Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jena Cozza’s bat is the hottest in the nation

Redshirt senior sits with .521 batting average
Jon Asgeirsson

To lead the nation in one category is great, but to lead the nation in the two main batting statistics of softball is downright elite.

And that is exactly what Jena Cozza is doing right now. For the Massachusetts softball team this year, Cozza has been essential to the high-flying Minutewomen offense.

As it stands now, Cozza’s .521 batting average leads the nation. The next closest is Vanessa Shippy from Oklahoma State at .492 — 29 points back. Her on-base percentage also ranks first in the nation at .654. Her slugging percentage ranks second at 1.031, only four points behind leader Katie Prebble from Gardner-Webb.

When asked about her staggering numbers, Cozza was focused on the immediate future.

“I mean it’s cool and all, but I don’t really think about it a lot if I’m being honest,” the star third baseman said. “Today, I was just thinking about our next game and preparing for that.”

Coach Kristi Stefanoni was more direct in her praise of her most lethal hitter.

“I think probably I’m surprised with her leading the nation just because that’s huge and there are so many other teams out there,” said Stefanoni. “Am I surprised from an athletic standpoint? Absolutely not. But out of all these other good hitters and good schools, that is surprising. You forget how big everything is when you live in your little bubble right here. But I’m not surprised at all that as an athlete she’s able to do that.”

This past week saw Cozza go 5-for-7 at the dish over three games that led to her earning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. She also extended her reached base streak to 29 straight games.

Cozza hits the ball as if she has a vendetta against it, but there’s more to her plate approach than just hitting the cover off of the ball.

“I honestly think the main difference is [the team] doing a lot better,” Cozza said. “There’s not a lot of pressure on the top of the lineup to produce and get on, so I think having that is making it a lot easier, so I don’t have to worry about doing much aside from getting good contact.”

Stefanoni’s answer was more centered around Cozza.

“She’s more aggressive,” said Stefanoni. “She has more games under her belt than she did a year ago around this time, having torn her ACL two Septembers ago. If anything, I think she’s more confident, and you can tell she’s on a mission when she gets up there. She wants to win, and you can tell.”

And win she has, no matter the spot in the lineup. She began the season in the middle of the order but made her way into the leadoff spot because of how much she was getting walked and hit and automatically put on base.

Stefanoni’s response was to dare the other team into putting her leadoff hitter on base. That didn’t stop other teams from doing it, as Cozza recently set a single-season record for most hit-by-pitches in team history.

“It’s definitely really frustrating, and it hurts, but it’s a way on base,” said Cozza. “As long as I get on base, it’s fine. If that’s how they want to do it, then whatever.”

When asked about how impressed she was of Cozza as of late, Stefanoni’s answer went well past her hot bat at the plate.

“I’ve come to expect this kind of stuff from her,” Stefanoni said. “I was saying earlier in the year that it’s her senior year, and I sense a different type of player that she’s becoming. I’ve been impressed with her on many different levels — her leadership, how she shows up for every single game, and that’s great to see for the younger players.

“Impressed is probably a small word to whatever I could find to use,” she added.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected].

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