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February 11, 2016

Minutewomen topple state rival Terriers in home-opener, 3-0

Seven innings, two hits, 15 strikeouts. Not bad pitching by most standards, except for Massachusetts softball coach Elaine Sortino.

It was just another B- performance, because pitcher Sara Plourde allowed a hit to the nation’s best hitter, April Setterlund, who came in with a .595 average. It didn’t matter that Plourde gave Setterlund her seventh strikeout of the season in her first at-bat, or the fact that she flied out to center field the next time up.

“I felt we crossed up a hit that we got in the 3-4 hole, missed the pitch,” Sortino said. “It was supposed to be out, it came in and that’s in her wheel house.”

Despite Sortino’s criticism, the Minutewomen (23-7, 6-0 Atlantic 10) came out with a 3-0 win against Boston University to extend their winning streak to eight games. All three runs came from a strong third inning against Cassidi Hardy with two outs.

Shortstop Whitney Williams (2-for-3, one run) started the offense by singling to center field. On the next play, second baseman Kylie Magill (3-for-3) homered to left field on an outside pitch.

Magill, a lefty who Sortino said usually doesn’t get inside pitches, swung at the ball like a golf swing in order to reach for it. Although the swing got UMass its first two runs of the game, Sortino wants to make sure her players don’t get in the habit of reaching for pitches.

“I felt like we were roping shots, but we weren’t really letting the ball come in,” Sortino said. “We just need to let it come in a little bit so we can release our hips and let it pop.”

The rally was far from over.

Senior Sarah Reeves singled with a full count to bring home right fielder Katie Bettencourt, who doubled to right field after Magill’s home run to give the Minutewomen a 3-0 run.

At the start of the bottom of the fifth inning, BU (18-11, 3-0 America East) replaced Hardy with Whitney Tuthill, who gave up two hits, but no runs.

Williams got her second hit of the game on a single to third base. Freshman Christine Della Vecchia pinch-ran for Williams, but couldn’t reach third on Magill’s single up the middle. However, Bettencourt ended the rally with a strikeout to end the inning.

UMass struck out twice the entire game.

The next hit came in the seventh inning, but this time, from the Terriers. With one out, Sutterlund hit a single on a 2-2 count down the right side, but didn’t impact the overall outcome of the game after Plourde recorded two strikeouts against Caitlin Rentler and Rachel Moeller.

The Minutewomen will play the Terriers again next Tuesday in Boston after finishing its homestand with two games against Charlotte.

Sortino said Wednesday  was the latest home-opener her team has played in a while. The reason for UMass starting so late is that its scheduled debut in Amherst against Dartmouth was rained out.

Since the start of the season, the Minutewomen were on the road for more than seven weeks.

“It’s really nice to finally be home,” Sortino said of returning to the UMass softball complex. “I feel like we’ve been on the road for nine years. It really feels like a long time.”

Game notes:

BU’s first hit came in the second inning, when Taylor Cowan doubled to left field with two outs … Plourde recorded her ninth shutout of the season and eighth game with at least 15 strikeouts … She is currently fifth for most strikeouts in a single season.

 Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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