Quianna Diaz-Patterson shines for hometown team

By Jesse Mayfield Sheehan

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Maria Uminski/Collegian File Photo

Sophomore Quianna Diaz-Patterson grew up in Amherst watching the Massachusetts softball team play at what was then called the UMass Softball Complex. Now, she is the team’s starting shortstop, and is off to a strong start in her collegiate career.

Last year, Diaz-Patterson hit .327 for the Minutewomen and led the team in doubles (14) and RBIs (41). She won the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award and was a Second Team All-Atlantic 10 honoree.

Diaz-Patterson, whose family moved to Gardner last year, said playing for the team she grew up just down the street from is a great honor.

“It’s very unbelievable for me sometimes to think that I actually play for this amazing team,” she said. “I just appreciate everything that coach (Elaine) Sortino has given me, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Being able to play under Sortino was one of the reasons Diaz-Patterson wanted to come to UMass, and she thinks very highly of her coach.

“She is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world, not only in softball, but just in life in general,” Diaz-Patterson said. “She knows her stuff as a softball coach and she knows her stuff as a life counselor. I basically have her up there with my mom. I wouldn’t dare have anyone hurt my mom. So, that’s where coach is, coach is on that pedestal.”

Diaz-Patterson first started playing softball when she was in fifth grade. She said her mother, Cathy, and brother, Alex, were both really into baseball and softball, which inspired her to give the game a try.

“I’ve always had balls thrown at me, and I guess I like just playing catch a lot,” she said. “I think just … running around and getting the ball and throwing it and getting people out was what got me into it.”

Diaz-Patterson said she worked hard to put out the strong performance she did in her rookie season, but she also had a lot of help.

“I was hoping that I would get the chance to make an impact,” she said. “I worked really, really hard to get where I was. I took in everything all the coaches and my teammates would tell me to do. I just went out and played.”

She said she hopes to keep improving her game throughout the rest of her collegiate career.

“I think last year was just the beginning. I have two and a half more years left of this and coach, she’s always hoping to improve the game,” Diaz-Patterson said. “The game is always changing, and if you’re going to change with it, you’ve got to improve, and I think as the years go on, things are going to get better.”

The Minutewomen (3-16, 1-1 Atlantic 10) are off to a rough start this season. Diaz-Patterson is currently batting .271 with eight runs scored and seven RBI and has committed 18 errors in the field. Diaz-Patterson said UMass still has the potential to be a strong team this year.

“I think right now we have all the skills to be a great team, and we are a great team,” she said. “We have everything. We have the skill, we have the competitiveness, it’s just, I think this year, it’s been a rough start.

“(It) happens to the best of us, and people are able to get out of them, and I think we’re going to be one of those teams getting out of this tough situation. I have all the confidence in my team.”

Diaz-Patterson said the key for the Minutewomen to overcome their early struggles is to stay confident.

“Always buying into what coach says and being confident and getting out of our heads. Once we do that, we’re golden,” she said.

Diaz-Patterson is currently majoring in chemistry. After she graduates from UMass, she hopes to go to graduate school to get a master’s degree in athletic training and become a professional athletic trainer.

“I hope to stick with the sports world, but also be a doctor,” she said. “I can’t imagine getting away from this sport, so I figured that was the best way to go, and athletic training just seems so right for me.”

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter at @jgms88.