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As the Massachusetts softball team has learned, Atlantic 10 opponents always come prepared to play to defending conference champions.

Dayton (17-35, 5-13 A-10) was no different, as it gave UMass trouble in its doubleheader on Sunday despite having more losses in the conference than the Minutewomen have had on the season.

“I thought [Dayton] took some good hacks on the ball,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said. “Obviously, Sara [Plourde] didn’t have her best stuff, but our defense was behind her and our offense did what they needed to do to get the win.”

The No. 21 Minutewomen (33-7-1, 13-0-1 A-10) came out on top in both games (8-2 in Game 1 and 5-4 in Game 2), but they found themselves in an unusual position heading into the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 2.

Trailing 4-3, Carly Normandin started the inning by grounding out to the second basemen on the first pitch she saw.

Kylie Magill and Sarah Reeves followed by drawing walks, and Katie Bettencourt singled to load the bases. Meghan Carta then took four straight balls for the third walk of the inning given up by Dayton’s Sarah Wedel (five and one-third innings pitched, seven hits, five runs, six walks) bringing in the tying run.

Amanda Daly replaced Wedel, striking out Michelle Libby for the second out of the inning before issuing a walk to Jessica Serio to bring in the winning run.

“We needed to be patient, we really needed to keep our at bats,” Sortino said. “We were down to five outs at that point and you really want to work your patience, swing at good pitches, and I thought we did a great job.

Dayton would threaten in the top of the seventh, but two strong defensive plays by UMass’ outfield would end the game. Michelle Libby registered an outfield assist when she threw out a base runner trying to reach third for the second out of the inning. Then with the tying run at second, the Flyer’s Megan Lee hit a sinking line drive to center field that was caught by a diving Normandin to end the game.

“Everybody has to remember we’re not very used to coming from behind, we’re not very comfortable in that role, and I thought we did a good job.”

Dayton jumped out on top of UMass in the second inning of Game 2 on the second home run given up by Sara Plourde on the day. With one out in the inning and a base runner at second base, the Flyer’s Courtney Kutulis hit a two-run home run.

Plourde finished Game 2 with 12 strikeouts and 23 on the day, placing her three strikeouts away from breaking the UMass single season strikeout record (465) set by Danielle Henderson in 1999.

After leaving seven runners on base through the first three innings, the Minutewomen didn’t waste their opportunities in the fourth as they took a 3-2 lead on a bases-clearing three-run double by Katie Bettencourt with two outs.

Bettencourt finished the day going 5-for-7 and driving in four runs between the two games.

After the first two batters of the inning grounded out, Normandin reached on a single through the right side of the infield. Normandin later stole second and Magill was then hit by a pitch. Reeves loaded the bases with a single to left field, setting up Bettencourt’s double.

Dayton would tie the game up again at three in the next half inning on an RBI single by freshman Kathleen Maloof, and then take the lead back on a double in the next at bat. Lauren Nacke lined a one-out, 2-2 pitch down the left field line and after Libby misplayed the carom, Maloof – who advanced to second base on a wild pitch – scored to take the 4-3 lead.

In Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader, UMass took a 1-0 lead early on a leadoff home run by Normandin. The senior took the second pitch she saw over the left center field wall, giving the Minutewomen a lead they would not surrender.

UMass would tack on an unearned run in the second inning, before the Flyers would tie the game up in the third inning.

Dayton’s Molly Meyer got the inning started with a one-out bunt single down the third base line. The next batter, Anne Maci, hit the first pitch she saw over the wall in right center field to tie the game at two.

The Minutewomen opened the game up in the bottom of the fourth inning with five runs, all of which came with two outs, as they sent 10 batters to the plate.

“It’s very good to pass our offensive energy from at bat, to at bat, to at bat,” Sortino said. “That is really important for a game to do to keep their team hanging around for as long as they can, and I think our players did that.”

Jordan Storro, who got her first career start at shortstop in the game, singled over the outreached glove of the Flyer’s second basemen, Carlyn Harlow, with one out to begin the inning. Normandin then drew a four-pitch walk and both base runners moved up a base on Magill’s weak ground out to the pitcher.

With two outs, Reeves lined a 3-1 pitch over the right fielders head for a two-run double. Bettencourt then hit another 3-1 pitch in the next at bat to the center field wall for another double, driving in Reeves.

With UMass up 5-2, catcher Meghan Carta then hit her team-leading 10th home run of the season to put the Minutewomen up 7-2.

Michelle Libby lined a single to center field and was pinch run for by senior Jill Andrews, forcing Dayton to replace pitcher Amanda Daly (three and two-thirds innings pitched, seven runs, six earned on 10 hits and three walks) with Eva Rappe. Rappe struggled to get the final out of the inning but did so before UMass could score again.

UMass would add another run in the fifth inning, and Bailey Sanders would pitch a scoreless seventh inning to close out the 8-2 victory for the Minutewomen.

UMass returns to action on Wednesday as they host Boston College at 5 p.m. in the second matchup of the in-state rivals this season.

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

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