UMass softball back on track with series win over George Mason

Minutewomen pitchers allowed four earned runs the entire series

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Kago Motsoma / Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Collegian Staff

Winning two of its three games in its series against George Mason, the Massachusetts softball team turned the ship around thanks to stellar pitching throughout the weekend.

The Minutewomen (12-22, 5-6 Atlantic 10) found their groove defensively after a tough stretch of four straight losses in which they were outscored 37-3 by their opponents. Despite also losing the final game of its series against the Patriots (15-18, 5-7 A-10), UMass went home with a momentum shift on its side, especially on defense and on the mound.

“We didn’t give up a ton of hits,” UMass coach Danielle Henderson said. “We didn’t give up a ton of runs either. I thought [our pitchers] hit their shots, they kept [George Mason] off balance and I thought all three of them did a great job.”

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The Minutewomen hadn’t held their opponents to two or less runs in a game since March 30 against Maine, and they did so in all three games against George Mason.

Even though the Patriots outhit UMass 7-3 in the last game of the series, the Minutewomen held them to one earned run, largely thanks to a flawless game by their defense.

“Our defense played out of its mind,” Henderson said with a smile. “The outfield made some fantastic plays; we just ran hard for everything. I’m really proud of us defensively.”

Bats went quiet for UMass until the top of the sixth inning, when Bella Pantoja scored off a Chloe Whittier sacrifice fly to left field to bring the game within one. It came down to the wire, but the Patriots pulled through in the end with a 2-1 victory.

One of the highlights of the weekend for UMass was its pitching. Monday’s game was a pitching battle between UMass’ Jenna Bradley and George Mason’s Cheyenne Van Pelt. Each of them gave up one earned run from the circle on Monday.

Bradley pitched six innings, allowed seven hits, struck out four batters and walked one. The Minutewomen had been struggling with home runs allowed up until this weekend, but Bradley didn’t allow any on Monday.

Van Pelt pitched a complete game, allowing three hits, striking out two batters and walking one — a big reason for UMass’ rough offensive outing.

“[The Patriots’ pitching] was the same as we saw [on Sunday],” Henderson said. “[Van Pelt] was throwing a little in, a little out, a little up. There was a lot of balls that we hit right to people and right on, and that’s going to make it tough.”

The Minutewomen’s top four hitters went 1-for-10 in the game, while two Patriots players finished with a pair of hits. George Mason didn’t do much with the hits it got and struggled with runners left on base throughout the weekend.

The second game of the series was on deadlock until the top of the fourth inning, when UMass’ Grace Cadden sent one over the fence for a two-run homer, the first of her collegiate career. In the bottom of the fourth, Patriots third baseman Haley Taormina singled to right field, batting in two of her teammates to tie the game at 2-2.

The Minutewomen then scored with sacrifice flies to right field in the top of both the sixth and seventh innings to conclude the game with a 4-2 win.

Freshman pitcher Julianne Bolton bounced back from a tough stretch in the past few games in strong fashion with a win. Bolton pitched all seven innings, striking out nine batters, walking two, allowing six hits and two earned runs.

“[Bolton] was just able to feel comfortable out there, and her ball was moving,” Henderson said. “She started to locate her outside pitch and she made adjustments as the game went on.”

For George Mason, Marlaina Bozek and Taormina were the lone players to find success against Bolton. Bozek went 3-for-3 on the day and Taormina went 2-for-3 with a 2-run single to right field.

Offensively for the Minutewomen, Cadden scored the home run, Kendra Allen hit a double and Bella Pantoja had a pair of hits. The team finished with seven hits and a spread-out offensive contribution.

Coming out of a 15-0 mercy rule loss to UConn, UMass worked to get back on track and set the tone for the George Mason series with a dominating 5-1 win in the opening game. The story in this game mirrored the story in this series: pitching and defense.

“I thought all of our pitchers threw well [this series], and our defense did well,” Henderson said. “We took advantage of George Mason’s errors and their walks, and we were able to score from that.”

Jessie DiPasquale pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and one earned run, walking one batter and striking out four.

UMass established its presence with a three-run first inning and had two players notch a two-hit performance in Allen and Amy Smith.

The Minutewomen used this series to turn the ship around after being previously swept by Fordham and mercy-ruled by UConn. Their offensive performance improved, but it was the pitchers and defense who shined the most in the George Mason series.

Next up, UMass will face Boston University on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.