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February 11, 2016

Minutewomen win 6th straight A-10 title

Senior Michelle Libby makes a throw during a game earlier this year. The Minutewomen beat Saint Joseph's and will play Fordham on Friday. (Jeff Bernstein/Collegian)

Behind five home runs from the tournament MVP Sarah Reeves, the Massachusetts softball team claimed its sixth straight Atlantic 10 championship.

After forcing a Game 2 with a 3-0 win over Fordham (47-10, 16-2 A-10) earlier in the day, UMass (42-8-1, 17-1 A-10), came out strong again with a final 8-3 victory to claim the A-10 title.

Reeves wasted no time in the bottom of the first inning, continuing her power hitting with a solo home run to center field. The senior was 8-for-15 in the tournament, along with setting two more records for the Minutewomen, with 10 RBIs and five home runs. She produced a strong 1.600 slugging percentage and increased her home run career totals to 33, second in UMass history.

Fellow senior Michelle Libby produced a second run for her team in the second inning, as she homered over the center field wall for her 10th of the season. After Jessica Serio flied out, Meghan Carta stepped up for the Maroon and White with yet another home run, this time to left field.

The Minutewomen’s big inning came in the fourth, started off by a double from Libby. Christine Della Vecchia stepped in as a pinch runner for Libby, followed by a walk from Serio as she was also replaced with pinch runner Jordan Storro. Carta stepped up to the plate and hit a second double of the inning, scoring Della Vecchia. Jill Andrews came in to pinch run for Carta and advanced to third on sacrifice fly from Whitney Williams, which also brought home Storro.

Captain Carly Normandin produced a triple to left center to drive home Andrews. UMass’ final two runs of the fourth inning came from Kyllie Magill, who

hit a two-run home run, giving the Minutewomen an 8-1 lead.

Fordham’s first run came in the top of the fourth inning from an Erin Fisher home run. Fisher stepped up again for the Rams in the sixth inning, hitting a two-run home run that would bring the score to 8-3.

Sara Plourde pitched strong for UMass, allowing seven hits in the game and striking out six batters. The sophomore set another A-10 record with four wins in the tournament. She finished the tournament with a 2.62 ERA and combined with Bailey Sanders to set an additional tournament record of 50 strikeouts.

Jen Mineau took the loss for Fordham, giving up seven runs on six hits and striking out two batters. Chelsea Plimpton gave up an additional run as she pitched the final 2.1 innings.

Fordham was the only team to defeat UMass in the A-10, as the Maroon and White were defeated 7-5 on Friday’s game. However, a 9-4 win over Charlotte provoked a rematch between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. The loss was also the first time since 2002 that the Minutewomen had to come out of the loser’s bracket to win the tournament.

Game 1 on Saturday resulted in a 3-0 victory that brought on the winner-takes-all Game 2.

Reeves drove in the game’s first run with a single in the third inning to bring home Williams. The final two runs came in the fifth inning, started off by a Magill single that brought home Andrews. Reeves came through again, this time with a sacrifice fly ball to centerfield that allowed Normandin to score.

UMass’ defense played a large role in the victory, with Reeves robbing Fordham of a run as her throw in the fifth inning beat out the runner at home base. Williams also made a tough defensive play in the seventh inning to throw the runner out at first. The senior also made the final out of the game to ensure the victory and championship Game 2.

The Minutewomen’s A-10 title gives them an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, which they have a chance to hold at the UMass Softball Complex. The field will be chosen and announced at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.

Geena Lombardi can be reached at glombard@student.umass.edu.

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