Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Oliver strikes out 10, UMass softball drops pitchers duel to Boston University

Erin Stacevicz had two hits in the losing effort

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Oliver strikes out 10, UMass softball drops pitchers duel to Boston University

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By Dan McGee, Collegian Staff

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Locked in a pitcher’s duel through five innings, the Massachusetts softball team fell short against Boston University on Wednesday, losing 3-1. UMass (10-13) starter Kiara Oliver was excellent in the pitching circle despite being handed the loss, striking out 10 batters in the effort.

“[Kiara Oliver] did a great job, we just couldn’t hit,” said coach Kristi Stefanoni. “She did a great job to win us the game. I think there was just one or two pitches that got hit really hard for her. She is doing her job.”

Scoreless through the first two innings, UMass centerfielder Erin Stacevicz doubled to left field for her second hit of the game, igniting a two-out rally in the top of the third. Kaycee Carbone followed her up by knocking an 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Stacevicz, putting the Minutewomen up 1-0.

Stacevicz’s two hits on the day put her on the brink of breaking into the top-10 for hits on the all-time UMass career hits list. Stefanoni had kind words for her centerfielder.

“[Stacevicz] has been really good about pulling through when we need her to,” said Stefanoni. “She has done a really great job of going from lead off, to two-batter. I even had her in the nine-spot at one point and she handled it fine. Her ability to get on base for us or to make stuff happen with runners on base has been huge in the four years that she’s been here.”

Oliver held the Terriers (12-14) hitless through the first two innings, striking out two. With two out in the bottom of the third inning, BU nine-hole hitter Emily Gant worked a full count against Oliver, blasting the seventh pitch of the at-bat over the wall for a home run, tying the game 1-1.

Hannah Bunker tried to answer the Terriers, leading off the fourth inning with a single. Caroline Videtto followed up Bunker’s at bat by sacrifice bunting, moving Bunker to second. A ground out by Alyssa Lyon moved Bunker to third with two outs, but it was all for naught as a Riley Gregoire ground out to the pitcher stranded Bunker at third base.

While playing small-ball didn’t work out in UMass’ favor in the fourth inning, the Minutewomen have been stressing the importance of small-ball tactics throughout the season. After losing major power threat Jena Cozza to graduation, the Minutewomen may look to small-ball play to generate more runs as the season rolls on.

“We talk about it every single day, how important [small-ball] is,” said Stefanoni. “We practice every single day moving the runner over into scoring position no matter if it’s moving her to second or moving her to third.

“Caroline Videtto was huge today in that situation. The second time that she did it the third baseman made an amazing play. Our short game in the last couple of games has been what’s gotten us some runs.”

In perhaps her most impressive feat of the day, Oliver tight-roped her way out of a pair of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. After allowing two Terriers to reach base with two outs in the fourth, Oliver struck out the final batter to shut the door in the inning. After allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base in the fifth, Oliver struck out the next three Terrier batters to end the inning.

“If [Oliver] can continue to be like that over the weekend and we can start putting the ball in play, I think things are going to look up for us,” said Stefanoni.

UMass threatened to score again in the top of the fifth, putting two on with two outs, but Terrier starter Ali Dubois struck out Danielle Ellis to end the inning.

Rallying in the bottom of sixth, AJ Huerta-Leipner ripped a two-run double into the left-center gap giving the Terriers a 3-1 lead, enough to hold on for the victory.

Despite sitting below .500 heading into Atlantic 10 conference play this weekend, the Minutewomen are confident in the shape of their team.

“I think we are going to go back to the drawing board, back to practice and we’ll prepare for the championship run of our season,” said Stefanoni. “That’s what all these games were leading up to it, so we’re going to find out what we got the next couple of days at practice. We don’t look behind, we look forward.”

The Minutewomen will open conference play at home this weekend against Saint Bonaventure. First pitch for Saturday’s double header is slated for 12 p.m.

Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DMcGeeUMass.

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