Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass softball looks for three more wins at GW this weekend

Minutewomen 3-0 in conference play

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Amin Touri, Assistant Sports Editor

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With a perfect start to the conference schedule last weekend, the Massachusetts softball team heads to the nation’s capital on Friday to take on George Washington.

The Minutewomen easily dispatched La Salle three times to open Atlantic 10 play, but face a tougher test in a GW (22-8, 2-1 Atlantic 10) that boasts the conference’s most prolific offense, totaling 70 more runs than any other A-10 team this season.

“I honestly do believe that GW is a much better team this year than they were a year ago,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni, “and I’ve really stressed that to them, that they’re not the same team. They’re a well-coached team, and they could be great competition for us. It’s not something I want us to go in and think this is an easy series, I still think they’ll be tough, but nothing we can’t handle.”

The Colonials are led by first baseman Jenna Cone, the conference’s hottest hitter, who’s followed up an A-10 Rookie of the Year award and an All-Conference First Team selection with a monstrous encore. Cone is hitting .468 with eight homers and leads the conference by a wide margin with 42 RBIs this season, en route to picking up three consecutive A-10 Player of the Week awards.

Next to Cone is freshman Alessandra Ponce, who is hitting .509 and slugging .855 in an incredible start to her rookie campaign.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve been pretty successful hitting the ball in general and scoring runs, but that’s about it,” said junior Kaycee Carbone. “But we know their pitcher, we’ve seen her the past two or three years now, so no surprises there.”

Senior Sarah Costlow will likely throw a bulk of the innings this weekend, and the right-hander has been strong this year: ranking third in the conference with her 2.09 earned run average, posting an 8-2 record so far this season. But the Minutewomen have seen plenty of her over the years and won’t be caught off guard when she steps into the circle.

“[GW has] been doing pretty well so far, but they dropped a game to the Bonnies this past weekend,” said junior Kaitlyn Stavinoha. “But the same pitcher, Costlow, we’ve faced her a lot, we’ve seen her a lot. We’re just ready to go at them.”

Senior Jena Cozza remains the best hitter in the A-10 so far this season, hitting an even .500 to lead all qualified hitters in the conference, while her 1.028 slugging percentage is good for fifth in the country.

Stefanoni will probably use a similar pitching setup as she did against La Salle, sticking with senior Meg Colleran and freshman Kiara Oliver as her starters with sophomore Quinn Breidenbach manning the bullpen. Colleran was named A-10 Co-Pitcher of the Week after holding the Explorers to no runs and just two hits in eight dominant innings over the weekend.

This weekend’s three-game set will be an earlier one than usual, with a doubleheader slated for Friday before the finale on Sunday.

“I think we just need to come out hard from the start,” Stavinoha said. “I think we’re the better team so as long as we just play our game, we should be able to take care of them.”

First pitch Friday is set for 1 p.m.

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

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