The Massachusetts softball team got its 2011 season underway this past weekend, posting a 2-3 record at the FAU Kickoff Classic in Boca Raton, Fla.
UMass throttles Penn
Junior All-American pitcher Sara Plourde picked up right where she left off in 2010 on the first day of action on Friday. Plourde struck out 15 batters and gave up just one hit in six innings of work to help the Minutewomen to a 10-0 shutout victory over Penn State.
Katie Bettencourt carried the offensive load for UMass, going 2-for-3 in the contest, including a grand slam in the sixth inning that put the game out of reach.
Meghan Carta went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in two runs, while Kyllie Magill added a 2-for-3 effort and scored two runs in the opening victory.
UM suffers first loss
After the convincing victory, the Minutewomen were right back at it later in the afternoon to take on Tulsa in Game 2 of the weekend.
Despite freshman Lindsey Webster giving up one earned run in nine innings in her first career start, it was not enough as UMass fell to the Golden Hurricane, 3-1.
“She didn’t look like a freshman out there at all,” Plourde said to UMass media relations following the game. “She held her own out there, she was very tough, and she didn’t let the tough situations get to her head.”
Even with the gutsy performance displayed by Webster, the UMass offense was unable to get the same type of production from earlier in the afternoon, scoring just one run on a sacrifice fly by Magill that evened the score at 1-1 in the third inning.
An error in the ninth inning let a Tulsa runner score and Samantha Cobb hit an RBI single soon after to give the Golden Hurricane a 3-1 lead.
Tulsa would not relinquish the lead as the Minutewomen were unable to match the scores in the bottom half of the inning.
Wolverines edge UMass
Plourde was back on the mound on Saturday as the Minutewomen took on No. 10 Michigan in the third game of the FAU Kickoff Classic.
Despite only giving up two earned runs, four hits and striking out 12 Wolverines in the game, Plourde was outdueled by Jordan Taylor, who led Michigan to a 3-0 victory with a one-hitter, 10-strikeout performance.
Michigan’s Dorian Shaw scored the eventual game-winning run for the Wolverines in the top of the first inning, when she blasted a solo home run over the center field fence to give them a 1-0 lead.
After a pitching duel between Plourde and Taylor yielded zero runs between either team for a while, it was Caitlin Blanchard who gave Michigan some insurance, leading off the sixth inning with a solo home run before Nicole Sappingfield hit an RBI single, to drive Bree Evans in for the victory.
UMass outlasts Owls
The fourth game of the weekend pitted UMass against Florida Atlantic, the host school of the Kickoff Classic. Behind strong performances from Plourde and Bettencourt, the Minutewomen took down the Owls, 6-1, on Saturday afternoon to improve their record to 2-2 on the weekend.
Plourde pitched a complete game, giving up one earned run on three hits and striking out 12 to earn her second victory of the season and improved her overall record to 2-1.
Leading 2-1 going into the seventh and final inning with two runners on base, Bettencourt came to the plate and blasted a three-run homer to blow the game open and lead UMass towards the 6-1 victory.
Carta, Magill and Stephanie Mayne each contributed in the win with multi-hit games to help UMass past FAU.
Wolverines clinch title
After winning a three-way tiebreaker between 2-2 teams by allowing the fewest runs in their first four games, the Minutewomen earned a rematch with Michigan on Sunday afternoon in the Kickoff Classic finals.
Plourde stepped onto the hill for the fourth time on the weekend and went six innings, giving up four earned runs on eight hits as the Minutewomen dropped the championship game to the Wolverines, 5-1.
After each team put up a run in the first inning, it remained 1-1 until the fifth when the Wolverines began to break things open with a Shaw sacrifice fly that drove in Evans for the go-ahead run.
After UMass went scoreless in the top half of the sixth, Ashley Lane led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to extend the lead to 3-1.
Then, with a runner on base, Amy Knapp took Plourde’s 3-2 offering and blasted it over the center field fence for a two-run homer to make it a 5-1 game, which it would stay as Michigan won the 2011 FAU Kickoff Classic.
“I thought that we did a lot of things well,” UMass head coach Elaine Sortino said to UMass media relations as she reflected on the weekend.. “And I thought that we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to do better, which is what you would hope to find out in your first weekend out.”
Next up for the Minutewomen is a weekend trip to Cathedral City, Calif. where they will compete in the Cathedral City Classic against the likes of such national powerhouses as Washington, Texas and California.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com.