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February 10, 2016

UMass escape Billikens due to weather

The Massachusetts softball team was in danger of losing its first Atlantic 10 game this weekend to Saint Louis, but the combination of defense and bad weather made sure that wouldn’t happen.

The No. 21 Minutewomen beat the Billikens in Game 1, 1-0, on Friday, while Game 2 was called after eight innings due to inclement weather, and ended in a tie at three runs apiece on Saturday. They now extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games.

Pitcher Sara Plourde pitched a complete game with one hit, 14 strikeouts and five walks while SLU’s pitcher Kelcie Matesa allowed six hits, three walks and struck out three.

The offense had a slow day at the plate, hitting a combined 6-for-25, but senior Whitney Williams came through in the second inning to drive in the game’s only run.

With one out, designated player Jessica Serio hit a double into left field. Two batters later, Williams singled up the middle on the second pitch and brought in Serio.

SLU’s only hit of the day came from left fielder Kristin Nicoletti when she singled up the middle on a full count. She then stole second on a throwing error, but her effort did little to change the outcome as Plourde struck out the next two batters.

In Game 2, she struck out eleven batters and brought her season total to 424. She is now six strikeouts away from tieing Danielle Henderson’s 1998 strikeout mark (430) and 41 away from Henderson’s school record (465) that she set in 1999.

The Billikens (23-20-1, 9-4-1 A-10) scored the first run of the game after Caitlin Trevillyan pinch-ran for Kelly Flanagan following a sacrifice bunt the moved her to second. Nicoletti doubled down the left field line and brought in Trevillyan.

UMass (29-7-1, 9-0-1 A-10) responded with a three-run home run by catcher Meghan Carta after Serio and senior Michelle Libby reached base. Carta’s shot gave the junior her team-leading eighth home run of the season.

The Minutewomen couldn’t stay comfortable for long.

UMass committed two errors in the sixth inning, which brought in two runs and tied the game. Nicoletti scored the second run for SLU on a bunt single to the shortstop by outfielder Rachel O’Connell.

The next run came on a double-steal by O’Connell and centerfielder Jessica Buschjost when Carta made a throwing error and allowed O’Connell to score.

Senior Sarah Reeves hit a two-out double to the right field in the eighth inning, but the inning ended after sophomore Katie Bettencourt struck out. The Billikens never got a hit during the bottom of the eighth inning, giving the Minutewomen another chance in the ninth.

However, the rain ended the game in the ninth inning after the Maroon and White put runners on base with one out. Saturday’s game was the first time Sortino and Co., finished a game in a tie since Feb. 11, 2007 when it ended a contest with Kansas knotted at one in San Diego.

The Minutewomen’s next game will be a doubleheader against Rhode Island at home as part of a 10-game home stretch.

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

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