UMass softball’s season comes to a close

Minutewomen fall to Saint Joseph’s and Dayton on Wednesday

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Shilpa Sweth / Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Collegian Staff

The season came to an anticlimactic ending for the Massachusetts softball team as it lost both games in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Wednesday.

“I thought that we ended the season as a better team than when we started it,” UMass head coach Danielle Henderson said. “They improved, they got better at everything that we asked them to do. So I’m very proud of them. I wish I had the senior class longer than a year. Now they’re alumni with me; now they’re stuck with me forever with that. But we definitely improved, and we did everything that we could to set us up to be able to win.”

In the second game, No.5 Dayton beat the No. 6 Minutewomen (19-32, 12-12 A-10) by a score of 4-2. The Flyers (20-23, 12-10 A-10) came from behind and scored all four of their runs in the sixth inning.

The game ended in the seventh, when UMass had two runners in scoring position with two outs and looked like it was going to score, as Amy Smith drove one through left field. However, as Bella Pantoja ran towards third, she and Flyers’ shortstop Kaelene Walker collided. The umpire called runner interference, which ended the inning, the game and the season for the Minutewomen.

“It wasn’t ideal,” Henderson said. “We would’ve gotten the ball through and there’s nothing you can do about that type of stuff. Those are some of the things that just happened.”

Pitching for UMass was freshman Julianne Bolton, who gave a valiant effort in the elimination game by holding Dayton scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. In six innings, Bolton allowed four earned runs, nine hits, walked three batters and struck out another three.

The Minutewomen put themselves in a great position to win in the third and fourth innings. In the top of the third, they drew first blood with a double to left field by Pantoja that brought home Kristina Day. Pantoja went 2-for-4 on the game. In the top of the fourth, Day reached on an error by the shortstop, and Chloe Whittier scored to take a 2-0 lead.

Everything changed in the top of the sixth. Defense came up huge for the Flyers as they got a double play to stop UMass at a crucial time and stay in the game. Then their bats woke up.

With a single to left field that dropped just in front of the outfielder, Emily Daniel drove in a runner on third to cut down the deficit. Katie Reeg then doubled to left center and scored two runners to take the lead. Finally, Alyssa Cacini hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Emma Schutter to score to take a 4-2 lead and conclude a massive inning for the Flyers.

In the first game, No. 3 Saint. Joseph’s (23-21, 14-8 A-10) walked it off to win 3-2 against UMass after overcoming a two run deficit.

At the mound for the Minutewomen was Jessie DiPasquale, pitching the whole game despite an injured left hand. DiPasquale pitched two complete game wins against the Hawks earlier this season in which she threw 14 innings and allowed no runs. Until the fifth inning, UMass was up 2-0 and it looked like DiPasquale was on track to do it again.

However, with runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, Jordan Hinkle singled through left field and scored both to tie the game at two apiece. It was Saint Joe’s second hit of the day, as the runners got in position due to errors by the Minutewomen defense.

DiPasquale ended the game with seven strikeouts and allowed one walk, one earned run and three hits. The junior concluded her season with a 10-13 record and fourth in the A-10 in strikeouts and innings pitched.

“[That’s] another thing I was proud of because I didn’t know that [DiPasquale] was going to be able to go back out there when she had injured it,” Henderson said. “She did her rehab, she set it up as something that she really wanted to do, and she did it … She looked like her old self and I thought she went out there and pitched good enough for us to win. So I’m very proud of her.”

UMass’ best offensive performer of the day came as a surprise; it was freshman Grace Cadden who went 3-for-3 with a home run on the game.

Cadden singled to right field in the top of the third, which positioned her to open the score for the Minutewomen later in the inning. In the top of the fifth, Cadden’s hit to center field bounced off the top of the fence and left the ballpark for a solo home run that gave UMass a 2-0 lead.

Even after the momentum had shifted and the game was tied in the seventh, it was Cadden who gave the Minutewomen a chance to win with a single to center field that put a runner on third, but UMass couldn’t take advantage.

Finally, the entire Saint Joe’s team awaited Taylor Marinelli at home plate in the bottom of the seventh as Marinelli walked it off with a homer to right field. DiPasquale and Cadden had kept the Minutewomen in it until that moment, but that last pitch was the first earned run DiPasquale allowed in three games and over 20 innings pitched against the Hawks.

With two losses and a young team hungry to bounce back, Henderson’s first season at the helm comes to a close.

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