Ace pitcher Sara Plourde threw her first no-hitter of the season and seventh of her career to lead the Massachusetts softball team to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of its home opening doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon against Dartmouth before winning a 6-2 decision in the second game of the day.
In Game 1, Plourde seemed very comfortable on her home mound and was her dominant self, as she went the distance and struck out 16 batters to compliment her no-hitter and ninth victory of the season.
“It’s a big sense of comfort,” said Plourde on being back at the UMass Softball Complex. “This is our field, this is where we are every single day, so it was a big sense of comfort and I liked it a lot better.”
The Minutewomen (11-14, 3-3 Atlantic 10) found their only run in the bottom half of the second inning. After Tiffany Meeks walked and then advanced to second on a Lindsey Webster bunt, Stephanie Mayne drove in Meeks on a single to put UMass up, 1-0.
Although the Minutewomen offense mustered one run on four hits, it was more than enough for Plourde, who’s only blemish on the day was allowing three walks to the Big Green.
“Our team is usually pretty good on putting some runs on the board and hitting, and they played really good defense today too which takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher,” said Plourde.
After a slow start in Game 1 in the hitting department, the Maroon and White really warmed up in Game 2, collecting 12 hits en route to the 6-2 victory that completed the series sweep on the day.
“I really honestly felt like we were late,” said UMass coach Elaine Sortino on the slow offensive start in Game 1. “I thought we were late delivering our hands, I felt like she was throwing a little bit harder than we were thinking, and I felt that was why our barrels were dragging.”
“I think that was more pop-ups to the infield than I’ve seen … I can’t think of a UMass team that’s popped up like that,” said Sortino.
The bats were anything but late in the second game.
Kyllie Magill started the scoring in the second inning when, with two runners in scoring position and two out, she rifled a single that brought both of them home and put the Minutewomen up, 2-0.
After a double play presumably ended a bases-loaded threat in the fourth inning, Webster came up to the plate with runners on first and second and two out and crushed a three-run home run over the left-field fence to give UMass a 5-0 advantage.
The scoring didn’t end there, as Mayne drove in Audrey Boutin, who was 4-for-4 in the game, in the fifth inning for her second RBI single of the day to put the Minutewomen up, 6-0.
On the mound, Plourde was given a rest, as Sortino gave freshman pitcher Caroline Raymond the nod to start Game 2.
After pitching five perfect innings, including three strikeouts, Raymond let back-to-back batters reach in the sixth inning that ultimately scored to bring the score to 6-2, forcing Sortino to call on Plourde to return to the mound to finish the game.
The ace picked up where she left off in Game 1, pitching two shutout innings and striking out four to complete the 6-2 victory, her first save of the season and also helped Raymond to her second victory of the year.
“I think Sara Plourde threw one of her best games of the year,” said Sortino. “That was really one of her best outings.”
The Minutewomen will return to action on Sunday afternoon when they continue their five-game homestand against A-10-foe Saint Louis in a doubleheader. The first game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. at the UMass Softball Complex.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com.