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May 14, 2008

M and M Girls: Maroney, Mollica power UMass to NCAA tourney

Based on her career at Phillips Academy, where she hit .533 as a four-year starter, Lindsay Maroney of Bradford was naturally confident that she had the basics of softball down to a science.

Just like Whitney Mollica thought she did three years before.

That was before arriving at UMass Amherst to play for legendary coach Elaine Sortino, who surpassed 1,000 wins in her 28th season this spring.

Mollica, the former Salem High great, gave Maroney a heads-up on what to expect.

"Whitney told me, and she wasn't the only one, that 'You're going to feel like you've never played softball before,' " said Maroney. "And that's about how I felt. It was pretty frustrating."

Although Maroney displayed bat speed and power as a Big Blue senior last year, when she hit a robust .679, Sortino did not hesitate to make significant changes.

"She changed everything about the way I bat — my stance, my step, the way I swing, my body motion," said Maroney. "It was tough in the beginning, but it gradually became more natural, and now I can see the difference. My bat speed is quicker, I can identify pitches better, I can hit with more power ... everything is improved."

The improvement has been demonstrated at the plate in a big way.

After recovering from a preseason dislocated finger that kept her out of action for a couple of weeks, Maroney quickly developed into the most dynamic freshman in the Atlantic 10 for UMass, which enters this weekend's NCAA regional at Amherst with a nation's-best 29 game winning streak and 39-11 record.

As the team's designated hitter, Maroney earned both the Rookie of the Year award and All-Atlantic 10 status after hitting a superb .374 with 4 home runs and 25 RBIs, posting a .420 on-base percentage and a .593 slugging percentage. She is second on the team in hitting and leads in stolen bases with seven swipes in nine attempts.

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