UMass softball with a busy weekend ahead of them

By Adam Aucoin

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Coming off a weekend when it took two of three games against favored Atlantic 10 opponent George Washington, it’s safe to say the Massachusetts softball team has finally found its stride.

There will be no time for the Minutewomen (8-16, 3-6 Atlantic 10) to rest on their laurels though, as they face another tough A-10 opponent in a three-game series against Fordham this weekend. The series includes a double-header Saturday afternoon and a matinee Sunday.

For UMass, these games will be bigger than just another weekend of conference play.

Saturday, the Minutewomen will take part in the NFCA StrikeOut Cancer campaign. This campaign aims to honor those who died due to cancer, and shed light on the ongoing struggle against the disease.

For head coach Stefanoni and her players, this campaign holds a special meaning. The UMass softball family lost long time coach Elaine Sortino Aug. 18, 2013 after a lengthy battle with the disease.

“That game is always a tough one on both ends,” Stefanoni said. “You’re thinking about not just her, but everyone in our softball family and our community that has gone through cancer.”

Stefanoni knows it will be on their minds as they play, but also hopes that people see what the message of the day is supposed to be.

“For the first couple innings, it will be a little tough. She is always in the back of our mind while we’re playing,” Stefanoni said. “The major point around this is to raise awareness for everyone and especially for younger kids to be aware of what they are doing and making sure they’re healthy. If we can do that and honor people in the process, I think that’s great.”

Suzanne Koch, widow of former UMass men’s soccer coach Sam Koch, will throw out the first pitch on Saturday. Koch passed away from sinus cancer last summer.

As part of the campaign, the team will give out free bracelets and offer a reduced admission price of $2 to spectators who show up wearing pink.

On the field, Stefanoni knows UMass will have a tough game on its hands. She believes limiting mistakes will be essential to a successful weekend.

Fordham (18-16, 4-4 A-10) enters the weekend touting a prolific offense. Five of their hitters are batting over .300, led by sophomore Amy Van Hoven who leads the team with 44 hits.

According to Stefanoni, pitch location and cutting down on walks will be very important in this series for their pitchers.

Senior Caroline Raymond leads the Minutewomen pitching staff into the weekend. Raymond has found her stride recently on the mound and is coming off a week where she was named A-10 Pitcher of the Week.

“We need to treat this weekend like we’re coming in and playing the Atlantic-10 tournament and take that mindset into the games we have,” Stefanoni said. “Sortino Field is a tough place to play and Fordham knows that so we need to be on top of our game if we want to be ready.”

The series kicks off at noon Saturday with game two of the doubleheader following at 2 p.m. The third and final game of the series is at noon Sunday.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected]