Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass softball remains positive despite Louisiana struggles

UMass softball opens season 1-3 against tough first opponents

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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Despite a tough weekend (record-wise) at the Tiger Classic in Louisiana over the weekend, the Massachusetts softball team is staying positive.

Participating in the Tiger Classic, hosted by Louisiana State, the Minutewomen went 1-3 on the weekend — falling to No. 8 LSU 7-0 on Sunday, losing to UT Arlington on Saturday 4-1 and splitting their games Friday, beginning the day with a 4-0 loss at the hands of Syracuse and then finishing with a 4-0 win over Southern Mississippi.

“I think that people will look at it on paper and think that maybe we had a bad weekend,” said coach Kristi Stefanoni. “But that’s what they think and that’s okay. Because in person, watching this group of people — this group of players — go through the weekend and play who they played and perform the way they performed, some of the positives we took away were incredible.”

The Minutewomen got off on the wrong foot on Friday with an early afternoon loss to Syracuse, as the Orange opened the game with one run in each of the first two innings. Senior pitcher Meg Colleran settled in after that, going 5.2 innings and giving up three earned runs.

In the sixth inning, Syracuse scored twice, chasing Colleran. Sophomore Quinn Breidenbach came in to pitch and didn’t give up a run during her 1.1 inning stint.

Later in the afternoon, the Minutewomen followed up the loss with a 4-0 win over Southern Mississippi. Freshman Kiara Oliver pitched a complete-game shutout, not allowing a single run on only three hits and striking out eight.

A double from freshman Hannah Bunker and a single from redshirt senior Jena Cozza accounted for the four runs of support for Oliver.

“Southern Mississippi is a really good team,” said Stefanoni. “It was a good bounce back after playing Syracuse and losing game one to come back and win against Southern Mississippi. It was good for them all the way around.”

On Saturday morning, UMass had a chance to build off of its win the previous afternoon. But, the Minutewomen couldn’t continue their momentum as they fell to UT Arlington 4-1.

Breidenbach began the game on the rubber but was quickly replaced by Oliver after getting into an early jam. Oliver sat down the first seven batters she faced.

A bases-loaded hit-by-pitch accounted for UTA’s first run of the day, and a single in the fourth inning made it 2-0 UTA. In the fifth inning, UTA turned two UMass errors into two runs.

In the bottom of the fifth, freshman Alyssa Lyon singled through the right side to cut the lead to 4-1. Lyon was the one bright spot in the dormant UMass offense, going 2-for-3 on the day.

On Sunday afternoon, the Minutewomen ended the tournament against host No. 8 LSU. LSU trounced UMass with two home runs — a two-run home run in the first inning and a three-run home run in the fifth. Colleran took the loss to fall to 0-2 on the season, going two innings and giving up four earned.

“I think that the competition only prepares us for the conference when we start in March,” said Stefanoni. “Facing really good competition early on is good for us and helps us be a little more competitive once conference rolls around.”

Overall, coach Stefanoni was all optimism after the weekend.

“I think a lot of people would go home 1-3 with the way that we lost and be really disappointed about it,” said Stefanoni. “And do we want to come out with a better record? Absolutely. But that’s not what the first weekend was about for us. It was about competing as hard as we possibly could, let’s see what we got and let’s come away with some positives, and I think we did that.”

The Minutewomen will continue the start of their season next weekend with five games throughout a three-day span in the EMU Madeira Beach Spring Invitational I. That will include games against UNC Greensboro, Monmouth, Ohio, Jacksonville State and UMKC in Madeira Beach, Florida.

UMass hosts its home opener against Boston College at Sortino Field on March 21.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at emarinofs[email protected] and on Twitter @emarinofsky.

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