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Minutewomen clinch top spot in A-10 tournament

Through wind and high water, the Massachusetts softball team established itself as the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament with four wins over the weekend under tumultuous weather conditions.

The Minutewomen blanked Saint Joseph’s, 5-0, in Game 1 on Sunday to clinch the top spot in the postseason. With no playoff implications at stake, UMass (38-7-1, 17-0-1 A-10) allowed senior Bailey Sanders to pitch her first game since March 7 when she pitched three shutout innings against Robert Morris.

The offense shortened her work by scoring eight runs in five innings to give the Minutewomen a win by slaughter rule.

UMass had its first run in the first inning and continued solid hitting throughout the game.

The Minutewomen scored three runs in the third inning off of three hits. Outfielder Carly Normandin singled up the middle on a 2-2 pitch and then scored off a home run by left fielder Michelle Libby. First baseman Sarah Reeves homered on the next pitch to give UMass a 4-0 lead.

At the bottom of the fifth inning, the Minutewomen closed the game with four runs. The final two runs came off a two runs batted in hit by senior Jill Andrews.

“I thought we were awesome today,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said.

Sanders finished the game with a two-hit shutout and six strikeouts.

“Bailey has worked so hard,” Sortino said. “She has been the consummate team player. She’s had limited opportunity and it felt great to be able to put the ball in her hands and see her go with it because she’s been working so hard, and getting better every day this year.”

In Game 1 against the Hawks (27-16, 11-7 A-10), solid defense eased the offense’s work load, which scored all it needed to win in the first inning. Normandin reached base on a single, then stole second.

The next two runs scored on an error and wild pitch. The Minutewomen continued to build the lead with a run by freshman Cyndil Matthew off a hit by catcher Meghan Carta. Right fielder Katie Bettencourt added to the effort with a home run of her own in the fifth inning. Pitcher Sara Plourde finished the game with 13 strikeouts while allowing two hits and two walks to put her at 501 strikeouts for the season.

On Saturday, Plourde broke another UMass record with her 35th win of the season against Temple in a game that was eventually canceled due to bad weather.

She finished with 10 strikeouts in five innings while allowing one hit. But Plourde had to do a lot of waiting before reaching another milestone in her sophomore year.

The game started an hour and a half late and then delayed 33 minutes just before the fifth inning. At the end of the frame, thunder and lightning came in to end the game.

However, the weather didn’t prevent the Minutewomen from getting runs early. The Maroon and White totaled four runs in the first inning starting with a leadoff solo home run.

Carta drove in the second run with a single to left field following a sacrifice bunt and walk that put pinch-runner Christine Della Vecchia in scoring position. At the end of the inning, the Minutewomen scored two runs on an error by the third baseman on a 1-2 count.

The fifth run came in the second inning, which started off with a single by shortstop Whitney Wiliams. Pitcher Lauren Spoo then walked Normandin to put runners on first and second with no outs.

After senior Michelle Libby reached on a fielder’s choice, Reeves singled up the middle, and scored Normandin. The senior currently leads the team (.382) in batting average.

The first inning of Game 1 was also a high-scoring inning for UMass.

The Minutewomen scored five runs with home runs by Libby and Carta. Libby homered with a runner on and a full count to give them a 2-0 lead.

Reeves doubled on the next pitch, which set up a single from Bettencourt to score the first baseman. Right after Reeves’s RBI, Carta homered to put UMass up 5-0.

In some ways, Sortino believes the first inning caused the defensive problems that came in the second inning.

Plourde allowed a double and two walks. One of them reached on a hit by pitch.

“We got a little spacy on defense,” Sortino said. “I thought we kind of lost our focus a little bit and allowed them to take a game that was going to be a blowout and crawl back into it. I just felt like we stayed in and out. I thought we made some mental mistakes defensively.”

However, Temple never scored in the second inning, or the rest of the game, while the Minutewomen tacked on another four runs in the third inning.

Sortino and Co., will begin the A-10 tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and receive a First Round bye. The Minutewomen will play the winner of SJU and Saint Louis on Thursday.

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

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