GazetteNetMobile

UMass softball sets sights on Atlantic 10 tournament championship

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
(Published in print: Wednesday, May 7, 2014)

Lindsey Webster said the University of Massachusetts was glad to be back in the Atlantic 10 tournament, but the senior outfielder said the Minutewomen won’t be happy unless they’re holding up the championship trophy Saturday.

“We’re not going to just settle for making it,” said Webster, who earned second-team all-Atlantic 10 honors Tuesday. “We’re not just participants. We’re on a mission and we’re going to win.”

Fourth-seeded UMass (15-20-1, 8-6-1 A-10) will play No. 5 Dayton (25-27, 9-9), Wednesday at noon at Bahoshy Field in Bronx, New York, in the first game of the double-elimination event. The winner will face top-seed Fordham (33-18, 13-3), Thursday at noon. The loser will return to the field Wednesday at 5 p.m. against the loser of No. 3 Saint Joseph’s (20-18, 10-6) and No. 6 La Salle (18-22, 9-9).

The Minutewomen swept Dayton, 9-4 and 5-2, in an April 5th doubleheader in Amherst.

UMass opened the season 3-14, but bounced back to go 12-6-1 down the stretch.

Minutewomen coach Kristi Stefanoni was proud of their development.

“I told them if we’re hitting our peak in February we have a problem,” she said. “To watch a lot of these kids grow, even the senior class, reinvent themselves and get better has been really cool to watch.”

Webster, who hit .303 with five home runs and 24 RBIs this season, agreed.

“I think we gained some momentum and came into our own as an offense. We realized our strengths and rolled with it,” she said. “We realized we’re a great team and we just needed a little bit of confidence to get the ball rolling.”

DIAZ-PATTERSON A CATALYST — If the Minutewomen are going to make good on Webster’s tournament championship prediction, they’ll likely need junior shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson getting on base and scoring runs.

The leadoff batter, who starred at Amherst Regional High School, has a team-high 32 runs scored, nine more than anyone else. Of those runs, 20 came in wins as the Minutewomen only won three times this season when Diaz-Patterson didn’t cross the plate.

“She’s been an absolute rock for us,” Stefanoni said last week. “She’s been steady for us and really key. She really sets the tone for us.”

Diaz-Patterson has felt confident at the plate down the stretch.

“I feel like I’m in a pretty good groove. I feel pretty confident. I’m just playing my game,” said Diaz-Patterson, who hit .347 and led the team with eight stolen bases. “My goal is to try to hit gaps or hit it on the ground and run it out. Anyway to get on base.”

COZZA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR — UMass freshman infielder Jena Cozza was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. She hit a team-high .356 with four home runs and 20 RBIs.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage