UMass bats go quiet in game one as softball splits doubleheader

By Amin Touri

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team had one of its most frustrating afternoons of the season on Wednesday.

Hosting a Fairleigh Dickinson (2-17, 0-2 Northeast Conference) team that had struggled to keep opponents off the board all season, the Minutewomen (13-16, 2-1 Atlantic 10) couldn’t manage to do nearly as much damage as they would’ve liked, dropping the first game 4-3 before taking the back end of the doubleheader with a 5-1 win.

“UMass softball shouldn’t be losing to a team like Fairleigh Dickinson,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni, “and that’s no disrespect to them. Their head coach and I played here together and graduated in the same class, but we are on a much different level and we needed to definitely play much better softball today, for sure.”

The UMass offense especially struggled in game one, only managing to push across three runs in the loss against an FDU team that has severely struggled to limit opposing offenses. The Knights’ pitching staff had posted a collective 8.02 earned run average entering Wednesday’s games.

Freshman right-hander Erica Johnson held the Minutewomen to just one run in five innings in the circle, before Baylee Ports threw two innings in relief for the save. Both Johnson and Ports mixed in plenty of off-speed pitches, keeping the UMass bats guessing all afternoon.

“It’s always effective if a pitcher has good off-speed pitch,” freshman Kate Dennis said. “It’s always a good thing to have, but we as a team have the same approach as far as off-speed pitches, and it shouldn’t have rattled us as much as it did, and we let it get to our heads too much.”

The Minutewomen finally found some consistent offense in the bottom of the seventh, but it was too little, too late. Shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha’s two-out single drove in two runs to cut the lead to one, but she was thrown out trying to get back to first to end the game before UMass could complete the rally.

The Minutewomen just couldn’t push runs across when the opportunity arose, leaving six runners on base in the opener.

“I think we were swinging a little scared,” Dennis said. “At least personally I was swinging a little scared, in the first game. In between games we took some swings in the cage and kind of got our minds right, got more aggressive at the plate, and I think that changed a couple things around, but we still should’ve scored more runs in the second game.”

Forced to make some adjustments, UMass came out more aggressive in game two, but the improvements were marginal.

“We told them, ‘See strikes hit strikes,’” said Stefanoni of the talk between games. “That’s exactly how simple we kept it. See the ball on the plate, hit the ball on the plate. That was what we were not doing in the first game, we were letting ourselves get down 0-2 in a lot of counts, and for somebody that’s throwing the ball over the plate a lot, we can’t do that, we need to attack, so that was something in our mentality we decided to change a little bit, and for some people it helped.”

After hanging one run on the board in each of the first two innings, the Minutewomen tallied three more in the third, and broke the game open. Erin Stacevicz’s bunt drew a throwing error that scored two, before Stavinoha singled her home to put the hosts up 5-0.

However, that was all the offense UMass could muster, and even a 5-1 win was disappointing, as the Minutewomen left seven more runners on base in game two.

“We didn’t come out as strong as we should have,” Stavinoha said. “I think we were better than that team, and we didn’t really play to our level today, we played down to their level. We need to make sure we come out with more energy and intensity in games like that.”

UMass looks to bounce back from Wednesday’s doubleheader as it heads to Saint Louis this weekend to continue A-10 play, before playing a doubleheader at Rhode Island next Wednesday.
Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected]