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Timely hitting and strikeouts spurring Minutewomen

While at times the Massachusetts softball team did not look its best at the plate this past weekend against Charlotte, one thing stood out: When UMass got a hit, it strung together hits.

Besides the first inning of Saturday’s 5-1 victory when Carly Normandin led off with a single but the Minutewomen (25-7, 8-0 Atlantic 10) failed to drive her in, UMass came up with timely hits.

In the other three innings that the Minutewomen registered a hit against the 49ers, they scored at least one run.

It was the same story in Friday’s 3-0 win. After Katie Bettencourt doubled in the fourth inning to break up Charlotte’s Emily Jeffery’s bid for a no-hitter, it was Meghan Carta who got to Jeffery next with an RBI double to drive in Bettencourt.

Bettencourt came through for UMass again in the sixth inning after Kyllie Magill reached on an error. The sophomore took a 2-2 pitch in a 1-0 game and drove it over the centerfield wall, cashing in on Charlotte’s mistake.

“Timely hitting is what it’s all about,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said after Friday’s game.

Today, the Minutewomen will square off at Boston University in a rematch of last week’s matchup which UMass took 3-0 in Amherst. In that contest, the Minutewomen put together a three-run third inning off of four hits – all coming with two outs – to do all the damage they would need, but had other opportunities in the game.

In the first and the fifth inning, UMass recorded two hits, but failed to score in each inning. In both innings the Minutewomen ran into issues on the base paths as they reached base with singles, but were thrown out on the ensuing plays.

Plourde keeps plowing

Sara Plourde showed how scary it could be to face her in the batter’s box last year as a freshman when she posted a 1.83 earned run average with a 6-1 record while striking out 67 batters in 49 and two-thirds innings.

Now in her sophomore year as the Minutewomen’ ace with the departure of Brandice Balschmiter, Plourde is posting even stronger numbers.

With a 0.96 ERA and a nation’s best 367 strikeouts, Plourde is leading the way for UMass in the circle. A closer look at the pitcher’s numbers brings a better understanding of how dominant she has been so far this season.

Plourde’s 367 strikeouts in 189 innings equates to her striking out an average of 13.58 batters per game or 1.94 batters each inning. All together, the sophomore has faced 733 batters and has struck out just over 50 percent of them.

A week ago today, Plourde got 20 of the possible 21 outs against Boston College by way of strikeout as she set a new UMass record for strikeouts in a seven-inning game. Earlier in the year, Plourde struck out 22 batters in a nine-inning game against Texas A&M.

With Plourde striking out the majority of the batters she faces, few reach base. So far this season she has surrendered just .83 walks and hits per inning pitched.

Even more impressive is Plourde’s numbers in conference play as she leads the conference with a .60 ERA for pitchers who have pitched more than 10 innings and is 8-0 in as many starts. In the 47 innings pitched in A-10 play, Plourde has struck out 96 batters, good for 2.04 per inning pitched.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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