UMass softball eliminated from A-10 playoff contention as 2015 season ends

By Jamie Cushman

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team entered Sunday’s game against Saint Louis with a clear view of their playoff chances: win and the Minutewomen were in the conference tournament; lose and their season is over.

Unfortunately for UMass (15-28, 8-14 Atlantic 10), its four-run rally in the bottom of the fourth was not enough as its 2015 season came to a disappointing conclusion with a 10-5 loss to the Billikens.

“Honestly I thought we had it,” senior Quianna Diaz-Patterson said after the game. “I thought we came back strong. I thought it was going to fall our way but that’s not the case.”

Saint Louis took an early lead in the first inning courtesy of a Brianna Lore RBI single. The Billikens added two more runs in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead before Taylor Carbone provided the Minutewomen with their first hit and first run of the game on a solo home run to left-center field.

After a scoreless third inning, Saint Louis chased UMass starter Caroline Raymond from the game in the fourth, loading the bases with two walks and a single. Freshman Meg Colleran entered a tough situation, inheriting the bases loaded and no outs and gave up a single and a walk to bring the score to 5-1 before getting out of the inning.

In the bottom half of the fourth, the Minutewomen’s bats came alive. Carbone and sophomore Tara Klee each singled before senior Anna Kelley connected on a line drive into the gap, plating one runner and setting up a situation with runners on second and third for Mikayla Panko. Panko then battled off six foul balls in a nine-pitch at bat before knocking in both runners with a single down the left field line.

Panko’s hit appeared to mark a momentum shift and drew praise from her teammates.

“That was great,” Raymond said. “I knew she was going to get it done, being a senior with our season on the line. She was battling, battling, battling.

“She has worked harder on her hitting this season than anybody. I just knew if she kept battling off pitches, good things would happen. It was a great at bat, one of the best I’ve ever seen from her.”

Diaz-Patterson added: “I just knew that she was going to do something great… She’s just phenomenal and I’m so happy that happened for her and I wish this game would have gone (better) for her and my senior class, but you know, fate had it some other way.”

The score did not remain tied for long after Panko’s hit. A defensive miscue by senior first baseman Bridget Lemire extended the top of the sixth iinning for Saint Louis’ Allie MacFarlane, who drove in two runs on a single for the decisive runs.

UMass failed to manufacture any more offense and surrendered an additional three runs in the top of the seventh, bringing the score to 10-5 to end the Minutewomen’s season.

Despite falling short of their goal of reaching the conference tournament, Diaz-Patterson said the 2015 season did offer some bright spots and shouldn’t be deemed a failure.

“I think it’s something we can grow from,” Diaz-Patterson said. “It sucks because that’s not where we want to be, especially having the tournament be on our home turf, but you know, I don’t see it as a failure.”

Diaz-Patterson, who finished 2-for-4 Sunday, finished 2015 with a program-record .504 batting average.

UMass dropped to eighth place in the A-10 following its five-game losing streak to end the season. The conference tournament, which fields the top-six teams, will begin May 6 at the Minutewomen’s host site of Sortino Field.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]