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August 22, 2013

Red Dragons Hall of Famer Sortino dies

Softball coach had 1,185 victories at Division I UMass

The Daily Star

---- — Staff Report

Oneonta State Athletics Hall of Famer Elaine Sortino died Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer, the University of Massachusetts announced Monday. She was 64.

Yonkers native Sortino, who graduated from O-State in 1971, was set to enter her 35th season as the head coach of the UMass softball team. She had a 1,185-508-6 record and led the Minutewomen to 23 Atlantic 10 regular-season titles, 23 A10 tournament crowns, 21 NCAA Division I Tournament appearances, and three trips to the Women’s College World Series.

“She had this way of pushing us to unbelievable heights, making us believe there are no limits,” former Red Dragons softball coach Liz Wagner, who played for Sortino in the late 1990s, said in a statement prepared by O-State. “She brought her players to the highest level possible whether in our physical game, our mental game, our academics, and even in our personal lives in some cases. She was certainly my biggest critic back in my playing days, but when all was said and done, she was also one of my biggest fans. And in her own quiet way, she made sure that I knew that.”

Sortino finished the 2013 season as the third-winningest active coach at the NCAA D-I level. Her 1,185 victories ranks eighth in NCAA history and seventh in D-I.

Sortino also went 218-134-1 as the UMass volleyball coach from 1979-1986.

“Elaine was a pioneer and advocate for women’s athletics at our college and throughout her professional life as a coach, teacher and mentor,” O-State Director of Athletics Tracey Ranieri said in a statement prepared by the college. “She was a three-sport athlete at Oneonta and portrayed her passion for sport at the regional, national and international level.”

Sortino played volleyball, basketball and softball at Oneonta State, which inducted her into its inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class in 1999. She earned her master’s from the University of Bridgeport in 1973 and was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

“Elaine was a tremendous athlete and was a tough, fiery competitor,” former O-State basketball and softball coach Don Flewelling said in a statement. “She had a brilliant mind and could teach the fundamentals. She built a powerhouse at UMass.”

Visitation hours for Sortino will run from 4-8 p.m. today at Douglas Funeral Home at 87 North Pleasant St. in Amherst, Mass. Her funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Brigid’s Parish Community at 122 North Pleasant St.