Cozza, Garcia lead UMass softball to ninth straight 10-hit game in doubleheader sweep

Minutewomen continue offensive dominance


Caroline O'Connor

Melissa Garcia stands in the batter’s box.

By Amin Touri, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts softball team is still unbeaten in conference play this season, and it was business as usual for the offense against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

UMass improved to a perfect 8-0 in conference play by taking two from the Hawks (13-17, 2-6 Atlantic 10) at home, as the Minutewomen stretched their streak of consecutive games with at least 10 hits to nine.

11 hits in Saturday’s opener helped UMass to an 8-3 win, before another 10-hit performance led to a 4-0 victory in game two, as the base knocks keep on coming.

“In the beginning, I [thought] this is super great, but I don’t know if it’s going to hold up,” said senior Jena Cozza. “But we’ve just been doing amazing, it doesn’t matter where we start off, it doesn’t matter who’s hot or who’s not, everyone’s hitting. If you’re [hitless] for the day, I’m very confident that the next time you get an at-bat you’re going to hit.”

Cozza, who leads the conference in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, has become the A-10’s scariest hitter, as St. Joe’s refused to pitch to her on Saturday. Cozza finished game one going just 1-for-1 at the plate, but reached base five times after being hit twice and intentionally walked twice more.

Even her sole hit came as Ashley Ventura tried to walk her, but accidentally left one in the zone for Cozza to smack into the gap for extra bases.

“Honestly, knowing Jena, for her, she’s getting on base, doing what she needs to do for the team,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “Sure, I would love for her to hit, would she love to hit, absolutely. But she’s just another body getting on base. I think at one point they were trying to walk her and they missed over the plate and she got a double out of it, so that was fortunate for us. But she’s getting on base, I think she’s pretty happy about it.”

The walks are part of a concerted effort by A-10 pitchers to take the bat out of her hands, and for good reason. Cozza is third in the nation in slugging percentage, and can do as much damage with a single swing as anyone.

“It is frustrating,” Cozza said, “because obviously I want to hit. But the rest of the team is doing amazing, so just getting on base is fine with me.”

Cozza finished the day 4-for-5 with four runs and three RBIs. UMass’ biggest run producer on Saturday, however, was junior Melissa Garcia, who stretched her on-base streak to 10 consecutive plate appearances on Saturday.

Garcia went a perfect 6-for-6 in the doubleheader, with a walk and her first collegiate home run. Garcia saw a pitch she liked in the bottom of the fifth and hammered it to right-center for her first career round-tripper.

“It felt good,” Garcia said. “It was a little surreal.”

Garcia plated four runs on Saturday, and has settled very well into the heart of the UMass order; the lefty first baseman is hitting .314 on the year, and is the third on the team in RBIs this season.

“[Garcia]’s the one that has put in the work,” Stefanoni said. “At the beginning of the year she started out in the middle, maybe towards the bottom of the lineup, and she’s produced. She’s showed me in practice that she can handle the fourth spot in the lineup, and she’s handled it very nicely over the last couple of weekends. I’m proud of her, of how far she’s come.”

The Minutewomen will try and keep the stellar offense going in the series finale against St. Joe’s on Sunday at 12 p.m.

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