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

Kiara Oliver dominates UMass softball’s doubleheader sweep of La Salle

Oliver records win in game one and a save in game two
Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Sophomore Kiara Oliver’s dominant pitching keyed the Massachusetts softball team to a sweep of Saturday’s doubleheader against La Salle with an 8-0 win in the first game and an 8-4 win in the second.

The sophomore was the standout performer for the Minutewomen (17-14, 5-1 Atlantic 10), throwing a complete game shutout in game one and then picking up the save when she came in for relief in the second game.

“She was great,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “That’s what we need her to do. That’s what we’re going to need her to do for the rest of the conference season. Kiara’s usually very locked in and ready to go. She’s one of the most competitive players on the team. It’s just all about wins for her, so she was clearly very locked in today.”

Oliver came out in game one and dominated. Five of her first six outs were strikeouts en route to eight total strikeouts in the game. Over the six innings she was out there, Oliver only allowed two hits and was never in a position where she was in trouble. The Minutewomen would do her justice on the offensive side of the ball, scoring eight runs and preserving the shutout in just six innings.

“She’s lights out,” senior infielder Kaitlyn Stavinoha said. “She knows that this year she’s going to have to carry a lot of the load. The other two [Kenadee Rausch and Quinn Breidenbach] are doing a good job of doing what they can. She’s awesome. You can’t say enough about Kiara.”

It was in the second game of the doubleheader that Oliver really showed her brilliance as a pitcher. The Minutewomen found themselves in some trouble with both Kenadee Rausch and Quinn Breidenbach experiencing issues at the mound. Oliver was tipped to come in to preserve the 5-4 UMass lead and was lights out for the second time, throwing 2 1/3 innings and allowing just two hits, both coming in the final inning with the lead pushed to four runs. She also struck out two batters, giving her 10 total strikeouts for the day.

“I don’t think people understand, really, how difficult it is to go from starting a game to sitting the next couple of innings of the second game and then coming in in relief,” said Stefanoni. “Being a relief pitcher is very, very difficult. She came over to me and I knew I was going to put her in and I said to her, ‘Can you do this for me?’ and she said ‘Whatever you need, I’ll get it done.’ That’s just the kind of kid and the kind of pitcher that she is.”

Oliver was a calming presence for the Minutewomen. When she was up, the fielding was fluid, the hitters seemed more relaxed and composed in the box, and the team just performed better overall. She attacked coming in for relief duties the same way she did when she started.

Oliver just dished out her best stuff all day, and it showed. In the combined 8 1/3 innings she pitched, she struck out 10 batters, only allowed four hits, and gave up zero runs. Her performance was simply dominant.

“It’s just to attack,” said Oliver about her mindset when entering in relief. “We were ahead when I came in, so it was just to hold the run and get it done. I did it a lot last year. We had Meg Colleran here and we would kind of swap roles throughout the year. I’m getting used to it so it’s not bad.”

The Minutewomen will close out the series Sunday at noon at Sortino Field before hosting Central Connecticut State Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Javier Melo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JMeloSports.

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