Saturday’s game was not the usual hitting display that the Massachusetts softball team has become accustomed to since beginning Atlantic 10 play, but it continued to stay undefeated as it swept Fordham, the only other conference team receiving votes.
Pitcher Sara Plourde recorded her 11th shut-out against the Rams, 2-0, in the first game and won a close 3-2 game later that afternoon. The sophomore finished the day with 29 strikeouts and moved past the nation’s strikeout leader, Troy’s Ashlyn Williams (282 strikeouts), with 302 strikeouts this season.
Plourde is currently sixth for the highest number of strikeouts in a single season. In the first game, Plourde struck out 18 batters while allowing one hit to first baseman, Jamie LaBovick.
UMass coach Elaine Sortino called Fordham pitcher Jen Mineau one of the best in the country, but her arm couldn’t keep Sortino’s team from producing the offense it needed to win.
The Minutewomen (21-7, 6-0 A-10) didn’t strike until the third inning when second baseman Kyllie Magill hit a two-out double to bring in shortstop Whitney Williams. Sophomore Katie Bettencourt added to the damage in the sixth inning with a solo home run.
UMass ended the game with six hits, all from different players.
“Our timely hitting really, really helped,” Sortino said. “I thought our [players] had pretty good discipline at the plate and they did a good job.”
In Game 2, Plourde allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings after keeping the Rams scoreless through six.
Sortino believes the problems started in the second inning, but never really threatened the Minutewomen until the seventh, when the Rams had four hits to end the inning.
The rally started with Erin Fisher, who hit a single to left field after LaBovick flied out. Beckah Wiggins followed that up with a home run to drive in Fisher and put Fordham down one run.
Plourde allowed another two singles to go by after the second out, but finished the game with her 11th strikeout against Nicole Callahan.
“Our pitches got a little flat,” Sortino said. “They weren’t moving the way they needed to, and [Fordham] is a good team too.”
Even with Plourde being a little flat, UMass still won the game with its hitting. The Minutewomen got an early start when Williams reached second base on a fielding error, then advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Magill once again brought home Williams, this time on a sacrifice fly to right field.
The Maroon and White stayed quiet until the fifth inning when freshman Teea Rogers hit a leadoff double. Sophomore Jordan Storro pinch ran for Rogers, who scored after outfielder Carly Normandin hit a double with one out.
UMass made one last run in the top of the seventh inning when Rogers tripled on her second hit of the day. Rogers scored on a single to left field by junior Audrey Boutin.
“That’s big help for a pitcher just to have the offense hit runs,” Plourde said.
The Minutewomen will make their way back to Massachusetts against Boston College on Tuesday before playing their home opener on Wednesday. UMass was supposed to have its first home game on March 30 in a double-header with Dartmouth, but it was rained out.
A makeup date has yet to be announced.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.