Cullington Nears Home-Run Mark For UMass Softball Squad

Junior second baseman Stacy Cullington

Junior second baseman Stacy Cullington

May 1, 2007

Cullington Nears Home-Run Mark For UMass Softball Squad

by Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette

AMHERST - Stacy Cullington isn't trying to hit home runs. She's not trying to break any records. The University of Massachusetts junior second baseman is just trying to hit the ball hard.

"If you try to hit a home run, it will almost never happen," she said. "In my mind I'm just trying to hit line drives."

Still a lot of those line drives are clearing fences. Cullington who had 12 home runs in her first two seasons combined, hit her 13th and 14th of the season in the second game of the Minutewomen's doubleheader against George Washington Sunday.

That tied her with UMass assistant coach KJ Kelley, who set the UMass single-season mark with 14 home runs in 2005. Cullington, who was named Atlantic 10 player of the week, will get a chance to break it today when the Minutewomen (29-12-1, 14-0 A-10) host Boston College at 5 p.m. at the UMass Softball Complex.

Kelley is rooting for her mark to fall.

"Records are meant to be broken," Kelley said. "It's great to see. It's fun being there, helping her and coaching her."

Kelley was among the first to congratulate Cullington when she crossed the plate Sunday.

"She said 'You better break my record. I'll be mad at you if you don't,'" Cullington said. "Sunday she gave me a big hug. She said, 'This one doesn't matter. It's the next one that counts.'"

Cullington is trying to take the approach that none of them matter, but she's not getting much help.

"I try not to talk about the record. I don't want it in my mind at all," she said. "We'll be in middle of the game and the girls will say, 'Are you going to be excited to break it?' "

While Cullington is trying not to focus on the historic nature of her season, she's enjoying just playing well. She has been a good hitter in stretches before, but not as consistently as this season. She hit .311 as a freshman with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. Cullington tailed off last year as her average (.248) and power numbers (five HRs, 24 RBIs) dropped.

"I did a lot of work in the off-season. It's great. It's definitely better than my freshman and sophomore year," said Cullington, who plans to continue her improvement. "I think I can take where I am and double it. I can be a player that makes zero errors in the field. I could be mentally so much better than I am.

"I want to get as much as I can from this year," she added. "I'm going to come back early this summer and train. Seeing how far I've come this year gives me a lot of hope for next year as well. I know how good I want to be."

How good she is now is pretty impressive. Cullington started the season hitting seventh in the UMass lineup, but her strong hitting forced UMass coach Elaine Sortino to move her to third, where she continued to thrive.

Temple respected her enough to walk her in six of the eight plate appearances she had in the team's two-game series April 20 and 21. The other two times she homered.

Cullington's first step toward the record came in the fourth inning of the fourth game when she took San Diego State pitcher Christina Ross out to left field. But most of her power surge has been recent. Ten of her 14 home runs have come since March 31 and six have come in her last 18 at bats.

She leads the A-10 in home runs as well as RBIs (47).

"She finally got comfortable technically," Sortino said. "Right now she's got a great swing and she's got a plan at the plate. She knows good pitches from marginal pitches. She's a tough two-out hitter."

Sortino has been Cullington's lone ally in the quest to ignore the record.

"I said to her if you break this record, the two people that are going to remember this 10 years from now are you and your mother," she said. "What people are going to remember is what kind of season we had."

Cullington agrees.

"Everything is falling into place. I hope we just take this momentum and go with it. I think we're as good as we want to be," said Cullington who wants to chase a different piece of history. "I'm not worried about the record, I want to go to the (Women's College) World Series."

Matt Vautour can be reached at For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to




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