Matthew leading in nine-hole for UM

By Michael Wood

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The weather has warmed up in Amherst over the past week, and so has Massachusetts centerfielder Cyndil Matthew.

The Minutewomen have played 10 home games over the past 11 days and have won seven of them, improving their record to 25-17 and 12-5 in Atlantic 10 play. None of that would be possible without an impressive effort from all nine players on the diamond and some hot hitting at the plate.

“We have a mentality of ‘see it and hit it,’” UMass pitcher Sara Plourde said. “That’s what we’re focusing on right now. We’ve been a little on-and-off with our offense in the past, and that’s what has worked for us, so we’ll stick with that.”

No player has been hotter than Matthew.

She is currently riding an eight-game hit streak which dates back to April 24 against George Washington. Hitting in the ninth spot in the order allows her to be a second leadoff hitter, providing speed and athleticism along with a little power at the bottom of the order.

“It feels good [to break out],” Matthew said. “I feel like myself again.”

Matthew is definitely a tough out. In the past 10 games she’s gone 13-for-20 at the plate (.650) with four runs scored and two walks. She also added her team-leading 12th stolen base on Sunday, and has only been caught once in almost three months.

“Cyndil is coming on like gang fire,” UMass head coach Elaine Sortino said. “She can do it all. [Her hit streak] is awesome. She’s killing the ball, she’s dropping the ball [for base-hits], and she’s a triple threat [on the bases as well].”

In Sunday’s doubleheader against La Salle, Matthew remained white-hot. She went 5-for-6 with two walks and a run-batted-in for what was easily her best day of the spring.

“I haven’t changed much,” Matthew said. “I just have a better mindset at the plate now, and that’s helped me a lot. I’m feeling good. And the warm weather definitely helps. It’s nice to play when it’s nice out. I’m excited [for the rest of the season].”

As much as she’s contributed in the measurable statistics, Matthew also provides a spark for the Maroon and White offense. More often than not, it’s her heads-up play and aggressive style that helps the team win games.

In Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader, Matthew hit a line drive down the left field line past the third baseman for a hit. She could have stopped at first base and been satisfied with a single, but instead chose to try to stretch the play out into a double, which would have put her in scoring position with Lindsey Webster, the team leader in RBIs, coming up to the plate. She was thrown out sliding into second base, but Sortino loved the extra effort.

 “The fact that she tried to take that extra base, even though she was called out on the slide, I love that,” Sortino said. “That’s only going to help us.”

With the Atlantic 10 tournament right around the corner next weekend, the Minutewomen are looking to stay competitive and continue to improve game-after-game.

“We’re definitely thinking about A-10s,” Matthew said. “We’re thinking regionals, super regionals and eventually the World Series. It’s always the mindset of the World Series. We’re ready. We’re going to do whatever we can to get there.”

If they hope to advance deep into the NCAA tournament, the team will need a big contribution from its No. 9 hitter. Fortunately, she seems to be up to the challenge.

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]