AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts softball team couldn’t complete the second game of its doubleheader with Rhode Island because of darkness Tuesday, but by winning the first game, the Minutewomen were able to complete one of their goals for the season.
The 7-0 victory clinched UMass a spot in the six-team Atlantic 10 tournament, which begins next week at Fordham. The Minutewomen (14-19, 8-5 Atlantic 10) missed the event for the first time in program history last year.
“It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had in a long time, knowing that we’re going,” UMass coach Kristi Stafanoni said. “It’s a huge weight off our shoulders.”
Junior shortstop and Amherst native Quianna Diaz-Patterson agreed.
“It’s awesome that we’re back in the tournament after last year,” Diaz-Patterson said. “But this is a whole different year.”
Rhode Island will be glad never to see Tiffany Meeks again. The UMass senior first baseman has 27 career home runs and eight of them have come against the Rams, including one in each game Tuesday. She was 2-for-2 with two runs and three RBIs in the win. Game 2 was suspended at 2-2 in the ninth.
“I wouldn’t pitch to her at all,” Stefanoni said.
Meeks was glad they did.
“I was glad to get a chance to hit the ball,” said Meeks, who hit four home runs in consecutive at-bats in a doubleheader sweep of URI last year.
Bridget Lemire also had a solo home run as UMass coasted behind Caroline Raymond.
The junior pitcher allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out two in the shutout.
“Today she didn’t have her best stuff,” Stefanoni said. “She did her job. She got ground balls for us.”
The second game is officially considered suspended right now. The Atlantic 10 could send URI back to Amherst to complete the game on Thursday or Friday, but such a move is unlikely. The game will go into the standings as a tie if it’s not finished.
It looked like it was going into the standings as a regulation victory for UMass.
The Minutewomen took a 1-0 lead in the first. Leadoff hitter Diaz-Patterson launched a triple to right-center field and scored on an overthrow to third. They extended that lead to 2-0 when Meeks hit her second home run of the day to left field.
Rhode Island took advantage of shaky UMass defense in the sixth. With two outs, freshman pitcher Tara Klee walked two batters and surrendered a hit to Amy Gleason, which drove in one run. Catcher Ashton Wince couldn’t squeeze the throw home which allowed the tying run to score.
Meeks nearly had her third home run, a walk-off in the bottom of the seventh, but center fielder Danielle Gariglio pulled the ball back into the park.
Neither team scored or really threatened in the eighth or ninth before darkness forced the game to stop.
STRIKE OUT CANCER DAY — If weather cooperates, Wednesday’s 5 p.m. game against Boston University will be “Strike Out Cancer Day.” UMass will wear new pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness to honor former coach Elaine Sortino, who died of the disease last year. BU is coached by Kathryn Gleason, a longtime Sortino assistant.