The Massachusetts softball team is in the midst of its best stretch of play this season, winners of seven out of its last eight games, while slowly but surely turning around a campaign that started 2-15. And one of the big catalysts for the Minutewomen’s recent success is starting pitcher Caroline Raymond.
In her last five starts, Raymond has gone 4-1, giving up an average of only 4.2 hits and 2.8 runs per game, with 13 total strikeouts. While Raymond has found her groove in the circle, she credits the offense’s recent outburts to the team’s turnaround. UMass has scored an average of nine runs per contest in Raymond’s last five starts.
“Our offense has really come up big, and pitching with a lead and runs on the board, in your favor, definitely helps you,” Raymond said. “You have more confidence on the mound, knowing that you don’t have to do perfect.”
Raymond turned in her best performances of the season in the Minutewomen’s doubleheader sweep of La Salle on Sunday, registering two complete-game shutouts while striking out seven and giving up only three total hits on the day.
With teammate Emma Mendoker recently sidelined with an injury, Raymond knew that she had to carry the load.
“I knew going in that I had to get ahead of batters, throw my pitches and let the defense make the plays behind me,” Raymond said. “Just had to get the win, whatever it took.”
Defense remains inconsistent
One of the consistent struggles the Minutewomen have dealt with all season long is the inconsistent play of their defense. UMass coach Elaine Sortino continues to emphasize the lack of “UMass defense” that her team has shown so far this season.
This past weekend sums up the roller-coaster ride the Minutewomen defense has endured: zero errors on Friday, three on Saturday, zero in Sunday’s first game and five in the second.
Having gone through a difficult transition with the pitching staff in the post-Sara Plourde era, Raymond believes the defensive inconsistencies stem from the same adjustment.
“It’s tough, last year with Sara Plourde on the mound who struck out double-digits (batters) just about every game, the defense wasn’t relied on as much,” Raymond said. “This season, they’ve been in a lot of tough situations, trying to make a lot of tough plays.”
Raymond pointed to the encouraging defensive effort against Fordham when the Minutewomen turned a season-high four double-play balls along with committing zero errors, which she believes is a symbol that the infield is heading in the right direction.
“I think with experience, our defense has gotten much better,” Raymond said. “We’re still a little inconsistent, but we’ve gotten a lot better.”
Heading into a non-conference game against Boston College on Tuesday, Raymond believes that her team needs to “just stick to what we’ve been working on in practice” and “play good defense,” to come out with a victory.
Joey Saade can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @Jsaade1225.