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

UMass softball blows out Saint Louis to open A-10 tournament

Minutewomen win in five innings
Caroline O’Connor

The Massachusetts softball team got off to a flying start in the Atlantic 10 tournament on Thursday, cruising to an 8-0 victory over No. 5 Saint Louis in just five innings to advance to the semifinals.

A four-run third inning drove the run-rule victory for UMass (34-12, 21-0 A-10), while senior Meg Colleran was lights out in the circle to easily take care of the Billikens (28-28, 11-10 A-10) at Fordham’s Bahoshy Field.

“I thought we did really well,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “Obviously we came out and executed our gameplan, and Megan pitched a phenomenal game on her birthday — today’s her birthday — so that was really cool for her. Overall I thought we did the things we had to do in order to win.”

Colleran only allowed two baserunners all day, throwing five shutouts innings and giving up just two hits and no walks. She had a perfect game going through four and a third, but surrendered a pair of singles in the fifth for her only blemishes of the day.

“I think mostly Megan was really pounding the zone, she was hitting her spots really well and she was keeping the ball low,” Stefanoni said. “She’s a dropball pitcher, so naturally you want to have the ball kept down, when it stays up a little bit it tends to get flat. But she did a really nice job today of painting the corners which was really good for her, and she got ahead early in the count which I think was pretty evident by her having no walks. Overall it was a really good for her.”

The hits came from everywhere, as eight different Minutewomen had at least one. Jena Cozza played her usual producer role, going 2-for-3 and driving in three runs on the day.

Cozza scored the first run of the day in the bottom of the first, scoring on an error to put UMass ahead early. She came up again in the following frame and smacked a double into the gap, scoring Riley Gregoire and Hannah Bunker to push the lead to 3-0.

Junior Kaycee Carbone continued her stellar season, hammering one to right-center for her seventh homer of the year to lead off the third, kickstarting UMass’ biggest inning.

Junior Kaitlyn Stavinoha singled through the left side to score Caroline Videtto and push Madison Gimpl to third, and a batter later Gimpl came around on Bunker’s single to make it 6-0. Gregoire beat out an infield single to load the bases, and the Billikens weren’t interested in throwing to Cozza with the bases loaded, as she drew a walk to bring in Stavinoha to extend the lead to seven.

Another bases-loaded walk in the fourth — Bunker this time — gave the Minutewomen an 8-0 lead, and Colleran stranded two Saint Louis baserunners in the top of the fifth to close it out.

With a gem from Colleran, eight runs on 10 hits and no errors from the defense, UMass was flawless in every phase of the game on Thursday. Colleran’s performance was especially key, as it kept freshman Kiara Oliver, the newly crowned A-10 Pitcher of the Year, fresh for the later rounds of the tournament.

“It’s (Colleran’s) senior season,” said Stefanoni. “We put the ball in her hand first because it’s her senior year so we’re going out there with her, and she did really well today with that.”

Into the semis of the double-elimination tournament, the Minutewomen will face No. 2 Fordham, the five-time defending champions, on Friday. Stefanoni wouldn’t say for sure who was getting the ball — “You can probably guess who will get it,” Stefanoni said with a laugh — but it will likely be Oliver, having dominated the Rams two weeks ago, allowing just two runs and four hits over 12.2 innings of work.

Fordham had a similarly excellent showing on Thursday, earning a five-inning, 8-0 win of its own over No. 6 George Washington and the collision course that the two teams have been on since February has finally come to fruition.

“I feel good,” said Stefanoni. “Look, we’re at the Atlantic 10 championship — we want to play the best. So that’s what we’re getting right now, and I think this team is up for the challenge. I’ve just tried to do my best to keep us very centered, keep us very focused on one day at a time, one game at a time, one pitch at a time, same thing I’ve been saying all year.

“Just keep their confidence up, keep reminding them of the things we’ve done in the past, and remind them that if we stick to our gameplan and we play the softball that I know we’re capable of, we’ll be just fine.”

First pitch Friday is set for 12 p.m.

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

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