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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.