By Dave Dyer
With a slew of school records and all-Atlantic 10 honors to her credit, former Salem High standout Whitney Mollica of Windham, has plenty to look back on now that her terrific softball career at UMass Amherst has come to a close.
But, more than all of the impressive numbers, there is one thing that Mollica takes special pride in.
"The thing I'm most proud of is of being consistent and starting every game," said Mollica. "It's not easy being ready to play every game."
Mollica demonstrated that the weekend before last when UMass hosted the NCAA Northeast Regional. In an 8-0 win over Sacred Heart, she broke a finger, making it painful to grip the bat.
But Mollica came back the next day to hit a home run and double in a 5-1 win over the University of Washington, the third-ranked team in the country, to force a final, unforgettable championship game which Washington won in 15 innings.
"Her contributions have been exceptional and Whitney will absolutely go down as one of the greatest players we've had here," said UMass coach Elaine Sortino, who has won more than 1,000 games in 30 years at the helm. "And the best part about Whitney is something you can't touch and that's the passion, the heart and the desire she brings to the game."
Not one to boast, Mollica believes she was lucky enough to find the perfect fit.
"I was fortunate enough to be playing under Coach Sortino and happy to find a school that was so perfect for me," said Mollica.
On the other hand, big-time college sports can be draining, which may explain why Mollica has decided against pursuing opportunities in pro softball.
"I'm not burned out, but I'm done, except for maybe playing in a few tournaments," said the 22-year-old Mollica, who hopes to get into academic counseling and will likely remain at UMass next year. "I've had a lot of injuries and my body is worn down."
Still, she has no regrets and offers some advice for freshmen like Katie Bettencourt of Salem. Bettencourt played sparingly until late in the season, when she was used as a designated hitter.
Bettencourt, of course, couldn't have chosen a better role model.