UMass softball splits doubleheader with Saint Louis

Minutewomen suffer first conference loss since 2017

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UMass softball splits doubleheader with Saint Louis

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Javier Melo, Collegian Staff

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More inconsistent weather patterns plagued the Massachusetts softball team again this weekend, as a three-game set against Saint Louis became just a doubleheader on Sunday following a weather cancellation on Saturday.

The Billikens (9-21, 4-3 Atlantic 10) hosted UMass (14-14, 3-1 A-10) on Sunday and split the doubleheader with them. The Minutewomen came out on top in the opener, winning the game 8-5, but failed to stop an SLU resurgence in the back end, losing the game 7-5.

 In the first game of the doubleheader, the Minutewomen jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead without getting a single earned run. All four of the runs were scored on either walks or hit by pitches.

“In the first inning scoring four runs, I don’t think we actually scored a run on a hit, they started out as walks, but that’s how we got on base,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “Those are really good at-bats. I thought we did what we had to do offensively and were patient at the plate.” 

Following a slight hiccup in the latter half of the first inning that saw the Billikens score a run, Jackie Kelley and Erin Stacevicz would string together consecutive singles to bring up Stavinoha, who singled to score Kelley. Melissa Garcia doubled to score another run, giving UMass a 6-1 lead after two innings.

The Minutewomen broke the game open even further in the fourth inning. Stavinoha notched her third hit of the day, tying a career high, before Kaycee Carbone and Garcia each singled to load up the bases. Hannah Bunker singled up the middle to bring one run home, and Alyssa Lyon would follow suit with an RBI single that gave UMass an 8-1 lead.

While UMass would not score for the rest of the game, though in the seventh inning Kaitlyn Stavinoha picked up her fourth hit of the game on a single, bringing her total to 4-for-5 and giving her a career-high for hits in a game.

SLU added a run in the sixth inning on a double by senior Kaylyn Breitbach. In the seventh, the Billikens tacked on three runs, one coming on a line-out that saw the runner score, and the other two coming with one out left in the game when freshman Gabbie Kowalik hit a homerun.  

Sophomore Kiara Oliver was given the starting nod and held it down for the Minutewomen, only allowing an unearned run and five hits while picking up eight strikeouts and keeping control on the mound. This is now back-to-back series openers where Oliver has dominated.

“She’s an absolute workhorse,” said Stefanoni. “There’s not anybody that wants to win more than Kiara. I can pretty much say that about all of my players really. She has so much passion and drive and push. I thought she did an absolutely fantastic job against a Saint Louis team who was very aggressive at the plate. They took their hacks for sure. Overall, I thought she pitched extremely well.”

The Minutewomen would again open up with a 4-0 lead in the first inning following a Carbone double that brought in two runs, a wild pitch that brought home Stavinoha, and a sacrifice fly that scored Carbone.

 The difference this time is that the Billikens would match UMass with four runs of their own. Junior Quinn Breidenbach got the ball to start game two, but was not able to record an out, allowing a pair of two-run home runs to sophomore Sadie Wise and Kowalik to even the score.

Kiara Oliver was brought out again to stabilize the game for the Minutewomen, but she was unable to repeat her performance from the first game, giving up a run in the second inning off a single from sophomore Maria O’Connell and then a two-run homer to freshman Kristi Stevenson in the sixth inning.  

The Minutewomen had a chance in the seventh inning following a double by Stavinoha — who went 2-for-3 in game two and 6-for-8 in the doubleheader — which brought in Erin Stacevicz, and a Carbone walk, but they failed to reach base again and dropped the game.

“I thought that on the mound we needed to be better,” said Stefanoni. “And then at the plate, coming up in situations where we could’ve scored some runs early on to break the tie, we needed to be a little bit better and I think we just crashed and panicked a little bit. And we didn’t need to. We have an offense that was good enough to score the amount of runs that they did to win the game for us, we just couldn’t hold it together in the beginning part of the game.”

The loss is the first conference loss for UMass since May 7, 2017, when it lost its season finale to Dayton.

The Minutewomen will break from conference play on Wednesday to face Connecticut at 3 p.m in Storrs, Connecticut at the Burrell Family Field.

Javier Melo can be reached at [email protected]