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December 11, 2017

Kaitlyn Stavinoha’s breakout season key to UMass softball’s offensive success

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

It’s not uncommon for young players to make improvements between freshman and sophomore year, but sophomore Kaitlyn Stavinoha has done more than improve for the Massachusetts softball team. She’s made the jump from a promising young shortstop to one of the best players in the Atlantic 10.

Affectionately known as “Flick” to her teammates, Stavinoha has gone from hitting .215 as a freshman with a handful of RBIs to tearing the cover off the ball this season, currently hitting .366 with 26 RBIs in 32 games.

“I have been extremely impressed with how Flick has made the jump,” says UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “I think it’s been a lot about her mentality and her maturity as a player. You know, you go into freshman year not knowing what to expect and you have these grand expectations, and sometimes if you don’t make them you just fall off a little bit. But she’s made a huge jump for her sophomore year.”

Stavinoha spent most of her freshman year near the bottom of the lineup card, but has risen this season to secure a place firmly in the heart of the UMass (15-17, 4-2 A-10) lineup, as she should, her .366 batting average is good for sixth in the conference, and she’s accounted for almost one-third of the team’s RBIs this season.

“A lot of it has just been mentality,” Stefanoni said. “A lot of it has also been that her mechanics have changed a little bit, which has been really good for her, but to have that extra hitter in the lineup now, she went from being in the eight or nine spot to being in the two or three spot, that’s been really huge for us.”

That sort of a jump would be a surprise to most, but Stavinoha’s confidence in her swing has never wavered.

“I don’t know if it’s bad to say [I’m not surprised], but not really,” she said. “Last year I feel like I underperformed, so I don’t think that I’m necessarily overperforming this year. I have high expectations for myself, so I hope it’s not bad to say that no, I’m not really surprised, because that’s what I expected of myself in the first place.”

That confidence has clearly paid off. Along with the 151-point jump in her batting average, Stavinoha’s on-base percentage has jumped from .237 last season to .402 this year, and her slugging percentage went from .262 to .465. Already with more walks at this point in the season than she had during the entire 2016 season, Stavinoha is seeing the ball extremely well, and her rise is everything a coach could ever hope for.

However, Stefanoni isn’t surprised either.

“I always knew that Flick had that in her, it was just a matter of her just kinda cutting loose and letting it go,” Stefanoni said.

For Stavinoha, it was really just an issue of getting her head in the right place.

“I think it’s more mental than anything,” she said. “There’s just a different confidence factor this year that I have that I didn’t have last year. I guess just having a year under my belt and knowing my way around the conference, it’s just a little different from a mental standpoint.”

Stavinoha will look to continue her breakout season as the Minutewomen head to Rhode Island for a doubleheader Wednesday, before hosting one of their most important series of the season this weekend against conference leaders Fordham.

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu.

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