Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Breaking down UMass softball

Brian Tedder/Collegian

Perhaps it’s too much to be ranked No. 24 in the nation by the Softball Preseason Poll, to have one of the nation’s elite pitchers in Brandice Balschmiter being counted on to make the competition look bemused and also picked to win the Atlantic 10.

It would be for any normal squad, but not the Massachusetts softball team.

Heading into the season, the Minutewomen have 14 players that have game experience returning to the roster. UMass boasts a very deep team this year with six freshman, two sophomores, seven juniors and five seniors. Coach Elaine Sortino expects a lot of her team, which is nothing new. But this year she is looking for the freshmen to have more of an impact.

The Minutewomen have many leaders within the team and Sortino knows that will play a big role in the team’s success this season.

‘We have great leadership,’ Sortino said. ‘You need to have great leadership to have a great team. We return a team that is primarily juniors and seniors in starting positions.

‘They’ve been [to the NCAA Tournament]. They’ve felt the pain of coming so close and not advancing.’


Without a doubt one of the most important aspects of the Minutewomen is Balschmiter. For three years, the senior has dominated her position, which stands about 43 feet away from her lone concentration in the game: the batter.

Last year, Balschmiter finished with a 31-8 record and a miniscule 0.66 earned run average. She threw 33 complete games, 18 of which were shutouts. This year, Balschmiter, who was recently added to the USA Today Preseason Player of the Year Watch List, looks to return to the mound to continue to baffle the competition.

Besides Balschmiter, the Minutewomen have another solid pitcher in Bailey Sanders. The junior went 11-5 last year with an impressive 1.50 ERA while holding opponents batting average to .178.

Sara Plourde, a freshman at UMass, will be expected to use her tools in her first season as a Minutewoman.

‘She can throw the ball in the mid ’60’s, she’s got movement, she’s a great hitter and she’s a fine athlete,’ Sortino said. ‘But she’s never pitched in college. She’s going to have to learn how to distribute her pitches better ‘- that’s a journey for freshmen to make anyway.’


Calling the pitches from behind the plate will again be Jessica Serio. The junior led the Minutewomen with a .365 batting average and 18 multi-hit games. Serio picked off nine batters last season and started all 55 games behind the plate for UMass.

Backing up Serio, should the time arise, would be Meghan Carta. Carta, a sophomore, played in five games last season, making one start.

Third baseman Whitney Mollica will no doubt be one of the team’s leaders this year. The granddaughter of baseball icon Don Zimmer batted .329, had 32 runs batted in and scored 25 runs. The senior is also solid defensively in the field, leading the Minutewomen with 125 assists.

Another veteran infielder, Sarah Reeves, will be counted on to contribute. The junior started all 55 games for the Minutemen last year, finishing with a .287 batting average and knocking in 38 runs. Reeves also hit 10 home runs.

Kyllie Magill is another freshman that Sortino will look to have an impact this season.

‘She could find herself in a very active role,’ Sortino said. ‘She’s really improved herself offensively since the fall season. She’s a lefty, we have a bunch of lefties, so I think that will give us a nice offensive spread.’


The outfield is probably the only question mark for the Minutewomen this season. Only one player started all 55 games for the Minutewomen last season, Samantha Salato. The senior hit .264, hit a career-high seven home runs and knocked in 32 runs.

Sortino will likely choose from a mix of Jill Andrews, Davina Hernandez and three incoming freshman to fill the remaining two outfield positions.

One of the freshmen, Katie Bettencourt, came to UMass with a strong bat, which Sortino could throw into the lineup.

‘She could see some pinch hitting appearances,’ Sortino said.

Sortino could also use freshman Jordan Storro’s flexibility to help the team in the infield, outfield and on the base paths.

‘She’s fast, hopefully she’ll be able to steal some bases for us this season,’ Sortino said. ‘[The freshmen] have not held us back one minute of one day of any part of the season, they just jump in and we keep going.’

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected].

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