Elaine Sortino, head coach of the University of Massachusetts softball team for 34 years, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. Details of her illness were kept private.

UMass athletics issued the following statement regarding Sortino’s passing:

“We lost a very special person. Elaine was one of the most special people in the history of the athletic department. And not just for UMass, but for all of college softball. She touched many lives throughout the course of her time here.”

Last October, the university renamed the UMass Softball Complex in her honor, celebrating a career which included over 1,000 victories, 24 conference titles, 22 NCAA tournaments and three Women’s College World Series berths.

Sortino also touched countless lives, both on and off the field, during her three-decades-plus in Amherst.

Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, who first broke news of Sortino’s passing on Twitter, had done a tremendous job of chronicling her return to the softball field as well as the ongoing support she received from family and friends during her battle with cancer.

More information about Sortino’s passing will be made available by the university Monday.


Elaine was a long-time friend of Rayburn Hesse and so many others in the softball world — a soft-spoken, classic lady  who was respected coast to coast for her knowledge of the game, and the standards she set for herself and her teams.  Heaven became a more gentle place today thanks to her presence.  RFH

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