The Massachusetts softball team swept Rhode Island in yesterday’s double-header at the UMass Softball Complex, 9-2 in Game 1 and 3-1 in Game 2. The wins are number 30 and 31 for the Minutewomen, bringing them to 31-7-1 on the season, while the Rams fall to 17-28-0.
In Game 2 of the afternoon, UMass came out strong as senior Whitney Williams hit a two-out, two-run home run off Rams pitcher Jayshree Narendran in the bottom of the second. URI was unable to get on the board before the Minutewomen struck again when Williams was hit by a pitch, stole second and pinch runner Cyndil Matthew stole home in the top of the fourth, increasing the lead to 3-0.
The score remained 3-0 going into the top of the seventh inning and pitcher Sara Plourde was just half an inning away from throwing her sixth no-hitter of the season, but the Rams managed to gain some momentum.
Although Plourde struck out the first batter, Leah DiBussolo reached on an error after Melissa Wilson singled up the middle with one out to register the first Rams hit of the outing. Another single put the tying run at first base and URI scored its only run of the game after Williams made an error at shortstop. Amanda Sbei then stepped to the plate with the bases loaded but was unable to deliver as she grounded out to secure the UMass victory.
“I wasn’t nervous towards the end of the second game because I have faith in Sara and our defense, and I knew we would be able to make the plays and get out of the jam,” first baseman Sarah Reeves said.
Game 1 was highlighted by impressive hitting by Reeves and sophomore Katie Bettencourt. Reeves recorded two singles, one double, one run batted in, a stolen base, and two runs scored, while Bettencourt went 3-for-3, including a two-run home run and three RBIs.
“I thought Sara and Katie were great,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said. “I thought they swung at good pitches, stayed inside the ball really well, and I was very pleased.”
Reeves went 4-for-4 in the game and was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week last Monday after going 6-for-6 at the plate in a pair of road wins against Boston University and Connecticut.
Reeves attributes her recent hitting success to intensive practices in which the Minutewomen have been working on improving.
“We’ve been doing a couple different things in practice that have been showing up through our line up,” Reeves said. “We are just trying to put it all together as a team going into the postseason.”
The first two innings of Game 1 were scoreless for both teams, but UMass managed to come alive in the bottom of the third to score a staggering six times. Kyllie Magill started things off with an RBI single, bringing UMass up 1-0. Rams pitcher Alison Hartzell struggled as the inning continued, loading the bases with no outs and then walking in a run.
The Minutewomen scored another four times, bringing the score to 6-0 before Hartzell was finally able to close out the inning.
URI responded in the top of the fourth, scoring two runs after Plourde hit a batter to open the inning and then walked another two with two outs. Two runs scored, one on an error, but UMass was able to get out of the jam after throwing out Nicole Massoni at third base as she tried to advance.
The Minutewomen widened the scoring gap in the bottom of the fourth after Bettencourt hit a two-run home run over the right field fence to bring the score to 8-2. The Rams went scoreless the rest of the game, while UMass was able to tack on another run courtesy of Bettencourt in the bottom of the sixth.
Bailey Sanders replaced Plourde in the top of the seventh, but not before Plourde recorded nine strikeouts, tying former Minutewomen Danielle Henderson’s record of the second most strikeouts in a season. Plourde also reached the 500 career strikeout mark. Sanders closed out the game with two strikeouts to clinch the UMass victory.
The Minutewomen are back in action tomorrow when they take on UConn at home at 5 p.m.
Kara Deyermenjian can be reached at email@example.com.