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

Minutewomen struggle in opening loss against GW, rally back to beat St. Louis in elimination bracket

UMass scores six runs in fourth inning to rally against Saint Louis
Judith Gibson-Okunieff

It was a wild day of softball in the Atlantic 10 Tournament at Sortino Field.

The Massachusetts softball team lost its opening game against George Washington 2-1 in extra innings. The Minutewomen went on to play their next game a half hour later, rallying to beat Saint Louis 7-5 to stave off elimination.

“When your season is on the line like that, I think it starts to mean a little bit more and something in you just clicks,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said.

UMass (26-21, 13-6 A-10) gave the nod to Kiara Oliver again in the second game and Saint Louis took advantage early on. In the first inning, sophomore Kat Lane led off with a single and then stole second base. A fly out advanced her to third base before Gabbie Kowalik sent her home with a single. Oliver managed to make it out of the inning with just the one run.

Both teams were silent at the plate until the third inning, when Lauren Lomax singled to lead off the inning for the Billikens. Lomax would advance to second on a groundout and then get to third base after Sadie Wise singled. After Kowalik walked to load the bases, Maria Connell singled to score the second run of the game. Stefanoni had seen enough and pulled Oliver for Quinn Breidenbach. Breidenbach allowed a run on a sacrifice fly, but managed to escape the inning with just a three-run deficit.

UMass came back in the bottom of the third and loaded the bases, but Riley Gregoire was cut down at the plate in a fielder’s choice and Kaycee Carbone grounded out to end the threat.

The Billikens came out strong in the fourth inning with a home run from senior Mackenzie Lawson, but that was all the scoring they would do in the inning.

Following some tension between the players and the fans in attendance, the Minutewomen came out swinging. With the bases again loaded, Hannah Bunker singled to bring in the first run of the game for the Minutewomen. Erin Stacevicz, who had the tense interaction with a fan, came up and singled to score two runs, reaching second base on a throwing error. Stavinoha doubled to bring home another two runs and give UMass a 5-4 lead, and Carbone tacked on an RBI double of her own to finish off the scoring.

“I think we just knew we had to get it done,” Melissa Garcia said. “We knew we had to score runs. Scoring that many runs with two outs was just awesome. It was great hitting and I’m glad that I got a hit too. ‘Pass the bat’, that’s the mentality that we had.”

In the fifth inning, Garcia hit a one-out RBI double to give UMass a 7-4 lead.

In the sixth inning, Saint Louis showed signs of life when Alyssa Chavez singled to lead off the inning. Lauren Lomax reached first base on a fielder’s choice before Kat Lane singled to advance her. After a fly out, Kowalik came up and hit a single to bring home Lomax, bringing the score to 7-5. Breidenbach forced a ground out to end the side.

After a three-up, three-down inning for the Minutewomen, Breidenbach stepped on the mound and set down the three batters she faced to win the game for UMass.

“I think I saw a little more focus in them that [fourth] inning,” Stefanoni said. “A little bit more energy. When that’s it and it’s stay or go home, you just figure out a way to do it.”

Earlier in the day, the Minutewomen went up against George Washington (41-15) in their first game of the tournament and lost in extra innings 2-1.

In the top of the second, an error by Stacevicz gave the Colonials runners on second and third with no outs. UMass escaped, as freshman Kendra Allen made a terrific fielding play at third base to record the first out and Oliver took over from there. The sophomore forced a weak pop out and struck out the final batter to get out of the jam.

The two teams would trade terrific defensive play for the next several innings behind dominant performances on the mound from Oliver and sophomore Sierra Lange.

The Minutewomen got a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on second and third. With two outs and a chance to walk off, Alyssa Lyon came in to pinch hit and grounded out on a check swing to close the side for the Minutewomen and send the game into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth inning, George Washington put runners on second and third with two outs. The Colonials bounced back in a big way, however, hitting back-to-back singles to bring home both two runs.

The Minutewomen responded in a big way in their half of the inning. With one out, Stacevicz singled and advanced to third on a Stavinoha double. Carbone hit a deep fly ball to the warning track that was caught, but allowed Stacevicz to tag up and score. Garcia then struck out and ended the game.

“I think we maybe were a little tight, a little nervous, came out of our plan a little bit, and it was definitely something that we were doing,” Stefanoni said.

The Minutewomen will now face rival Fordham on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Sortino Field as the Atlantic 10 Tournament continues.

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

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