By: David Souza
After having their double-header with the University of Massachusetts postponed on Tuesday, the Boston University softball team will now travel to Amherst, Mass. to complete their two-game series with the Minutemen.
BU (8-18, 0-3 PL) is desperately searching for a win after dropping their sixth straight contest over the weekend. And despite a subpar record for UMass (8-14), the Minutemen will present a challenge for the visiting Terriers.
UMass has won five straight contests, including a 6-1 win over Lehigh – a member of the Patriot League – out in Stockton, Calif. Lehigh swept the Terriers this last weekend in Bethlehem, Penn. In three wins over BU, the Mountain Hawks outscored the Terriers 30-10.
The only other common opponent these two squads share is the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Earlier this season, in the Medeira Beach Tournament, the Terriers narrowly lost to Oakland after Kali Magane gave up a fourth-inning homerun in the 1-0 loss. Two days after that win over BU, Oakland squared off with UMass, defeating the Minutemen 2-1.
Only four players have played in all 22 games for UMass this season; all four also started in each contest. The quad also has been the driving force for the Minutemen offense this season, as they occupy the top four spots in the team’s highest batting averages. Spearheading the group is sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Stavinoha, who has put together a team-best .348 average at the dish.
Against the pair of common opponents, Stavinoha has gone 3-for-8 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. The Texan has also struck out just once in the eight plate appearances. In her last three starts, Stavinoha has three hits, two RBIs, and a pair of runs scored.
Behind Stavinoha, but still leading the offensive charge for UMass have been fellow underclassmen Erin Stacevicz, and Kaycee Carbone – both sophomores – as well as freshman Candice Denis. Stacevicz is the only other member of the Minutemen to hit over .300, with her average coming in just ahead of the mark, at .308.
Denis has also been lethal on the bump for UMass. The first-year right-hander from Malakoff, Texas has started 10 games for the Minutemen, crafting a 4-5 record. And while her record reflects a subpar season, her other statistics show she’s had anything but.
The five-foot nine hurler currently is the owner of a 1.45 earned run average – by far the lowest on either staff – and leads her team with 62 strikeouts. Denis has also pitched two shutouts and nine complete games in her double-digit starts.
Denis will face the task of shutting down a BU lineup that features two heavy-hitting seniors. Moriah Connolly and Gabi Martinez have been bright spots on a BU offense that has managed 182 hits in 701 at-bats. Both sluggers are averaging north of .300 – Connolly leads the team at .369 while Martinez follows up with .304.
Martinez is the RBI specialist, as she’s driven in a team-best 17 on the season. Sophomore catcher Alex Heinen is nipping at Martinez’s heels with 16.
Connolly is usually the beneficiary of Martinez’s run-scoring base knocks. The senior, listed as an outfielder despite playing shortstop in last week’s home opener against Bryant, has accounted for 26 of BU’s 89 runs – the most on the Terriers. Connolly’s 31 hits and 23 stolen bases also pace the team. No other Terrier has swiped more than two bases this season while Connolly has been caught just three times on 26 attempts.
The mound has been an area of concern for the Terriers, who have failed throughout the season to escape troublesome innings and have had issues limiting damage. Because of that inability, the numbers for BU’s staff are inflated.
Headlining the starting rotation has been freshman Kali Magane, who has put together a 4-7 record in 11 starts to go along with her 4.56 ERA. However, Magane’s numbers took a significant blow this past weekend after twice allowing nine earned runs in back-to-back games with Lehigh.
Before that stumble, Magane was coming off of a solid performance in the home opener, where she pitched seven full innings of work, allowing just two runs on a pair of hits. Magane has also twirled four complete games, shutout one opponent, and has recorded a save.
The Terriers will have to play their best softball to beat a streaking UMass team that has won five straight and scored 27 runs during the win streak. If BU is to finally break their long stretch of winless play, they’ll have to bear down and grind one or both games out on the road against the Minutemen. First pitch for the opening contest is set for 2 p.m., while the back half will get underway at 4 p.m. in Amherst.