UMass softball faces tough task in South Florida Invitational this weekend

Minutewomen to take on Wisconsin, South Florida, Villanova, Seton Hall and Western Michigan

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(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts softball team will head to Florida this weekend to compete in the South Florida Invitational.

For the Minutewomen (8-7), it is their fourth tournament in as many weekends. They’ll play in five games, against some elite competition in the No. 23 ranked Wisconsin, who UMass will face Friday morning, and the hosting school, South Florida, in the second leg of a double header that afternoon.

UMass’ Saturday slate features an early matchup with Villanova and an afternoon game with Seton Hall. The Minutewomen will wrap up the  tournament against Western Michigan on Sunday morning.

UMass is hoping to get much of the same following a weekend sweep of the Purple and Gold Invitation where it won all five contests. Excelling at the plate, in the pitchers’ circle, and in the field throughout the stretch helped the Minutewomen succeed.

Heading into this weekend, coach Kristi Stefanoni is not changing last weekend’s formula for success.

“When we come home, we stick to what we have been doing since day one,” Stefanoni said. “We do not ever take a break from what we call our ‘everydays.’ We are always doing the little things and I am a firm believer in not abandoning what got us here.”

One player who wants a repeat performance of the Purple and Gold is sophomore Kiara Oliver. After tossing 16 scoreless innings last weekend, the newest Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week will face the daunting task of trying to shut down some of the nation’s best hitters.

Oliver will face Wisconsin’s Kayla Konwent, who is batting a sliver below .450, and Villanova’s Paige Rauch, who leads the Wildcats in homeruns, RBIs and batting average.

Quinn Breidenbach and Kenadee Rausch will also see time in the circle.

Playing against elite competition is nothing new for the Minutewomen but that does not make it any less valuable for the players.

“This is another opportunity for us to compete against some really good teams,” Stefanoni said. “Be out in the warm weather, and play on dirt before we start conference play.”

Kaitlyn Stavinoha and her .471 on-base percentage was named one of the Student-Athletes of the Week. She has been the best hitter for the Minutewomen so far this season and will be anchoring their lineup from the third spot, where she has been hitting all year.

Stavinoha and her teammates will almost certainly face South Florida’s ace, Georgina Corrick, when the teams face off on Friday. Corrick has tossed four complete games in a row. On Monday, she was named American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season.

To make matters even tougher for UMass, the Sunday night snow storm – which impacted up and down the east coast – disrupted this weeks’ preparation. Unable to fly home on Sunday, the team had to wait until Monday, which altered their practice schedule. Stefanoni does not think her players were bothered by that.

“To someone that is not used to looking at it, it probably does seem crazy,” she said. “But this is like their way of life, they are really used to it.”

After the South Florida Invitational, UMass will remain in Florida over spring break for two matches against Stetson on Wednesday.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @timsorota.