UMass battles through rain delay as it defeats La Salle 5-4

By Liam Flaherty

Jena Cozza throws the ball to the first base to make an out during the game against La Salle in Sortino Field on April 30th, Sunday. (Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts softball team got the win that it desperately needed on Sunday as it defeated La Salle 5-4 in the culminating third game of the weekend series.

After falling down early, the Minutewomen (24-20, 12-4 Atlantic 10) were able to bounce back, make it through an hour-long rain delay and take the final matchup behind an offensive outburst and the stellar relief performance of junior ace Meg Colleran.

The back-and-forth game was a good test for the team heading into the A-10 tournament.

“Overall I was really happy with [the team’s] determination, their grit throughout the entire game and their ability to keep pushing and answer back every inning,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni  said.

Candice Denis got the ball in the circle again on Sunday following up her start from the day before in game three, but things didn’t exactly pan out the way they had in her previous outing.

The Explorers (19-24, 7-13 A-10) jumped on the Texas native early with four hits, putting three runs on the board in the second inning before Colleran took over.

According to Stefanoni, Denis’ struggles in the circle on Sunday are nothing to sweat over for the freshman who continues to produce at the plate even when struggling in the circle.

“Sometimes once you’ve seen someone so many times through the lineup and you play a three game series like that, you get hit,” Stefanoni said. “That’s just what happens.”

Before the Minutewomen could do anything about the three run deficit that they quickly found themselves in, the weather intervened.

For just under an hour, the tarp sat on the field collecting rain as both teams and all in attendance huddled to stay dry under the stands.

“I know they got ahead of us a little bit before the rain delay, but we just stayed loose and played our game,” shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha said. “Coach told us to make sure we don’t need to press, just play our ball and we’ll be fine.”

When play resumed, UMass jumped right back into the game and took back two of the three runs given up the half-inning before.

A two RBI triple at the hands of sophomore leadoff hitter, Erin Stacevicz, put the Minutewomen back in the game. Denis and catcher Ashton Wince scored on the play.

The big bats would continue to hit for UMass as senior Jena Cozza belted a solo homerun to left field to tie the game at 3 in the third.

Cozza’s home run marks her fourth thus far on the season, which has been cut short due to an injury.

“It’s been great,” Stefanoni said. “It’s been really important to have [Cozza] back and I think that coming down the line it’s going to be even more important, especially for the people that hit behind her to continue to do well.”

The Minutewomen would add another run in the third before the Explorers would tie the game at four in the fifth on an RBI double.

In the bottom half of the fifth inning, fueled by a Melissa Garcia double with one out and an errant throw on a single by Wince, Garcia was able to score the game’s winning run and put UMass ahead 5-4.

After giving up a one out double in the top of the seventh, Colleran was able to work her way out of the jam and shut the door on La Salle, giving the Minutewomen the win in their home regular season finale.

Moving forward, UMass enters the final week of the regular season as it travels to Bryant on Tuesday for one game followed by a three game series at Dayton over the weekend to conclude the schedule.

As it currently sits as the No. 5 seed in the A-10, facing Dayton will be a crucial matchup for UMass as it heads into the A-10 tournament.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.