Emma Mendoker returns to UMass rotation, Caroline Raymond remains fixture

By Kaitlin Boyer

Cade Belisle/Collegian

The strength of the Massachusetts softball pitching rotation was questionable in the beginning, but it is something that continues to ascend as the season progresses.

And Caroline Raymond (11-8) has played a pivotal role in cleaning up any skepticism, serving as the sole starter for the Minutewomen.

Prior to Sunday’s matchup against George Washington, redshirt freshman Emma Mendoker had not made an appearance since March 30 against St. Bonaventure.

Her absence from the mound has given Raymond time to step in and become more secure on the mound.

Raymond has pitched 12 of the last 14 games, grabbing nine wins. Three of those games were even mercy-ruled to five innings.

She fanned seven batters in games against UConn and GW, a career-high for the junior.

It is clear that Raymond is starting to find her rhythm in the circle, something that UMass coach Elaine Sortino knew would be the biggest challenge for her squad after the graduation of arguably the best pitcher in program history in Sara Plourde.

After the Minutewomen’s win over UConn, Sortino was impressed with the way Raymond has worked.

“She is figuring out that those off speed pitches are too fast or too slow and are getting hit,” Sortino said.

The return of Mendoker could potentially adjust the momentum of the pitching rotation.

On Sunday, Mendoker hit a bump, suffering an 8-0 loss to the Colonials. In this outing, she gave up four hits and walked four in four innings..

After not pitching at all in 2012 while nursing a bicep injury, Mendoker has been working her way back slowly but surely.

Last time Mendoker was seen in the circle prior to Sunday, she went six innings against St. Bonaventure, giving up four runs — two of which were earned — and striking out one.

Raymond stepped in at the end to close the game, pitching two innings.

Raymond has been used to pitching every game, but if Mendoker is back for good, this could give her more time to breathe.

Defense struggles still an issue

As the pitchers continue to work, the UMass defense must also work to eliminate its miscues on the field.

In the last four home games, the Minutewomen have committed eight errors, which is something that could get in the way of UMass’ momentum of late.

Kaitlin Boyer can be reached at kr[email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kaitlin_Boyer.