Winning streaks are the norm for Minutewomen

By Michael Wood

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Michael Wood/Collegian

Michael Wood/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team ended the 2010 season on a 23-game winning streak before losing in the playoffs, and it looks like things could be headed in a similar direction in 2011.

With Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Fairfield, the Minutewomen are currently riding a 10-game winning streak. They look less and less like the squad that started the season 2-10 with an eight-game skid and more and more like the dangerous championship team everyone expected.

“I feel like we’re getting better every day,” said UMass coach Elaine Sortino. “It’s obvious that we got off to a rough start, but this is a young team that has sustained a lot of injuries and battled the whole way through [the season].”

With 13 more games on the regular season schedule, UMass can match last season’s streak by winning each of its remaining games.

Last year’s win streak was spread out over a longer period of time, starting on March 28th and running until Fordham defeated the Minutewomen in the A-10 tournament on May 14th. The team didn’t have to deal with nearly as many rain-outs as it has this season (three), which meant that games were evenly spaced out and players received adequate rest in between contests.

UMass also recorded an 18-game win streak towards the end of the 2009 season before falling to Charlotte in mid-April. That streak, like last year’s, began at about the same time (March 22) and lasted until April 26th. Eleven of those 18 games came at the UMass Softball Complex and of those 11, two were recorded in doubleheaders.

This year, things are different. Three rainouts have stacked games on top of each other and compacted the schedule as the team tries to make up for lost innings. There have been four doubleheaders already played since the Maroon and White returned home in late March, and five more remain on the schedule. Compare that to last season, when the squad only had to play in three twin bills, and it’s easy to appreciate how jam-packed this spring has been for the Minutewomen.

Fortunately for UMass, Sortino’s players seem to like playing at home. Over the past two seasons, the majority of its year-end victories have come at the UMass Softball Complex. Fourteen of the 23 wins to end last season came in Amherst and this year, seven of the last 10 wins have come on UMass’s home field.

“We’d much rather be here than on a bus or on a plane,” said Sortino.

“It feels real good to be back home,” added senior catcher Meghan Carta. “I would’ve liked better weather, but it’s good to be on our field with our fans so that’s always nice.”

UMass stands at 19-14 on the year and 8-3 in Atlantic 10 play. However, the Minutewomen, who typically lead the A-10 each season, are in third place right now behind Fordham and Temple. UMass has already played the Owls this season, splitting a series with them in late March, but the Rams will come to Amherst next week for what could be a preview of conference tournament matchup..

“[It feels] pretty good,” said Carta. “I really feel like we’re on the upswing. We took a turn and we’re on the upswing and we’re only going to keep [getting better] from here.”

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]