UMass softball’s bats do just enough to beat Providence in walk-off

Lineup battles to 5-4 walk-off win

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UMass softball’s bats do just enough to beat Providence in walk-off

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

J.GIBSON-OKUNIEFF

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

J.GIBSON-OKUNIEFF

J.GIBSON-OKUNIEFF

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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The bats of the Massachusetts softball team did not have their best day. They were held without a run from the second inning until the seventh.

It didn’t matter. They still won.

The Mintuewomen (24-19) grinded, battled and clawed their way to five runs, but that proved enough for a 5-4 victory over Providence. Whenever the lineup needed to score the most, they found a way to get it done.

The runs and baserunners were manufactured in seemingly whatever way imaginable, from reaching on an error to being awarded first base on defensive interference.

Starting pitcher Kenadee Rausch was hit hard in the top of the first, giving up two runs and failing to record an out. The Minutewomen would respond by scoring three in the bottom of the frame.

Fast forward six innings and UMass was in a similar position. This time, in the bottom of the seventh, they needed one run to force extras and two to be victorious. They got two.

Both rallies were started by leadoff hitter Hannah Bunker. Bunker led off the game with a walk and laced a one-out single in the seventh. She leads the team in on-base percentage and is second in walks.

If there’s one player to get on base in order to start a big inning, Bunker might be the pick of her teammates.

“Every single time she goes up to the plate, you know she is going to do something great,” said catcher Danielle Ellis. “She is going to find a way to get on no matter what it is. It gives us so much momentum as a lineup to have confidence in that person.”

Junior Quinn Breidenbach threw seven innings in relief, allowing just two runs on seven hits to limit the damage after Rausch’s departure.

Seemingly everything needed to go right for UMass if they were going to find a way to win the game. That included some sloppy defense from Providence and some plate discipline.

After Bunker notched a base hit in the seventh, Erin Stacevicz bounced a pitch to the shortstop, which looked like it could have been a game-ending double play. But the ball was fumbled between the shortstop and second baseman, which allowed both Stacevicz and Bunker to reach base. After Kaitlyn Stavinoha popped out, Kaycee Carbone found herself down 0-2. She needed to get on base in order to extend the game.

“I took a strike that I should not have taken. Then I swung at a strike and fouled it off,” Carbone said. “I knew I was not going to get anything fat after I hit a foul home run [in the previous at bat]. We had a game plan where we knew what pitches she would go to, so I guess I just tried to stick with that and stay true to the strike zone.”

And Carbone did stay true to the strike zone. She took four balls while fouling a few off to find herself on first base to extend the game.

With a two-run single up the middle, Ellis ended the game.

“Without Kaycee walking with two outs, Dani does not get a chance to have the bat in her hands. So, that was huge,” coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “But when we are able to put together some walks and play some small ball early on, and just keep passing the bat and Hannah coming up with one out and starting that rally, that was huge. That is what it is about. We practice that at practice. Just passing the bat and finding a way to get it done. It might not be the prettiest thing in the world. That little stuff is huge for us.”

Some little stuff turned into big stuff in the first when UMass was responding to Providence’s fast start. After Bunker and Stacevicz walked, Stavinoha stepped into the box. Instead of swinging for the fences, aiming to hit her third home run in three games, she too laid down a bunt. Once again, it was successful. The ball was fielded at third, but the throw got by the first baseman, allowing Bunker to scoot home.

Stacevicz and Stavinoha both found their way home with Carbone and Melissa Garcia each adding an RBI. Carbone, who would steal second for her first stolen base of the season, knocked a single. Garcia bounced out, but it allowed Stavinoha to score from third.

The three first inning runs were all that UMass would score until the seventh, but it positioned the Minutewomen to win on Ellis’ two-RBI single.

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