UMass softball’s turnaround led by improved pitching, Raymond’s resurgence

By Tom Mulherin

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Senior pitcher Caroline Raymond confidently throws pitches the ball. (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Senior pitcher Caroline Raymond confidently throws pitches the ball. (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Throughout the first couple of weeks of the Massachusetts softball team’s poor start of the season, head coach Kristi Stefanoni emphasized that her squad’s pitching and defensive performance must improve to break its losing trend.

While the defense behind the mound continued to struggle in the Minutewomen’s (8-16, 3-6 Atlantic 10) opening home series against George Washington last weekend, the pitching staff has paced a drastic team turnaround that has recorded three wins in the last four games.

The team’s recent string of wins didn’t go unnoticed by its coach.

“I was actually very pleased, overly pleased, with the way (the team) came back,” Stefanoni said. “(Pitcher) Caroline (Raymond) really made a huge turnaround and she did exceptional on Saturday. We usually give our pitching staff letter grades, so overall I would probably give them a B-minus, B-plus.”

In UMass’ first 20 games of the season, the entire pitching staff struggled to find any sort of groove, losing 15 of those games while allowing at least five runs 11 different times. An exceptionally poor performance by the group in a weekend series at Saint Joseph’s served as the breaking point, where UMass was swept in three mercy-rule shortened games, allowing 10-plus runs in each outing.

Since then, with the exception of a 9-0 loss in the second game of a double-header April 3, the Minutewomen have dominated on the mound, led by Raymond.

Dating back to Thursday’s game against Yale, Raymond has been a force on the hill, allowing just three earned runs in a span of three complete game starts­ – all wins – for a 1.11 ERA while allowing no more than three walks per outing.

“We saw a very mature Caroline over the weekend,” Stefanoni said. “Her changeup was on, and that was probably the reason why we won (her games). This week she really did her homework, and it really paid off.”

After her dominating weeklong performances, Raymond was awarded with the Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week award for the first time in her career.

“She’s really been working her absolute tail off to become a great pitcher,” Stefanoni continued. “She’s worked extremely hard at perfecting different pitches at this time of the season. She’s always looking for ways to get better physically and mentally.”

Stefanoni has mentioned that the Minutewomen need to start playing with confidence, and then the wins will come. Now that the team has gained some momentum, especially Raymond, she believes that confidence won’t be hard to come by like it may have been before.

“I’m sure (the wins) have done wonders (for Raymond’s confidence),” she said. “Honestly, to be able to do that well, especially at home, definitely gives you a lot of confidence. I think those are two wins that she needed under her belt to move forward.”

Even if her recent success is bound to bring more confidence, Stefanoni isn’t stuck on the idea that only good things will come here on out for Raymond. However, with a little hard work, she believes Raymond has it in her to do great things for UMass in the near future.

“She’s going to have to have a really great week of practice,” she said. “We’ve got a really great team coming in this week in Fordham, and we’re playing Harvard on Thursday. She definitely has her work cut out for her, but if she has a really great week at practice, and continues to do what she’s been doing, I think we’ll be OK.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]