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

UMass softball’s seniors go out in style

UMass lost 8-2 to Fordham and was eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament
Judith Gibson-Okunieff

The Massachusetts softball team reached the end of the road Friday afternoon.

The Minutewomen suffered an 8-2 defeat to archrival Fordham in the elimination bracket of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Rams (27-24) jumped on UMass (26-22, 13-7 A-10) early on and never relented, advancing to the final game of the elimination bracket in which they’ll face Saint Joseph’s.

While the Minutewomen struggled to solve Fordham pitcher Madie Aughinbaugh, they got strong contributions from three members of their senior class. Erin Stacevicz, Kaitlyn Stavinoha, and Kaycee Carbone each went 2-for-4 at the plate, while Carbone got both UMass’ RBIs and Stacevicz scored both runs. Along with Riley Gregoire, UMass’ seniors were responsible for seven of the Minutewomen’s eight hits.

“It’s amazing what can happen to you when your season, your career, are on the line,” coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “It was do or die. It puts it in a different focus for them. I can chalk it up to it being possibly the last time on the field and their last at-bat. Who knows? That’s probably what’s going through their minds.”

Following the loss, UMass is losing six seniors to graduation. Stacevicz, Stavinoha, Carbone, Gregoire, Melissa Garcia and Shea Newsome, the only one of the six who did not play in the game, all gave their all to the program. While their chapter is over, they have cemented their place in the program’s history.

Stacevicz cemented her place all the more, finishing third all-time in program history in hits with two more in her final day with the program.

“[My mind] is with the six seniors,” Stefanoni said. “At the end of the game, I brought them out there and said, ‘There’s a lot for us to process right now. A lot for me to process right now.’ The only thing that was on my mind was those six seniors and thanking them for their four years that they gave us, for their heart. They game everything to UMass softball. Blood, sweat, and tears, heart and soul, everything.”

This group holds a special place in Stefanoni’s heart as well. Except for Gregoire, who transferred to UMass before the 2018 season, all the seniors came in as a part of the recruiting class of 2015, the first class of recruits to be fully Stefanoni’s.

“They were my first class that stayed with me that I brought in,” Stefanoni said. “Through the good and the bad, all of them stayed with me. Riley transferred in and to hear a kid say ‘you made me love softball again’, that’s the best part of my job. My heart and my head are with them and I’m just sorry that we couldn’t pull through for the six of them because definitely deserved it.”

This class of players saw it all with UMass. While some weren’t given as much playing time as they would have probably hoped for, Stefanoni said this class left a legacy of a relentless work ethics.

“I told the underclassmen while we were out there that I hope, if anything, they learned from those kids,” Stefanoni said. “They led by example so much I mean they were phenomenal leaders. They gave their all, every single day at practice and in games from their freshmen year all the way to their senior year. There was no break. I think that because they did that their freshmen year, this is why they had such great careers. I told the underclassmen, if anything, you learn from them and talk to them and get their advice on how you guys can be better this summer to come in and be better for January.”

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

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