Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Minutewomen poised to return to A-10 glory

As the air warms and the sun shines a little brighter every day, it seems that spring has finally arrived, and with it comes the promise of home runs, strikeouts, and everything else that is the game of softball.

For the Massachusetts softball team, spring could not have come soon enough.

The Minutewomen (13-10, 2-0 Atlantic 10) have high expectations, and with all but two members of their starting lineup returning from last season, they can head into the season with a sense of familiarity.

Last season, UMass compiled an impressive 29-19 record in which they went 14-3 at home and 14-5 in the A-10, despite going 5-13 in neutral games.

Junior outfielder Cyndil Matthew started all 48 games for the Minutewomen and led the team in batting with a .324 average, while sophomore outfielder Lindsey Webster led the team in homers (eight), slugging percentage (.577) and on-base percentage (.392).

Also impressive for UMass last season was senior pitcher Sara Plourde. Plourde went 27-15 in 44 appearances and earned a remarkable 1.30 earned run average in 38 complete games, in addition to 13 shutouts.

Plourde also earned several awards last year for her impressive season, including A-10 Pitcher of the Year and selections to the A-10 All-Conference First Team and the Easton All-American Second Team. Plourde also led the nation in strikeouts for the second consecutive year with 498.

Overall, the Minutewomen bested their opponents with superior fielding (.962 percent compared to .956 percent), runs scored (183 to 111), batting average (.238 to .155) and ERA (1.57 to 2.91). With the combined star power and overall effectiveness in nearly every category as a team, UMass had a powerhouse collection of talent that put it amongst the elite of the A-10.

Now, with home play just about to begin, the team already appears to be right on track to success.

The Minutewomen have amassed a 10-8 record in neutral contests and are currently undefeated within the A-10. As can be expected, UMass’ offense has really begun to click on all cylinders.

Matthew is off to a hot start, as she boasts a .408 average with 22 runs scored, 29 hits and a .481 on-base percentage, all of which lead the team. Freshman shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson has also put up impressive numbers, especially considering that this is her first season of collegiate play. Diaz-Patterson has started all 23 games and is hitting .312 with 24 hits, but has really stood out offensively for her power hitting. Diaz-Patterson leads the team with three homers and 19 runs batted in, while also sporting a towering .545 slugging percentage.

Pitching has also proved to be one of the Minutewomen’s strongest traits this season. Plourde has a 12-8 record in 21 appearances (19 starts), from which she has earned a 2.77 ERA and 17 complete games (four shutouts) in 124 innings pitched. Even more impressive, however, is her 216 strikeouts, a total made more significant by the fact that she is now only seven strikeouts away from breaking the UMass career strikeout record.

As the Minutewomen prepare to open their home schedule on Tuesday, they return to Amherst with an explosive offense, a shutdown pitching staff and an all-around solid fielding defense that already shows signs of poise and effectiveness.

The squad seems to operate with a strong sense of familiarity and trust, and when added to a healthy combination of veteran leadership and young talent, UMass is again making a serious case as one of the top teams in the A-10, and certainly one of the better teams in the country.

David Martin can be reached at dmmartin@student.umass.edu.

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