April 19, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

VIDEO: UMass United Ralley in support of Derrick Gordon, LGBTQ community -

Friday, April 18, 2014

John Ashcroft faces criticism during speech -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Student rally in support of Gordon, LGBTQ community -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thousands gather in Amherst Commons for 23rd Annual Extravaganja -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sexual violence is not ‘normal’ -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

One year after Boston Marathon bombings, UMass doctor Pierre Rouzier continues passion to help -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo Slideshow: UMass United Rally -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Get Yourself Tested at UMass -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass football continues move in new direction in annual Spring Game -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Library labyrinth targets stress -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

There is nothing to debate about global warming -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass hits the road to take on LaSalle -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No. 11 UMass women’s lacrosse looks to extend winning streak against Richmond -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive latest McCormack Executive-in-Residence -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Got a little Irish in you? -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass doctoral student awarded Soros Fellowship -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass Dressage Team discusses the lesser-known sport -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Canelas: Things worth watching in Spring Game 2014 -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

‘The Walking Dead’ finale resurrects a dull season -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five places to study at UMass -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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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