UMass softball sweeps Purple and Green Invitational

Minutewomen outscore opponents 25-5 on weekend

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UMass softball sweeps Purple and Green Invitational

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts softball team enjoyed a perfect weekend at the Purple and Gold Invitational in North Carolina. Thanks to major contributions at the plate, in the circle and in the field, UMass (8-7) left the tournament with five wins and no losses.

On the weekend, UMass’ pitching staff put up a 1.47 earned run average while their batters compiled a .301 batting average to earn two victories each against Columbia and Winthrop and a win against East Carolina. Their defense was also efficient and turned multiple double plays throughout the contests to help out the pitchers.

“I think we had no more than a total of maybe three or four errors on the weekend,” said coach Kristi Stefanoni. “That combined with great pitching and great offense was a great recipe for a 5-0 weekend.”

During the final game of the invitational on Sunday, UMass saw its highest offensive production of the weekend in securing a 10-2 victory over Columbia. The Minutewomen held a tight 1-0 lead over the Bears heading into the third inning before they broke the game wide open with nine runs on eight hits.

Melissa Garcia started the big inning off with a single before Hannah Bunker and Kaycee Carbone each walked to load the bases. Then the bottom third of the order came through with three straight hits, as Danielle Ellis, Jackie Kelley and ninth-place hitter Alyssa Lyon drove in five runs to put UMass up 6-0.

The top of the order continued the dominance and the Minutewomen put three more runs on the scoreboard before they were finally retired. The 10 runs are the most they have scored in any game all season.

The production in the bottom third of the lineup was a welcome sight for Stefanoni, and one that may be crucial to the overall success of the club.

“We cannot only depend on hitters 1-4 or 1-5 in our lineup,” Stefanoni said. “It was huge for us to get a lot of key hits from the batters in the 7-8-9 part of the lineup.”

Kelley and Lyon were also key contributors during the second game on Saturday, a 5-0 victory over East Carolina. Lyon had an RBI triple, while Kelley notched two base hits.

Starting pitcher Kiara Oliver was brilliant against ECU, taking a no-hitter into the sixth. It was her second attempt at a no-hitter on the weekend after holding Columbia hitless deep into Friday’s contest. She also recorded two saves.

“She hit locations, she was throwing hard and she was spinning the ball,” Stefanoni said. “It just kind of all came together for her this weekend.”

Not to be overshadowed were the clutch pitching performances from Quinn Breidenbach. Breidenbach had a big hand in the two nail-biting victories over Winthrop on Saturday and Friday afternoon.

In the first game Saturday, Breidenbach delivered five innings and only yielded one run on three hits before giving way to Oliver to earn the save for a 2-1 victory.

She may have been more clutch on Friday.

After falling behind 2-1, Breidenbach was called on in relief before the fourth inning. She delivered four innings of scoreless ball which allowed her team to pull even and force extra innings.

During the extra frame, Kaitlyn Stavinoha launched her second double and second RBI of the game into left field to score Riley Gregoire and put UMass up 3-2.

Stefanoni called on Oliver to get the save, and again she came up huge. Oliver shut the door on the Eagles with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth for the win.

The Minutewomen outscored their opponents by a combined score of 25-5 and despite it still being early March, UMass is feeling pretty good heading into the USF tournament.

“Columbia, Winthrop and East Carolina were very good competition for us at this part of the season,” Stefanoni said. “For us to leave this tournament at 5-0, it’s great. It will give us a lot of confidence and I think it will make us work really hard at practice. I hope, if anything, it just makes us want to work harder.”

With the five wins, the Minutewomen improve their record to 8-7. They head to the USF tournament this weekend for matchups against Wisconsin, South Florida, Villanova, Seton Hall and Western Michigan.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected]and followed on twitter @timsorota.