Throughout the past two seasons, supporters of the UMass softball program have written letters, created rubber bracelets and attended games in support of longtime head coach Elaine Sortino and her battle with cancer. But associate head coach Kristi Stefanoni took on a personal challenge of participating in a 3-day, 60-mile walk to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Daily Hampshire Gazette writer Matt Vautour (@GazetteUMass) recently spoke with Stefanoni and Sortino about the latest gesture to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
Sure it was a long walk. But still it was just a walk, Kristi Stefanoni reasoned. The University of Massachusetts assistant softball coach was a 29-year-old lifelong athlete in terrific shape. She's run in races before. How tough could a walk be?
Late on day two of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60-mile walk to raise money for breast cancer research, Stefanoni had a new respect for walking as her legs and feet screamed at her.
"The muscles and ligaments were getting pretty sore. People were really starting to suffer. We walked 21 miles on day two," she said. "As in shape as I am, you're body is not meant to walk 20 miles a day for three days in a row."
Every time the pain threatened to get the best of her, she thought of coach Elaine Sortino, her boss, mentor and friend, who is in the middle of her own cancer fight.
"I thought of Elaine and what she goes through every day," Stefanoni said. "That's why I pushed through this walk."
Former Massachusetts softball All-America Sara Plourde has been hired at Lafayette as an assistant coach. The 2012 UMass graduate was named to head coach Jexx Varner's staff on Wednesday. She joins a group of more than a dozen former Minutewomen who played or coached under Elaine Sortino that are now in the college coaching ranks.
Click the link below for the complete announcement from Lafayette...
Former UMass softball all-American Whitney Mollica Goldstein was named the head coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on Wednesday. She spent the past three seasons on the staff at Amherst College, including the 2013 campaign as the Interim Head Coach where she led the Lord Jeffs to a 24-12 record.
Mollica Goldstein was a four-year standout for the Minutewomen from 2006-09, where she was a three-time all-Atlantic 10 selection and the 2006 A-10 Rookie and Player of the Year.
Former UMass All-American softball standout Sara Plourde (@s_pizz10) will be playing her professional softball closer to home this season. After a year playing with the Carolina Diamonds in the National Pro Fastpitch league, the franchise is moving to the New York/New Jersey area. Plourde's contract was picked up by the NY/NJ Comets during the transition, so the UMass grad will be playing softball in the northeast once again.
Paul Angilly of the Bristol Press wrote about the move here in Tuesday's paper.
The National Pro Fastpitch softball league, the highest level of professional competition in the sport in this country, recently announced that a new team, the NY/NJ Comets, will play its home games in New Jersey and New York this season, plus a two game "outreach" series in Pennsylvania.
With softball season underway and games beginning in mid-February, the UMass softball team is hard at work getting ready for another exciting schedule filled with tough competition all year long. But gone from the previous season is All-America pitcher Sara Plourde, meaning the pitching circle will see some new arms in 2013.
One of those is transfer Emma Mendoker. The redshirt freshman sat out last year at East Carolina with a torn biceops tendon and returned to Amherst where she prepped at Amherst Regional HS and will be looked upon to play a big role for the Minutewomen this season.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently sat-in on a pitching session with Mendoker and head coach Elaine Sortino.
It looks like a tedious process -- adjusting her shoulder, tweaking her elbow and wrist movement a little bit to find the optimum pitching motion. But Mendoker, a former star pitcher at Amherst Regional, is enjoying the process.
A year ago, she was a freshman at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., getting ready for her first collegiate season after a standout high school career. But just a few days before the season, she felt a pop in her shoulder that was later diagnosed as a torn biceps tendon. It ended her season.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a touching piece on head softball coach Elaine Sortino's ongoing battle and recovery from cancer. He writes about Sortino's emotions in her returning to her office on a daily basis, working with the Minutewomen pitchers during the fall season and the "army of angels" who helped her over the past six months.
It wasn't just her staff picking up the slack. Her friends, her family and the community helped her with everything from simple tasks like driving, running errands or just passing along a get-well note to the extremely generous. Someone donated a van to drive Sortino to St. Louis for the Atlantic 10 tournament and then to Columbia, Mo. for the NCAA tournament because she wasn't allowed to fly.
"I was blessed with an army of angels. I couldn't ask for more other than not to have this happen," she said. "People would help and do whatever they could to help keep things going for me and my health and the team."
"We are extremely excited to add Danielle to our
coaching staff," said Rittman. "She has a complete understanding of
what it takes to compete and perform at the highest level both as a player and
"I am thrilled for the opportunity to coach at
Stanford," Henderson said. "The Cardinal has been one of the top
programs in the nation for several years and I am excited to join its
A member of the gold medal-winning 2000 U.S. Olympic
softball team in Sydney and 2001 Women's Pro Softball League Gold team,
Henderson brings valuable pitching expertise to The Farm.
Henderson is considered one of the most decorated athletes UMass
has ever produced, rewriting the softball record book in her four seasons on
the mound. A four-time All-Atlantic 10 selection and a four-time A-10
Tournament Most Outstanding player, Henderson finished her career second
all-time on the NCAA's strikeout list with 1,343. A three-time All-American,
she was also the nation's leader in strikeouts per seven innings in both 1998
The Cardinal are coming off a season that saw them go 40-19 overall, 11-13 in the Pac-12 and reach the finals of the NCAA Lafayette Regional.
Amherst College has
announced Whitney Mollica Goldstein has been named as the program's softball
interim head coach following two seasons as an assistant. Mollica Goldstein was
a four-year standout at UMass from 2006-09, where she was a three-time
all-Atlantic 10 selection and the 2006 A-10 Rookie and Player of the Year.
Here is an excerpt
from Amherst's release:
Goldstein played a pivotal role in helping Amherst transform from a 14-16 team
in 2011 to a 36-6 team in 2012, marking the 10th best single-season improvement
in NCAA Division III history. Last year's Amherst squad got off to a 22-0 start
en route to its first playoff berth since 2006, its first NCAA tournament
appearance since 1999, and its first NFCA national ranking since 2000.
"I would like
to thank Athletics Director Suzanne Coffey and the administration for allowing
me this very exciting opportunity," said Mollica Goldstein. "I am very
fortunate to work alongside great people who have made my time at Amherst so
welcoming. I have enjoyed being a part of such a special institution where a
healthy blend of academics and athletics allows us to compete on a national
scale in all aspects."
drastic one-year improvements in virtually every statistical category last
year, including batting average (from .264 in 2011 to .324 in 2012), earned run
average (2.88 to 1.86) and fielding percentage (.945 to .959). Eleven players
from the 2012 team will return next year--including the entire pitching
staff--with four members of the Class of 2016 also ready to join the squad.
about the future of Amherst Softball," Mollica Goldstein said. "With a focus on
strong pitching, timely hitting, and solid defense, I think our 2013 squad will
bring the passion, mentality, and drive for a successful season. Last year
helped ignite the fire we needed to continually push for postseason play."
UMass softball signee Taylor Carbone recently had a four-day stretch of winning championships and collecting awards that not many people can lay claim to... especially when you consider she did it for the second-consecutive season.
The 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher and first baseman at Alvirne HS was named the New Hampshire Gatorade Softball Player of the Year on Wednesday and led the Broncos to Division I state title with a 5-1 win over top-ranked Salem HS on Saturday. She won both awards a year ago as a junior also.
ESPN Boston, NE Gatorade Softball Players of the Year Announced
UMass opens play in the 2012 NCAA Softball Regional today at University Field in Columbia, Mo. against DePaul. The Minutewomen bring a 22-game winning streak into the tourney and are playing away from Amherst for the first time since 2005. Don't forget to tune in to UMassAthletics.com for a live video and audio broadcast of the games this weekend for free. Here are a few previews from newspapers in Massachusetts on the team's preparations.
The Daily Collegian has a preview on today's game at Boston College. UMass will look for a season sweep of the Eagles when they meet up at Shea Field in Chestnut Hill. First pitch is at 4 pm and the game can be heard online at UMassAthletics.com.
After showing signs of inconsistency at the beginning of the season, the Massachusetts softball team appears to be getting hot at the right time.
Plourde has been on top of
her game as of late, posting six shutouts in that stretch to go along with
three no-hitters and a perfect game. Arguably her most significant improvement
is the fact that she has only issued 39 walks, helping minimize her ERA to
of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a piece on freshman softball player Quianna
Diaz-Patterson and her rapid adjustment to the college game.
the field at the UMass Softball Complex after the University of Massachusetts
softball team's 1-0 win over Quinnipiac in the home opener Wednesday, freshman
shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson marveled at how far she's come.
really fun just to be on the field," the former Amherst Regional standout
said. "I used to watch the UMass team play - now I'm on the field with
of the No. 2 spot in the batting order, Diaz-Patterson is second on the team in
hitting at .313 and leads the Minutewomen in home runs (three) and RBIs (20).
Her RBI double in the third inning Wednesday produced the game's only run."You
can't ask for a young kid to do more," Sortino added. "She has a plan and
she finishes her at-bats."
an outstanding career at Amherst Regional with 144 hits and 105 stolen bases,
but she came into the UMass season unsure of how her abilities would translate
to the Division I college level.
Jon Baker of the Pawtucket Times has an article on Kyllie Magill, the starting second baseman on the softball team.
It's hard to believe Kyllie
Magill, the former St. Raphael Academy All-State softball catcher, is now in
her final semester at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. It seems like
only yesterday she had been drilling doubles and blocking the plate for the
Saints, who always were in contention to win the Division I state title.
I'd like to win the A-10 championship, and also win an NCAA (Division I)
Regional (game)," she explained via e-mail Monday. "We have an All-American
pitcher (Plourde) and some great players, so I think we have the tools to do
"We have a shot to go undefeated in the conference with the great team we
have, and that would be cool, too," she continued. "Individually, I just want
to be a great leader, give my team good at-bats and be a strong presence on the
Wednesday was a day of celebration out at the UMass Softball Complex. After a one-day delay, the 2012 home opener went off without a hitch as the Minutewomen defeated Quinnipiac 1-0. Senior pitcher Sara Plourde established herself as the strikeout queen of UMass softball by becoming the school's career strikeout leader, surpassing Danielle Henderson's mark of 1,343 strikeouts. Oh, and SP also tossed her fourth no-hitter of the season in the process. Just a reminder that UMass hosts Dayton this weekend with single games on Friday at 3 pm and Saturday at Noon.
Graham Hays of ESPN.com has his weekly preview of softball around the country and has a couple of UMass mentions. He has Saturday's game at No. 1 Alabama listed in his Games to Watch This Weekend and in his Player of the Year sidebar, mentions UMass senior right-hander Sara Plourde. In saying her stock is rising, he references her strong game against No. 12 Michigan last weekend when she struck out 16 in leading the Minutewomen to a 1-0 victory. He goes on to mention her 16 Ks in his By the Numbers segment.
Alabama has already faced some good mid-major pitching this season, including North Dakota State's Whitney Johnson, Memphis' Carly Hummel and Lipscomb's Whitney Kiihnl, but UMass ace Sara Plourde is as good a power pitcher as they will face all season, in or out of conference.
Stock up: There were some special pitching performances in Cathedral City, but one of the best of the weekend came on the other side of the country in the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Florida. Pitching her second game of the day, Plourde allowed just two hits and struck out 16 in a 1-0 win against Michigan. The senior's overall numbers are still modest for a mid-major award hopeful (4-4, 2.17 ERA), but 83 strikeouts in 51.2 innings will keep her in the debate.
16: Massachusetts senior pitcher Sara Plourde struck out a season-high 16 batters in a 1-0 win against Michigan Friday, making it the first time the Wolverines had been shut out since a May 27, 2010 super regional loss to Tennessee. Plourde showed no letup in her next start, striking out 15 in a no-hitter against Georgia Tech.
Well the Stratford Brakettes softball team is up to its old tricks again, posting a 55-0 record so far this summer with the season winding down to the Women's Major Softball National Championship on Aug. 4-7.
This year's squad features three former Minutewomen, Brandice Balschmiter, Denise Denis, and Carly Normandin, and one current player, two-time All-American Sara Plourde.
The Springfield Republican wrapped up its high school sports coverage for the academic year by naming its 2010-11 Athletes of the Year. Taking the Female Athlete of the Year honor is Amherst Regional High School star and soon-to-be UMass softball player Quianna Diaz-Patterson.
The shortstop and leadoff batter led the Hurricanes softball team to the Massachusetts Division 1 State Finals by batting .559 in her senior season with a .604 on-base percentage, eight homers, and 21 RBIs. She stole 105 bases in her three-year career without being thrown out a single time.
Kacey Schmitt, the Amherst Regional Head Coach had this to say about Diaz-Patterson: "Softball is her passion and it shows in the way she plays. Her athleticism is off the charts and that really stands out. She has quick hands and quick feet, and it's that kind of quickness that really sets her apart from any other player in Western Mass. And as a senior captain, she cared about everybody on the team. We're going to miss her on so many levels, but we look forward to seeing her play at UMass."
It was a matchup of soon-to-be Minutewomen in the Massachusetts Division 1 State Softball Championship on Saturday as Anna Kelley (pictured, far left) and King Philip High School of Wrentham edged out Quianna Diaz-Patterson and Amherst Regional High School, 1-0 at Worcester State's Rockwood Field. The Warrriors, also the alma mater of current UMass player Maggie Quealy, finish the season with a perfect 26-0 record, while the Hurricanes finish 2011 with a 23-2 mark.
The terrific game received lots of media attention. Check out the coverage below, including a pair of features on Kelley.
UMass softball NLI signee Quianna Diaz-Patterson, a hometown product and senior shortstop at Amherst Regional High School led the Hurricanes to a 4-0 victory over West Springfield on Tuesday in the Western Mass. Division 1 semifinals at Elms College.
The speedy left-handed leadoff batter needed just one at-bat to turn the game in Amherst's favor, driving a ball down the right field line and circling the bases, diving into home ahead of the catcher's tag for an inside-the-park home run.
"Her hands are so quick," Hurricanes coach Kacey Schmitt said. "I've been watching a lot of the Women's College World Series. They talk about it a lot, 'this girl's quick hands,' and I watch it thinking that Quianna can do that. There aren't many high school coaches that can say that when they are watching Florida and Alabama, both offensively and defensively.
"She's got the raw talent that is so rare and she's got the smarts. She's played a lot of softball and she's worked very hard to get as good as she is and she's used the talent that she was given."
Amherst (21-1) will face Agawam (18-4) in the Western Mass. Division 1 Championship game at Diaz-Patterson's future home field - the UMass Softball Complex - on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Former UMass softball player Rachel Lawson '94/'98 made lots of headlines this weekend. In her fourth year as head coach at Kentucky, she led the Wildcats to to victory in the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional and into the Super Regional round.
The Wildcats opened play on Friday with an 8-0 win over Notre Dame, before knocking off No. 10 overall seed Michigan on Saturday, 7-6. Lawson's squad then advanced to the Super Regionals, where it will face No. 7 seed California in a best-of-three series, with a 2-1 win over the host Wolverines on Sunday.
Lawson was a two-time All-Conference performer for Elaine Sortino's Minutewomen. During her four-year career, she led UMass to a 142-68 record, four Atlantic 10 regular season titles, three A-10 tournament titles, and the 1992 Women's College World Series.
Amherst High School senior Quianna Diaz-Patterson, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Elaine Sortino's Minutewomen beginning next season, continues to add to her local legend in Western Massachusetts. The shortstop overcame a toe injury last weekend to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over Agawam, running her team's record to 14-1. She was 2-for-4 with a triple in the bottom of the seventh that drove in a run and then scored the game-winning run on a groundball.
It was a historic day at the UMass Softball Complex on Wednesday as junior pitcher Sara Plourde, with a 14-strikeout three-hitter, led UMass to a 3-2 win over Boston University and recorded the 1,000th strikeout of her career. She is just the third pitcher in UMass history to reach the mark, joining Danielle Henderson and Brandice Balschmiter, and the first to do it prior to her senior season.
The UMass softball team concluded a busy six-game week with a doubleheader split at home against Syracuse on Friday and then a twinbill sweep over George Washington on Easter Sunday which included a dramatic come-from-behind eight-inning victory in game two. The Minutewomen continue their 12-game homestand on Wednesday when they host Boston University at 5 p.m. at the UMass Softball Complex. Below are recaps from this weekend's games.
The Minutewomen travelled to Storrs, Conn. on Wednesday and shut out the Huskies, 2-0. Stephanie Mayne hit a two-run home run in the third inning to account for all the scoring, while Sara Plourde pitched her eighth shutout of the season with a three-hitter. Playing in her home state, she struck out 13 batters, including the final three of the game with two runners on base. Below are recaps of the game.
Pete Vasquez of the Daily Collegian has a recap of Friday's softball win at Dayton, 9-1. Sara Plourde struck out 17 in a three-hitter, and Meghan Carta and Stephanie Mayne hit back-to-back home runs, Carta's being her second grand slam of the season. The Minutewomen have won eight in a row.
This week will be a busy one for the softball team. It travels to Storrs on Wednesday to face UConn before returning home for five-straight to close the week. On Thursday, The Minutewomen host Fairfield, on Friday it's a doubleheader against Syracuse, and on Sunday, George Washington comes to the UMass Softball Complex for an Atlantic 10 twinbill.
Steve Levine of the Daily Collegian has a great story on the emergence of Cyndil Matthew as a threat in the UMass softball team's offense. The story focuses on how the sophomore speedster has learned the art of slap-hitting and, as the No. 9 hitter, has got on base for the top of the lineup.
"She's like our second leadoff [hitter]," Assistant Coach Kristi Stefanoni said. "She's someone we can depend on to get on base and use her speed and then have the heart of the order... [come up] to drive Cyndil in."
Matthew has been getting on base with regularity as of late, batting .346 with a .433 on-base percentage and six runs scored in the last 10 games.
Senior Cerie Mosgrove of the women's basketball team and senior Sean Busch of the men's track & field squad have been named the 2011 UMass Winter Scholar-Athletes. The duo will be honored at the UMass Sports Luncheon today, Apr. 6, at Room 1009 of the Campus Center at 12:15 p.m.
Also, the UMass Athletes of the Week will be recognized: Sara Plourde of the softball team, who was also named the National Player of the Week and Katie Ferris of the women's lacrosse squad, who tallied 12 points in two wins for No. 11 UMass.
The UMass softball team opened up their home schedule in style on Wednesday, sweeping a doubleheader from Dartmouth, 1-0 and 6-2. Sara Plourde and Caroline Raymond combined to hold the Big Green hitless through the first 12 innings of play. Check out the coverage of the two wins below.
Michael Wood of the Daily Collegian has a feature on senior first baseman Audrey Boutin. The story focuses on how the Bristol, Conn. native is a key member to the offense in 2011, and after a slow start, has caught fire as of late, batting .417 with nine RBIs in the last seven games.
With Atlantic 10 Conference play just underway and the home opener on the horizon, the Daily Collegian released its annual Baseball/Softball Issue on Wednesday with extensive coverage of both squads. Check out the links below to all of the softball coverage in today's issue.
Paul Angilly of the of Bristol Press in Connecticut has a story on softball pitcher Sara Plourde as she prepares for the 2011 season that begins on Feb. 18 in Boca Raton, Fla. The story points out how Plourde was named to the National Player of the Year Watch List, is fully recovered from a hip injury suffered at the end of last season, and will be joined by two freshmen additions to the pitching staff. Angilly also points out that fellow Bristol native Audrey Boutin goes into her senior season as a leading candidate to help lead the Minutewomen's offensive attack.
In recognition of its 35th-year anniversary, the Atlantic 10 Conference is unveiling 35 Years of A-10 History. Major accomplishments and features were collected from each year, and in the conference's No. 4 Highlight, the impact of the 1972 enactment of Title IX and the contributions of women's athletics to the Atlantic 10 is the focus.
Featured in the No. 4 Highlight is the incredible success experienced by the UMass softball program over the last 31 years under the guidance of head coach Elaine Sortino.
"Under Sortino's direction, UMass has accumulated 22 Atlantic 10 Conference titles and has never suffered a losing season. Sortino has proven her ability to produce exceptional talent during her 31-years at the helm, coaching 27 All-Americans, 13 A-10 Players of the Year, 16 A-10 Pitcher of the Year picks, eight A-10 Rookie of the Year honorees and 116 all-conference selections."
Bill Bloxsom of the Stratford Star has a story on UMass softball player and Stratford native Christine Della Vecchia. The middle infielder is coming off her freshmen season for the Minutewomen and rebounded from knee and hand injuries to play for the Stratford Brakettes. She gives the UMass athletic training staff (led by softball athletic trainer Mike Welch) credit for getting her back on the field so fast after her knee surgery this spring. Della Vecchia will be looking to use her Brakettes experience to become an even bigger contributor for UMass this coming season.
Kim Burke, an assistant coach at UMass from 2001-03, has been announced as the new softball head coach at Ohio Northern University. The Ada Herald has a story on the hiring. UMass was 92-29 in her three seasons as an assistant under Elaine Sortino, including a Northeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year award in 2003. Burke was most recently an assistant at Kent State before being hired to lead the Polar Bears.
Led by several UMass players and alums, the Stratford Brakettes won the Women's Major Softball National Championship on Sunday by defeating the St. Louis Saints, 4-1. Jessica Serio had three hits and a RBI, Denise Denis collected two doubles, Christine Della Vecchia scored a run, and Carly Normandin made several key defensive plays in center field. The American Chronicle and The Stamford Advocate have coverage.
Also, The Stamford Advocate also has a story on the Brakettes, who have had financial difficulties as of late, have announced that the team will play in 2011.
Three UMass softball players are making strong contributions at the plate for the New England Firebirds U23 summer ball team. The Eagle Tribune has coverage on junior Katie Bettencourt, junior Stephanie Mayne, and incoming freshman Candace Waldie helping lead the Firebirds to winning the Umpires Open in Leominster last weekend, going 6-0 in the 12-team tourney.
The Boston Globe has a softball story that, though centering on Cassidy Clayton, mentions other players from the Concord Raiders AAU softball team that will be playing at Division I schools. The story mentions UMass incoming freshman Paige Hansen. The 5-10 pitcher/outfielder from Concord, N.H. was the state's 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year. She is part of head coach Elaine Sortino's incoming class of seven.
The injury Sara Plourde received during the UMass run in Division I post-season
play in May, a stress fracture of the hip, has taken her off the playing
field this summer. She's been advised by her doctor to use crutches and
to keep weight off her leg. She'll get an X-ray on Monday to see how
she's doing. The Bristol Press has an update. "I'll definitely be back for next season," she said, "without a doubt."