Importance of trust

When asked about the prospects for this weekend’s final regular season series against Saint Louis, Stefanoni kept stressing the same word: trust.

In her eyes, trust will be what makes or breaks the Minutewomen in their final push for a playoff position.

“We just need to trust our gut and trust our heart and trust what has gotten us here,” Stefanoni said. “There isn’t much we can do now so being able to trust in your abilities and know you will be fine in the end is what will make this team successful this weekend.”

UMass will host the Billikens as it currently holds the seventh seed in the A-10, one spot out of qualifying for the conference tournament. The Minutewomen will need to win at least two games and receive outside help to advance into the top-six.

Game one of Saturday’s double header is scheduled for noon with the second game following at 2 p.m. Sunday’s finale will be at noon.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected].

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