Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass softball staves off A-10 elimination with win over Dayton

UMass moves on to A-10 title game

Caroline O'Connor

Caroline O'Connor

By Noah Bortle, Collegian Staff

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With their backs against the wall, the Massachusetts softball team responded. Needing a victory over Dayton on Friday to extend their season, the Minutewomen got just that in a 6-2 win.

The UMass offense broke through in what had previously been a scoreless game in the third inning. The Minutewomen (35-13, 21-0 A-10) loaded the bases before a throwing error by the shortstop allowed Riley Gregoire to score from third, and then a passed ball plated Jena Cozza. Madison Gimpl added two more runs on an RBI double off of Dayton (31-25, 15-8 A-10) pitcher Manda Cash two outs before Amy Smith finished off the scoring in the inning with an RBI single.

Kiara Oliver bounced back in a big way from a loss in the first game of the day, delivering five shutout innings for UMass in the circle. She allowed only four hits and had four strikeouts to keep the Flyers hitters at bay.

“She should be very proud of herself,” said coach Kristi Stefanoni. “We’re going to need her tomorrow; we have to play a doubleheader if we want to win this thing.”

The Minutewomen tacked on an extra run in the fourth inning on a Jena Cozza blast that landed far beyond the wall in center field at Bahoshy Field.

The home run was Cozza’s 16th for the year. The redshirt senior also continued what has become a trend over the course of the year, getting intentionally walked as part of the third inning rally along with a walk of the unintentional variety to leadoff the game.

Quinn Breidenbach entered the game in relief of Oliver, looking to close out the Flyers and advance to Saturday. She succeeded in eliminating Dayton, allowing two runs, both in the sixth inning, but keeping the lead intact.

“Quinn did a great job,” said Stefanoni. “She allowed Kiara to come out and get rest for tomorrow.”

The victory over the Flyers pushes UMass to a rematch of last year’s championship against Fordham.

UMass loses first conference matchup of the season.

Facing the five-time reigning Atlantic 10 champions in Fordham, UMass struggled to plate runs in Friday’s first game, losing by a score of 4-1.

In the top of the fourth inning, with the score knotted at one, Fordham’s (32-21, 18-4 A-10) Brianna Pinto drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single through the infield. Pinto was the last batter Minutewomen starter Kiara Oliver faced. Meg Colleran came on in relief and allowed one of her inherited runners to score.

The Rams’ fourth inning rally proved to be more than enough as Madie Aughinbaugh went the distance against a dangerous UMass offense, holding them to just a single run.

The Minutewomen had no trouble putting the ball in play, not striking out once and scattering six hits, but struggled to get base runners home.

“We didn’t come up big in big situations,” said Stefanoni.

The Minutewomen scored their lone run on a line drive single by Erin Stacevicz, plating Hannah Bunker. The run had tied the game for UMass in the bottom of the third.

One run was not nearly enough as the Rams added more insurance in the top of the sixth courtesy of a Paige Rauch’s two-out, solo home run.

“Honestly, I didn’t think there was all that much wrong with our offense in the Fordham game,” said Stefanoni. “I thought we hit the ball hard.”

The loss marked UMass’ first in the conference on the season, having swept Fordham just a week prior.

The Minutewomen will have a shot at redemption Saturday, squaring off against Fordham again. UMass will have to win two straight, with Fordham coming into the game undefeated so far in the double elimination tournament.

First pitch on Saturday has been moved up to 11 a.m. due to rain.

Noah Bortle can be reached at n[email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.

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