|Caroline Raymond (photo by Vincent Dusovic)|
The days of Sara Plourde, Brandice Balschmiter, and Danielle Henderson are gone, but this is one of the better UMass staffs in the past few years. Leading the way is Caroline Raymond. Raymond is back for her fifth season after going 10-13 with a 3.39 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 138.1 innings. Raymond's numbers were a significant improvement from 2013. Coach Kristi Stefanoni is going to be counting on Raymond to be a leader in the circle for this young talented squad. If Raymond can keep her walks and gopher balls down, she is going to have a very successful year. Sophomore Tara Klee is also back in the circle. Klee had a bit of a roller coaster season, but ended on a high note in conference play. In 2014, Klee went 6-5 with a 4.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 81 innings. However, in Atlantic 10 play, Klee went 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA. If Klee can build off that momentum, the Minutewomen could be in very good shape. Emma Mendoker is working her way back from shoulder surgery and she could see some significant innings. Mendoker has battled injuries in her first few seasons, so it would be nice to see what could do healthy. Meg Colleran is a freshman pitcher that should be a key contributor to this staff. Coach Stefanoni is going to be looking to Colleran to step in right away and throw some big innings. Dakota Smith-Porter and Bridget Lemire could also see some time in the circle. UMass is going to have a big and talented pitching staff, the key will be if they can pitch to contact and let the defense do the work.
|Olivia Godin, Caroline Raymond, Ashton Wince (photo by Vincent Dusovic)|
The Minutewomen bring back both starters from last year behind the plate. Olivia Godin and Ashton Wince are both back after solid seasons and it would not a surprise to see them split action once again, unless one of them really steps up at the plate. Ashton Wince had a solid freshman season, hitting .229 with 16 hits, 1 HR, and 8 RBI. Wince was also rock solid on defense, nailing five runners trying to steal and picking off three runners. Godin is back after a sophomore season, which saw her hit .171. The Minutewomen will need more offensive output from the catching position, if they want to move up in the standings in 2015.
|Quianna Diaz-Patterson (photo by Vincent Dusovic)|
The strength of this UMass team lies with its infield, as Coach Stefanoni might have one of the most talented groups in the conference. Quianna Diaz-Patterson, Jena Cozza, and Taylor Carbone all return. Diaz-Patterson had a solid freshman season, hitting .357 with 46 hits, 7 RBI, and 8 steals. UMass will be looking for Diaz-Patterson to lead the way offensively once again and increase her power numbers a bit. The Minutewomen would love to see her return to her power numbers from her freshman season. Jena Cozza is back after winning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2014 and she could be poised for an even bigger sophomore season. Cozza hit .351 with 39 hits, 5 HR, and 24 RBI, but in conference play, she hit .442 with 14 RBI in 16 games. Taylor Carbone is back at first base after a sophomore season which saw her hit .270 with 34 hits, 4 HR, and 25 RBI. The Minutewomen are going to be counting on her for big power numbers in 2015. The last infield position is up for grabs, but Gianna Hathaway could be the favorite for it. Hathaway is a talented middle infielder that may start at shortstop. Hathaway played for the powerhouse Rhode Island Thunder and she is a definite contender for Rookie of the Year. Whitney Cooper and Anna Kelley also figure to see some significant time.
|Cote Clark (photo by Thom Kendall)|
The Minutewomen have a deep and young outfield, which is ready to show off its speed. Cote Clark is back after a solid freshman season, which saw her hit .263 with 30 hits, 10 RBI, and 5 steals. UMass is going to look for Clark to get on base and cause problems for opponents with her speed. Lindsay Zenk is also back after breaking into the starting lineup during her sophomore season. Zenk hit .269 with 21 hits and 11 RBI, including some clutch hits at the end of the year. The final outfield position is definitely up for grabs, but senior Mikayla Panko should have the inside edge. Sophomore Caitlyn Hickey could also see some time in the outfield.
Bridget Lemire is back at designated player and she should be the starter again in 2015. Lemire hit .257 with 19 hits, 6 HR, and 16 RBI. Lemire is poised for big power numbers in 2015, especially if she can cut down on her strikeout numbers. Tara Klee, Dakota Smith-Porter, and Whitney Cooper could also fight for time at designated player.
UMass will once again go up against a tough schedule, but the schedule is not nearly as daunting as some past schedules. The Minutewomen will open up in Texas for the first time, as they will head to Houston to start the season. UMass will have tough games against Houston and DePaul, but all of the other games are very winnable. Following Houston, the Minutewomen will head to Charleston, where they will have five winnable games. The toughest tournament on the schedule will be when UMass heads to Louisville to take on Louisville, Northwestern, Illinois State, and Ball State. This tournament will give us a good indication of how good this team will be. UMass will wrap up the nonconference tournament slate down in Clearwater. For Atlantic 10 play, the Minutewomen will hit the road to face St. Joseph's, George Mason, URI, and Dayton. UMass will host Fordham, St. Louis, George Washington, and St. Bonaventure and will not play La Salle this season. UMass will also have some tough nonconference games up north against Boston College, Harvard, Boston University, and Marist. The best news for the Minutewomen is that the Atlantic 10 Tournament will be at Sortino Field, where they are very tough to beat.
UMass is going to look to get off to a strong start in 2015 and keep that momentum going throughout the entire season. The Minutewomen had a tough start to 2014 with both weather and injuries, which made it hard for them to get into a rhythm early on. UMass will need some pitchers to step up in the circle and keep enemy hitters at bay. Defensively, the Minutewomen should be very stout. On offense, UMass has the potential to be one of the better teams in the conference, especially if they can increase their home run and walk numbers, while decreasing strikeouts. UMass could challenge for an Atlantic 10 Tournament bye, but it may take even more to knock off Fordham. UMass should have a winning record for the first time since 2012.