Offensive explosion helps UMass softball split doubleheader, win weekend series with Fordham

By Amin Touri

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

This weekend was one of the Massachusetts softball team’s finest of the year, as the Minutewomen took two of three against one of the Atlantic 10’s top teams in Fordham.

UMass (19-18, 8-3 A-10) split the Saturday doubleheader to go 2-1 on the weekend, going toe-to-toe with the Rams (32-12, 8-4 A-10) and coming out with a series win and a major confidence boost. This was the first series victory over the Rams for the Minutewomen since 2012.

“They played absolutely phenomenal,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “I don’t think anybody but the people here at UMass thought we were going to do what we did this weekend. Nobody but us. I thought we played fantastic, the offense was great the entire weekend. We played some really good softball.”

UMass looked to complete the series sweep in game two, but an uncharacteristic off day for Candace Denis in the circle and some defensive mistakes helped Fordham to a 7-4 victory in the finale.

The Rams got to Denis early and often, quickly opening up a 5-0 lead on the Minutewomen. UMass rallied in the bottom of the third to bring it to 5-3, but Fordham ran away with the game and held on for the win.

Despite missing out on a clean sweep, Stefanoni was still upbeat over her team’s performance.

“Even in the second game,” she said, “I know that the scoreboard didn’t show it with a win, but they fought, they really did. I was really proud of the team today.”

Minutewomen take first two against Rams

After taking a 5-4 victory on Friday, the Minutewomen only needed six innings to dispatch Fordham in game one Saturday. The Rams entered the weekend as the best pitching team in the conference, with their staff holding a combined 1.96 earned run average, but UMass put 12 runs on the board, and when freshman Erin Stacevicz drew a walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, the Minutewomen walked off with a 12-4 win by run-rule.

Junior Meg Colleran posted another strong outing in Saturday’s opener, only allowing one earned run and striking out five in six innings in the circle. Colleran got knocked around a bit in the fifth inning, but a string of bad plays in the field meant three of the four runs she allowed were unearned.

“Meg did really well in the first couple innings,” Stefanoni said. “In the fifth inning when we had a chance to close the door and win that game, and not throw as many pitches, we panicked a little bit. I hope that’s something she’ll also learn from, and if it happens again she’ll know she’s good enough to close the door.”

Colleran, however, had a ton of breathing room after the Minutewomen jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first three innings. Sophomore Melissa Garcia helped lead the offensive barrage, going 2-4 and driving in three runs, but there was plenty to go around, as eight of the nine hitters in the UMass lineup chipped in with at least one run batted in.

“It felt good,” shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha said. “They’re having a good season so far, they always do, they’re a consistent team, but I think we just came into this weekend with a lot of confidence. I think we knew that we could do it, and we just went in there and hit so it was good.”

Colleran’s win in game one was her second of the weekend, as she moved to 11-9 on the year, having won 10 of her last 11 starts.

“I definitely think I could have been a little sharper at certain points,” Colleran said, “but overall the goal is to win. We got two wins, great team wins, so I’m happy with that being the result when I threw.”

The Minutewomen toppled the Rams from first place in the A-10, taking the number one spot after winning the weekend’s first two games. They dropped to second place after the loss in the finale, as Saint Joseph’s swept St. Bonaventure this weekend to take over first.

UMass will make mid-week trips to Connecticut and Boston College on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, for non-conference matchups before heading to Philadelphia to take on new conference leader St. Joe’s in a pivotal weekend series.

“It really does give us a lot of confidence going forward,” Stavinoha said of the weekend, “I mean I definitely think we should have taken three from them, we kind of let up a little bit in that last game, but it’s good to win the series. They’re a good team, it’s good to get two from them, our offense really did well this weekend.”

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected]