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

Meg Colleran’s bounce-back driving UMass softball hot conference start

Colleran 3-0 in A-10 play
Collegian File Photo

The Massachusetts softball team has been an offensive juggernaut through the first couple weeks of conference play, but the way senior Meg Colleran’s been pitching, it can afford to ease off at the plate.

After a tough early start in which she opened the season 3-4 with a 3.76 ERA, Colleran has been nearly unhittable in four Atlantic 10 starts, going 3-0 and allowing just a single earned run in 16.2 innings of work.

A two-time All-Conference First Team selection, Colleran’s 0.42 ERA in conference play is second in the A-10 only to teammate Quinn Breidenbach, and tops in the league among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 10 innings.

“I think [Colleran’s] been right up with her best,” said junior shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha. “She’s been doing Megan things, keeping people off balance, getting a lot of ground balls, and just holding teams down, she’s doing a great job. I love playing behind Megan just because I know she’s always going to do her job and keep us in the game.”

It’s the second year in a row that Colleran’s been shaky in the preseason tournaments before flipping the switch in conference play, as the familiarity of A-10 opponents helps her lock back in.

“I think that this is year four that I’m throwing to these conference teams,” Colleran said, “and I think I’ve had plenty of experience with how much I’ve thrown to some of them. In the early spring, you’re playing a bunch of teams you haven’t played, haven’t thrown on dirt or to batters, still trying to work on things, but I have more experience in conference play.”

It’s her final season at UMass, and her last chance to take home the A-10 title that narrowly escaped her grasp last May. She’s got five more weeks to make her mark as a Minutewoman, and she’s saved her best for last.

“If anything for her it’s her senior season,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “She’s ready to go. She recognizes the team she’s playing with now compared to the teams she played with a couple years ago, and this is one of the best opportunities she has to win. It’s her senior year, and she wants to win the championship as much as anyone else, and there’s nothing like winning it your senior season.”

Kiara Oliver has proved to be an added advantage for Colleran. She is the first pitcher in Colleran’s four years that can be relied on to carry the innings load. For the first time in her UMass career, Colleran isn’t leading the team in innings after three years as the only real starter, and the extra rest is paying off.

“I feel great,” said Colleran. “All three of us on the staff have been utilized a lot, and Kiara has the most innings so far, I feel like I’ve barely even thrown compared to years past. I definitely feel like I’m able to throw more consistently because I’m not having to throw as many innings.”

Saint Joseph’s is next for the Minutewomen, as the two teams will play a three-game set at Sortino Field this weekend. If the Hawks are anywhere as ineffective in keeping the UMass offense at bay as La Salle and George Washington were, Colleran won’t be under much pressure over the weekend.

The Minutewomen have piled up a league-leading 56 runs in six conference games, and their offensive dominance only drives Colleran to be even better in the circle.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s because it’s my last year, but it’s the year that I’ve been here that we’ve been playing the best,” Colleran said. “As far as teams that I’ve played with, I know I’ve said it many times, but this is my favorite group to play with so far, and I just know what this group is capable of, and that makes each start mean more.”

UMass and St. Joe’s will play a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, with the third game set for Sunday at 12 p.m.

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

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