March 3, 2015

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Plourde shuts down top hitter in the country in Setterlund

The Massachusetts softball team’s starting pitcher Sara Plourde came out on top Wednesday afternoon, as she faced the No. 1 hitter in the nation, April Setterlund.

Plourde held off Boston University’s star hitter, allowing one single from her for the entire game, as the Minutewomen (23-7, 6-0 A-10) recorded its eighth victory in a row.

Setterlund came into the game with a .595 batting average, along with a team-leading nine home runs. The nine home runs for the season have also earned Setterlund a 1.177 slugging percentage. Setterlund’s impressive batting average leads not only the America East conference, but the NCAA as well.

Along with leading the AE in homeruns, Setterlund also dominates the conference with 47 hits and 39 RBIs. She leads in doubles with nine this season and is tied for first place with three triples.

In the first inning, Plourde struck out Setterlund, something that has only occurred six times this season. The two faced off again in the fourth inning, where Plourde forced Setterlund to fly out to center field on the first pitch. With the count at 2-2 in the seventh inning, Setterlund got on base after singling up the right side.

Before going 1-for-3 against Plourde, Setterlund had an on base percentage of .663 and led the AE with 37 runs scored. However, she would not go on to score, as Plourde struck out the final two batters to ensure the 3-0 victory.

“I thought she did okay,” UMass head coach Elaine Sortino said of Plourde’s performance. “I wish she hadn’t missed that pitch, but [Setterlund] is a good hitter.”

For the day, Plourde struck out 15 batters, as she increased her career totals to 337, and continues to lead the nation in that category. The shutout was her ninth of the season, along with the eighth game that she has recorded 15 strikeouts or more. Plourde now leads the A-10 with 20 wins for the season.

Going against a strong hitting team such as BU (18-11) is something that Sortino thinks will benefit Plourde.

“It’s what’s going to make her better,” Sortino said. “She had to come in with some alternative pitches; it wasn’t as easy as it was yesterday. It’s just going to make her better.”

UMass hosts Charlotte

UMass will return to conference play as it hosts Charlotte this weekend on Friday and Saturday afternoon. Charlotte (25-8, 4-0 A-10) comes into the series after splitting two games against Appalachian State on Tuesday afternoon, led by starter Emily Jeffery.

Game 1 resulted in a 1-0 shut-out, Jeffrey’s eighth of the season, as she retired the first seven batters by strikeouts alone. She struck out 17 batters during the doubleheader, 13 coming in Game 1.

Although the 49ers lost 4-2 in Game 2, Jeffrey still recorded four strikeouts. The loss broke her streak of 24.1 innings pitched without a run scored by an opponent.

Three days earlier against Dayton, Jeffery also broke the school record of strikeouts, as she struck out nine batters in the game and improved her totals to 590 career strikeouts.

Along with facing a strong pitcher similar to herself, Plourde will also face a tough Charlotte offense. The 49ers have four batters hitting over .300; Kendra McCall, Whitney Williams, Tenaya Tucker and Serena Smith.

Williams and McCall are ranked third and fourth in the A-10 for runs scored, with 27 and 25, respectively. McCall leads her team with a .366 batting average and .430 on base percentage. Williams comes into the series with a batting average of .345, and is also ranked fourth in the A-10 in hits with 38 for the season.

Smith and Tucker are also highly ranked in the A-10, placing third and fourth for RBIs. Smith, with a batting average of .340, has 33 for the season. Tucker stands behind her with 25 RBIs and a .343 batting average. However, Tucker leads Charlotte with a .528 slugging percentage and four home runs.

The 49ers are one of three undefeated A-10 teams, with UMass and Saint Louis also yet to see in-conference defeat. The action begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, followed by game two at 12 p.m. Saturday at the UMass Softball Complex.    

Geena Lombardi can be reached at glombard@student.umass.edu.

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