UMass softball sweeps La Salle with 8-0 victory on Sunday

Seven-run third inning for the Minutewomen

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UMass softball sweeps La Salle with 8-0 victory on Sunday

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Noah Bortle, Collegian Staff

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After dominating La Salle in a double-header on Saturday, the Massachusetts softball team was able to finish off the weekend sweep with an 8-0 run-rule victory on Sunday at Sortino Field.

Early on, it looked as though La Salle (7-15, 0-3 A-10) might give the Minutewomen (14-10, 3-0 A-10) a competitive game, having only allowed one unearned run on no hits through two innings of play.

The UMass offense then erupted for seven runs in the top of the third inning, highlighted by a Kaycee Carbone home run.

“Any time that our offense is putting up eight runs and being able to take the game in five innings, that’s just really, really good,” said Meg Colleran, who was given the start in the circle for the Minutewomen.

Eight runs were more than enough for the Minutewomen pitching staff, which didn’t surrender a single run through five combined innings of work.

Colleran gave up only one hit in her three innings on a ground ball up the middle that snuck between the second basemen and shortstop but was unscathed otherwise, striking out two Explorer batters.

“I thought [the pitching staff] worked really well as a unit this weekend,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “That’s what we’re going to need going farther down the line. The schedule, in my mind, only gets harder from here.”

The victory on Saturday marked Stefoni’s 100th career victory as coach of the Minutewomen, but she was far more pleased with being able to start off A-10 play with a sweep.

“Every weekend I tell them we need to set ourselves up nicely for what our goal is, and our first goal is to qualify for the tournament and be the one or the two seed,” said Stefanoni. “So it is very big for us to do that.”

One major difference between the two teams was in the field where the Explorers struggled, making three errors in only five innings. On the other hand, the Minutewomen were perfect in the field, making no errors and not surrendering a single run.

Freshman Jackie Kelley had herself a great day, both at the dish and in the field. The right fielder drove in two runs as part of the Minutewomen’s third-inning rally on a single and laid out to make a diving catch, saving what would have almost certainly been an extra-base hit down the right field line. The catch was part of was a great defensive performance for UMass.

“I feel that I did well, but I definitely can keep improving,” Kelley said. “I was struggling in the beginning of the season and I was trying something that I hadn’t done before, which was slapping, and this past weekend I’ve been swinging away much more.”

Sunday’s game was emblematic of the entire series, with UMass seemingly having the advantage on offense, in the circle and in the field. Stefanoni emphasized the value of having all three phases clicking at once.

“We won scoring a lot of runs, [getting] a lot of hits, our pitching staff doing a great job, so I’m excited for them,” Stefanoni said.

All three members of the Minutewomen pitching staff saw work on Sunday, allowing four hits in total. After Colleran exited the game before the fourth inning, Quinn Breidenbach entered the circle in relief with an eight-run lead. The sophomore kept the lead right where it was, buckling down after allowing two base hits to La Salle.

With an eight-run lead heading into the fifth inning, UMass turned to freshman Kiara Oliver to shut the door and end the game early by virtue of the run-rule. Oliver did just that, continuing what has been an impressive start to the season for her. After the first batter reached on a dropped third strike, and a single put two runners on base, Oliver buckled down and finished the Explorers’ day, wrapping up what was a dominant overall series for the Minutewomen.

“The fact that all three of [our pitchers] could work well together,” Stefanoni said, “they all bring different things to the pitching staff and they were able to utilize all of those different things to keep an offense at bay, so it was good.”

UMass will continue A-10 play on Friday with a doubleheader against a talented George Mason squad. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Washington D.C.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.