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UMass field hockey pulls off thrilling overtime victory against Northeastern -

Thursday, September 3, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Kicking competition between Blake Lucas, Mike Caggiano nearing decision -

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Adam Liccardi found guilty in UMass rape trial -

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Jackson Porter adapting well following switch to wide receiver -

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Minutemen look for Robert Kitching to anchor defensive line -

Monday, August 31, 2015

Closing arguments delivered in Adam Liccardi rape trial -

Monday, August 31, 2015

Early goals sink UMass men’s soccer in loss to Saint Peter’s -

Monday, August 31, 2015

UMass field hockey splits weekend matches with UNH and BU -

Sunday, August 30, 2015

UMass women’s soccer struck by injuries, struggles offensively as it falls to No. 24 Rutgers -

Sunday, August 30, 2015

UMass men’s soccer drops season opener to Utah Valley in overtime -

Friday, August 28, 2015

UMass football notebook: Jackson Porter moves to WR, UMass schedules 2016 game with South Carolina -

Friday, August 28, 2015

Former UMass student who accused four men of rape in 2012 testifies during trial Friday -

Friday, August 28, 2015

REPORT: UMass football’s Da’Sean Downey faces two assault charges in connection with February fight -

Thursday, August 27, 2015

UMass football Media Day: Catching up with Joe Colton -

Thursday, August 27, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Creating turnovers, forcing mistakes the focus for linebacking corps -

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jurors hear police interview, read text messages by defendants in third UMass rape trial -

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

‘Living at UMass’ app aims to make move-in weekend a breeze -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass rape trial halts abruptly, opening statements delivered Tuesday -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Jamal Wilson returns from injury with confidence he is ‘main guy’ at running back -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Freshmen Sekai Lindsay, Andy Isabella impressing at running back -

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rebuilding part of process for UMass softball team

Replacing seniors in any college sport can be difficult when they play important roles on the team. It’s especially difficult when one of them was considered to be among the best in the nation.

The Massachusetts softball team looks to continue its success as one of the best teams in the country, despite losing the team’s best pitcher in Brandice Balschmiter, along with three other starters.

However, UMass coach Elaine Sortino feels confident that the players who didn’t play much last year will fill in the holes left by the graduated seniors and continue making the No. 20 Minutewomen good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. Here is a look at the 2010 roster.

Infielders

Freshmen: Teea Rogers, Christine Della Vecchia, Tawny Palmieri

Sophomores: Kyllie Magill, Stephanie Mayne

Juniors: Audrey Boutin, Meghan Carta

Seniors: Sarah Reeves, Jessica Serio, Whitney Williams

Sortino hasn’t quite figured out how she’s going to use all her freshmen, but they all have the ability to play multiple positions and are good enough to contribute immediately. She believes the addition of Rogers and the appearance of Palmieri will make the infield defense even better than last year’s.

Palmieri came to UMass last season, but ended up redshirting because of the team’s depth. However, with the loss of Whitney Mollica at third base, Palmieri should get plenty of chances to prove herself on the field.

The look of the infield is very familiar, with three returning All-Conference players in Magill, Reeves and Williams.

Williams and Magill should pose match-up problems as lefty hitters once again with their batting averages and experience. Magill (.316) has the infield’s highest returning batting average as a sophomore and had a crucial role in bringing in runs, with 31 runs batted in during the 2009 season.

The biggest difference for the Minutewomen will be in strategy. Rather than focusing on beating teams with their power, Sortino hopes to use more of a small ball approach and use her team’s speed to bring runners along.

“I think our team overall has more speed and probably will show more small stealing, slapping stuff because of our personnel this year,” Sortino said. “I think we’ll have more of a unilateral attack.”

She will most likely rely on Magill, who was successful on the base-paths with 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Williams also provides another reliable hitting option at shortstop with her .304 batting average and team-high .454 on-base percentage. She is considered one of UMass’ most patient hitters, as she drew 28 walks last season.

Outfielders

Freshmen: Cyndil Matthew

Sophomores: Katie Bettencourt, Stephanie Mix, Jordan Storro

Seniors: Jill Andrews, Carly Normandin, Michelle Libby

UMass may not be hitting pitches over the wall as much as last year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be competitive.

The Minutewomen lost their top power hitter in Samantha Salato (.287, 19 home runs), but this year, the outfield will be under the leadership of Normandin. The senior made the Player of the Year watch list after finishing 2009 with a .403 average, 10 home runs, 37 RBIs and 21 stolen bases, as well as winning the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award.

Sortino will be looking for Normandin, as well as Libby, to lead the young outfield. Libby saw significant time in 2009 as the designated player for UMass as well a s a few games at third base in place of Mollica, but will likely be the starting left fielder in 2010.

Libby was reliable last season hitting .312 and will help replace some of Salato’s power this year. Last season the senior hit nine doubles and three home runs while driving in 18 runs.

Sortino believes all three of her sophomores will do well this season despite having little playing experience. She said the reason for their lack of playing time didn’t have as much to do with their skill as much as it was the fact that Salato and Davina Hernandez were so valuable.

“There have been freshmen that nobody has seen out there yet because the other [players] were so good and so experienced,” Sortino said.

This year, Matthew, the team’s only addition in the outfield should see plenty of playing time because of her speed. So far, Sortino has been so impressed with her speed, that she calls her the fastest player on her team since former Second Team All-American Candice Molinari played for the Minutewomen.

The centerfielder finished with 98 career stolen bases in 113 attempts.

If Matthew is even close to fulfilling that comparison, she will at least give opposing pitchers something to worry about, other than an offense that can still drive in runs.

Pitchers

Sophomores: Sara Plourde

Seniors: Bailey Sanders

Balschmiter might not be on the mound this year, but Sortino believes the two players who were behind the Second Team All-American have almost as much talent.

Although Plourde (6-1, 1.83 earned run average) did better than Sanders (1-3, 3.08 earned run average) in 2009, she isn’t necessarily going to be the team’s No. 1 pitcher.

“I feel like they’re both A/B, B/A,” Sortino said. “I don’t know that you can make that kind of prediction. It’s too soon and too close to call.”

Sanders doesn’t have the same power that Plourde has, but has the experience and ability to defend her position. She also has more of a presence on the mound with a 6-foot-2 frame.

Before Plourde came into the mix, Sanders made at least 20 appearances in her freshman and sophomore years with a combined 21-9 record and 151 strikeouts.

However, Plourde was quite effective herself in her first year at UMass.

She made the A-10 All-Rookie Team and threw five complete games with two shutouts, including a one-hitter against Saint Joseph’s on April 10. In the second start of Plourde’s career, she threw a no-hitter March 22 against Dayton.

Regardless of who gets more of the starts, Sortino feels her team’s pitching will continue to be one of UMass’ strengths in 2010.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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