UMass shows composure, withstands BC rally

By Joey Saade

Cade Belisle/Collegian

While enduring her team’s early-season struggles, Massachusetts softball coach Elaine Sortino preached the importance of patience and composure to her team.

The Minutewomen used those traits to withstand a late Boston College rally in Wednesday’s 8-7 at Sortino Field.

After UMass (4-16, 1-1 Atlantic 10) scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take an 8-3 lead heading into the top of the sixth, freshman pitcher Emma Mendoker gave up four runs on five hits, allowing the Eagles (8-15, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) to climb back into the game.

With the bases loaded and two outs and the Minutewomen clinging to a one run lead, Mendoker registered arguably her biggest out of the season with a rally-stopping strikeout. The play erased all of BC’s momentum and put the game back in UMass’ favor.

With the pressure on, Sortino left her young starter in the game to see how she would handle the big stage.

“The only way they’re going to get better is to come through these experiences,”  Sortino said. “They need to know how to get through, you don’t learn unless you’re out there.”

Mendoker passed the test, keeping her composure and getting out of the jam. She picked up right where she left off in the seventh inning by getting two pop outs and a ground out to end the game.

The Minutewomen faced a similar situation in the top of the first, giving up three runs to get in an early 3-0 hole. But UMass knew what it had to do to overcome the early adversity.

“We’ve talked about that all season, not to feel that ‘here we go again,’” Lindsey Webster said. “We’re not just going to stay down. We’re going to fight and we’re going to win.”

Sortino was most impressed with her team’s ability to score four runs with two outs in the fifth inning. She applauded her team’s ability to mentally get through a grinding circumstance.

“It was fantastic, because we’ve really struggled at the plate, but we were really battling,” Sortino said.  “We haven’t had that type of battle in our at bats, and to see our team battle was really good.”

Sortino also believes that her team’s fifth inning rally was the “best of the season, on so many different levels.”

Whether it was climbing back from an early deficit, taking command of the game when the odds were against them or finding a way to hold off a furious late-inning comeback from the Eagles, the Minutewomen’s mental strength and composure was on full display.

Coming out on top of a back-and-forth game for the first time this season, UMass hopes this victory will be the checkpoint which turns around its season.

“Eighty percent of the teams that have lost like this, this early, and this much, would have rolled over and died,” Sortino said. “Our kids keep showing up, and I think that’s incredible.”

Joey Saade can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @Jsaade1225