Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass softball hosts Rhode Island for doubleheader Tuesday

Minutewomen 14-0 in conference play

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Amin Touri, Assistant Sports Editor

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After a three-game sweep of St. Bonaventure over the weekend, the Massachusetts softball team has a quick turnaround and a packed schedule this week.

UMass (26-12, 14-0 Atlantic 10) faces Connecticut in a non-conference matchup on Wednesday, but the Minutewomen will first try and stay perfect in conference play when Rhode Island visits on Tuesday.

The Rams (12-26, 3-11 A-10) have struggled this year and sit in eighth in the conference, with the fewest runs scored and the third-highest team earned run average in the A-10.

“They’re scrappy, they’re going to be tough. They’re always a tough team to play at this part of the year,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said of Rhode Island. “I’ve told the team that they’ve worked way too hard, and they’ve invested way too much time in themselves and this team to give up right now, and just roll right into a game. It’s easy to do, when you see a record like Rhode Island has, but they’re going to be tough for us.”

Sophomore Erica Robles and senior Kylie Shivery have been the only strong hitters for the Rams this season, with Robles hitting .299 and leading the team with three homers and 22 runs batted in, and Shivery leading the team with a .308 batting average with a pair of homers and 19 RBIs.

URI has used six different pitchers this season, with Becca Rogers handling a bulk of the load in the circle. Rogers has posted a 2.77 ERA in 93.1 innings this season, but once she leaves the game, the rest of the Rams staff has struggled to limit opposing offenses.

“URI, they’ve always been known to be pretty scrappy, you definitely aren’t going to be able to count them out,” said junior shortstop Kaitlyn Stavinoha. “We’ve just got to come out tomorrow and go at them from the start, and we should be good.”

The Minutewomen on the other hand sit atop the conference standings at a perfect 14-0, leading the conference in runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage, team ERA and strikeouts per seven innings, boasting the A-10’s best offense and best pitching staff.

Jena Cozza continues to lead UMass at the plate, leading the conference in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage, while she’s second on the RBI list and third in home runs.

Freshman Kiara Oliver is 14-3 in the circle this season with a 2.02 ERA in 121.1 innings pitched and 129 strikeouts, while senior Meg Colleran is 10-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 82.2 innings of work. Oliver and Colleran will likely each get a start on Tuesday, with sophomore Quinn Breidenbach continuing to handle the bullpen role.

With the season winding down and the last few series approaching, Stefanoni is worried about keeping her team focused despite the major success in conference play.

“This part of the year is tough for some people,” Stefanoni said. “They go down a little bit, and some people go up a little bit. My hope is that everybody’s on opposite schedules, so maybe if some people at the top of the lineup aren’t doing so well, someone at the bottom is going to pick them up, and that happened this weekend.

“I think they’re excited. They can kind of feel that their goals are starting to be met a bit, the hard work is starting to pay off. I think they’re very focused at this point in time, I don’t think they’re looking past anybody. They’re truly taking it one game at a time and I like to see that. If I had one word on how they are right now, it’d be focused.”

Tuesday’s doubleheader is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.

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

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