A-10 softball notebook: UMass’ Oliver continues to impress before A-10 opens

Oliver notches first A-10 award


(Collegian File Photo)

By Amin Touri, Assistant Sports Writer

With the preseason slate all done and dusted, the Massachusetts softball team might be looking at a new ace.

With nine starts under her belt, freshman Kiara Oliver has posted a 6-2 record in the circle, fanning 68 batters in 64 innings. Oliver’s six wins are tied for third-best in the conference, while her 7.20 strikeouts per seven innings rate is good for second in the league, trailing only 2016 Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year Manda Cash.

Oliver hasn’t missed a beat while transitioning to the college level.

“I am a little bit [surprised], just because she’s a freshman and this is new to her,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “But not really, because she’s a competitor.”

Oliver was strong over the weekend, taking the ball for a pair of starts in New York. The rookie hurler gave up just two runs on five hits in a complete-game effort, but the run support failed her in a 2-0 loss to Hofstra. The Minutewomen came back in a big way against St. John’s, posting 12 runs to end Oliver’s afternoon early when the game was called by run-rule in the fifth.

The North Kingstown, Rhode Island native was similarly strong against the Red Storm, throwing a complete game and allowing just two runs on four hits.

“She is a true, true competitor,” Stefanoni said. “She doesn’t like putting people on base—she doesn’t even like giving a home run up [12-1], that was one thing she was harping on yesterday. And we just had to tell her, it’s alright. Sometimes you’re going to throw a good pitch, and a good hitter is going to hit it out. That happens in this game. But she is a true competitor, she’s a go-getter.”

Oliver was named A-10 Co-Pitcher of the Week on March 13 after going 2-0 with a 1.50 earned run average and posting wins over Louisville and Eastern Michigan, the former of which snapped the Cardinals’ 10-game winning streak.


Jenna Cone’s dominance continues

George Washington sophomore Jenna Cone earned her second consecutive A-10 Player of the Week nod, hitting .563 over the weekend to help the Colonials to a perfect 5-0 record at GW’s Buff & Blue Challenge. Cone had 12 RBIs over five games, bringing her season total to 33, eight more than any other A-10 batter.

Cone is hitting .431 so far this season, and looks on track for an encore of her A-10 All Conference First Team selection a season ago.


Fordham rebounds from tough start

Five-time defending A-10 champions Fordham went 3-1 over the weekend, continuing to salvage its overall record after starting the season 0-7.

The Rams opened the season with a brutal slate, taking on three nationally ranked opponents—including No. 4 UCLA—in its opening weekend.

Fordham took to its home field for the Fordham Tournament, topping UMass Lowell, Seton Hall and Detroit Mercy to improve to 9-15 on the season. The reigning champs closed the weekend on a high note, posting 14 hits en route to a 21-0 slaughtering of the Titans.

Sophomore pitcher Madie Aughinbaugh was named A-10 Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday after going 3-0 with a 1.07 ERA over the weekend. Aughinbaugh punched out 20 batters in 19.2 innings for her first three wins of the year.

The Rams open their quest for a sixth consecutive A-10 title this weekend, heading to Dayton to open conference play.


Winter weather wipes out mid-week games

Four teams had mid-week games cancelled due to inclement weather and poor field conditions, as UMass, George Mason, Dayton and La Salle were all forced to cancel their final non-conference matchups before A-10 play opens on Friday.

All four had plans to take on in-state rivals as a final tune-up before conference, but only Rhode Island managed to keep its game on the schedule, topping Providence 5-3 on Tuesday.

All 10 teams will be in action on Saturday for the conference opener.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.