#35 Massachusetts Softball Preview

Massachusetts Minutewomen

Overall Rank: #35
Conference Rank: #1 A-10
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Head Coach Elaine Sortino comes off a 2012 season where she led her team to their 23rd Atlantic-10 Championship and 21st NCAA Regional appearance under her watch.  UMass returns five starters and 13 letter winners, but will certainly miss their All-American pitcher and one of their best hitters, Sara Plourde, who graduated.  

2012: 38-13, 19-0
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Elaine Sortino, 33rd Season

Field Players:
Senior outfielder Cyndil Matthew hit .409 and stole 36 bases in 2102.  She set career-highs in every offensive category.  Matthew was named Easton Second Team All-America, First Team All-Atlantic 10, First Team NFCA All-Northeast Region and to the A-10 All-Tournament Team.  She led the A-10 and ranked 37th nationally with her .409 batting average.  The speedy senior was 7th nationally with a school record 36 steals.  The UMass outfielder led the conference in batting average, on-base percentage, (.476), runs (52), hits (67), triples (6) and steals and she reached base in 49 of 51 games as the team's leadoff hitter.  Quianna Diaz-Patterson, a sophomore, SS, was the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-Conference.  She started all 51 games at shortstop and led the team with 14 doubles and 41 RBI, while hitting .327 with three triples and four home runs. Patterson was second in the conference with a .435 average while leading the league in hits, with 27.  Junior Tiffany Meeks, an IF and DP, was second on the team with six home runs and fifth with 13 walks.  Katie Bettencourt, a redshirt senior OF, was a Second Team All-Atlantic 10 selection after she returned from a season-ending injury in 2011 to start all 51 games in right field in 2012.  She hit .293 with eight doubles, five home runs and 25 RBI.

The UMass pitching staff is young and inexperienced.  Plourde handled all but 31 of the team’s 340 innings in 2012 and 25.2 of those 31 were thrown by sophomore Bridget Lemire who made just seven appearances, four of them starts.  In that limited action she posted a 1-2 record and 7.09 ERA, striking out 11, walking 12.  Junior Caroline Raymond will rejoin the bullpen, coming off an injury that kept her out of action in 2012.  The 6’0” two-time Pennsylvania All-state selection saw limited action behind Plourde as a freshman in 2011.

Who to Watch:
Emma Mendoker is redshirt freshman pitcher who should help bolster the bullpen.  The 5’8” right hander was ESPN RISE 2010-11 Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Player-of-the-Year after posting a 23-2 record, 0.17 earned run average and 300 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .119 batting average.  Freshman Taylor Carbone, 5’10” pitcher and utility player, can pitch, play infield and outfield as well as hit for average.  The 5’10” P/UT player was the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year.  Freshman Whitney Cooper joins the club.  The Arizona All-State middle infielder is a right handed power hitting second baseman with good range on defense.

Final Projection:
UMass’ 2013 outcome will be, in large part, dictated by the ability of the young pitchers to deliver results in the circle.  Filling Plourde’s dominant shoes is unlikely, but if Coach Sortino can get solid play from her bullpen, the Minutewomen will have an excellent chance to repeat as A-10 Champs.  Matthew, Diaz-Patterson, Meeks and Bettencourt should continue to produce at the plate.  The addition of Cooper’s and Carbone’s bats will give UMass the punch it needs to support its young hurlers so the team can capture their 24th league title and reach the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd time.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Quianna Diaz-Patterson, SS, 171
Hits: Cyndil Matthew, OF, 67
Home Runs: Tiffany Meeks, IF, 6
RBIs: Quianna Diaz-Patterson, SS, 41
Runs: Cyndil Matthew, OF, 52
Stolen Bases: Cyndil Matthew, OF, 36

Wins: Lindsey Webster, P, 1; Bridget Lemire, P, 1
Innings Pitched: Bridget Lemire, P, 25.2
Strikeouts: Bridget Lemire, P, 11
Saves: None


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