Softball Wins 14th Straight A-10 Regular Season Title
May 1, 2004
AMHERST, Mass. - Behind a pair of wins by junior pitcher Kelli Arnold (Kalama, Wash.), the University of Massachusetts softball team (28-13, 11-1 A-10) swept a doubleheader from Fordham (32-21-1, 7-5), 1-0 and 14-6 in five innings, this afternoon at the UMass Complex. The Minutewomen, who have now won 69 straight games at home, clinched their 14th straight Atlantic 10 regular season title and will host the conference championship, May 13-15.
Game one, which was televised live by the College Sports Television Network, was a pitchers duel between Arnold and Fordham's Sarah Kinney. Massachusetts scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman Amanda Morin (Worcester, Mass.) led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed into scoring position by sophomore Kristi Stefanoni (Columbus, N.J.). After the second out was recorded, juniors Hilary Puglia (Stoneham, Mass.) and Denise Denis (Middle Grove, N.Y.) walked to load the bases. Sophomore Katie Jo Kelley (Rainier, Ore.) then worked a full count and eventually drew a walk to bring in the only run of the game.
On the mound, Arnold was near perfect. Jamie Giguere led off the second inning with a sharp single to left field. That turned out to be the only base runner of the game for the Rams. Arnold retired the next 18 batters in a row to improve to 15-5 with her fourth shutout of the season. She struck out four batters. On the other side, Kinney gave up four walks and three hits while striking out five.
Game two was the exact opposite as the two teams combined for 20 runs, 17 hits and four errors. UMass scored a run in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly by Kelley to take a brief 1-0 lead, but the Rams came right back for three runs in the second for a 3-1 lead. The Minutewomen responded with four runs in the bottom of the second to take a 5-3 lead. After back-to-back singles by junior Pam Sulick (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and KC Budrewicz (Buckland, Mass.) and a sacrifice bunt by Morin, the Minutewomen had runners at second and third with one out. Stefanoni was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and two batters later, Puglia walked to drive home one run. Denis then came in as a pinch hitter and delivered her fifth clutch hit in the last two weeks. She sent a ball into right-center field gap which cleared the bases. Although Denis was thrown out going for a triple, her double game UMass a 5-3 lead.
The Rams came right back with three runs in the top of the third to take a 6-5 lead and knock sophomore pitcher Jenna Busa (Lexington, Mass.) out of the game. The Minutewomen came right back with three runs in the bottom of the third to take a 8-6 lead and this time, they did not let it go. Kelley led off with a walk and pinch runner Nicole Wilson (Gaithersburg, Md.) was sacrificed to second by senior Jamie Cahalan (Mesa, Ariz.). Sulick followed with a RBI double and after a single by Budrewicz, Morin drove Sulick home with an infield single. Stefanoni added a RBI single in the inning as well.
After a scoreless fourth inning on both sides, the Minutewomen ended the game with six runs in the bottom of the fifth. Morin and Stefanoni both reached on errors and then an infield single by senior Aisha Franke (Philadelphia, Pa.) loaded the bases. Puglia and freshman Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) then followed with RBI singles to drive in a run apiece. After Kelley struck out, Cahalan had a RBI single to left. A sacrifice fly by Sulick also scored a run and then RBI singles by Budrewicz and Morin ended the game.
In 2.2 innings of relief in game two, Arnold allowed just one hit and one unearned run. She walked one and struck out one to notch her 16th win of the season. Fordham used three pitchers and they gave up 14 Massachusetts hits.
The Minutewomen have now won 69 straight home games which is the longest streak in the nation. They also clinched their 14th straight A-10 regular season title today. They also will play host to the A-10 Championship for the second consecutive season. Dayton was supposed to host, but have been eliminated from play-off contention. The conference rules state that if the host school fails to qualify, then the highest seed is awarded the championship.
Although conference play has concluded for UMass, it does have five games left in the regular season. The Minutewomen will host Quinnipiac for a doubleheader tomorrow. First-pitch of game one from the UMass Softball Complex is slated for 12:00 p.m.