April 16, 2014

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Sara Plourde and Meghan Carta power Minutewomen to eighth-straight victory

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

With Saturday’s game rained out, the Massachusetts softball team did the most it could in its one game this weekend, defeating conference rival Dayton, 9-1, on Friday.

Sara Plourde was her dominating self, overwhelming the Flyers through all seven innings, striking out 17 batters, and allowing just three hits and one walk.

After surrendering a second inning solo home run to Dayton’s Brandy Brown, Plourde retired eight in a row, seven via the strikeout, en route to her 15th win of the season.

“She was again a little bit more consistent than the last time she went out,” said UMass head coach Elaine Sortino. “She’s getting stronger and getting a little bit more pop on the ball everyday. Her consistency paid off very effectively. [Dayton is] a very strong hitting team. They swing free and very powerfully so I thought she contained them very well.”

While Plourde has been effective each time around, her catcher has had difficulty consistently producing out of the No. 4 spot in the lineup.

Yet one pitch in the third inning made all the difference.

Meghan Carta hit the first pitch of her second at-bat over the left field wall for a grand slam, erasing a 1-0 deficit.

Coming into Saturday, Carta had one home run to her name this year after hitting 13 all last year.

“She’s been struggling,” said Sortino. “She’s been working very hard this last week and trying to iron out her mechanical flaws. She felt better coming into the weekend and obviously it’s paying off. She’s definitely swinging a better bat for us.”

Sortino knows that the team is counting on her veteran catcher to provide the example for the number of young players on the team.

“She’s one of our returning starters, one of very few, and it’s really important that she be able to make contributions to the team offensively,” said Sortino. “Obviously, she’s done very well defensively. The best play of [Saturday’s] game was when she threw out a runner to end the game. I thought that was fantastic. She’s a great catcher and it’s nice to see her coming back alive offensively.”

Carta is now batting .237 for the season with two home runs and 17 runs batted in.

Soon after Carta crossed the plate, Stephanie Mayne launched the next pitch over the wall for the second of back-to-back homers, capping the five-run third and putting UMass up 5-1.

The Minutewomen added three more runs in the sixth, helped by a passed ball and an error by the Flyers defense.

Cyndil Matthew went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs, one in the sixth and seventh innings. Lindsey Webster also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.

The win was the eighth in a row for UMass, a streak that began on March 30 with a doubleheader sweep of Dartmouth. The streak also offsets a tough eight-game slide the Minutewomen suffered from Feb. 20 to March 4.

UMass will now travel to Connecticut for a Wednesday matchup before coming home for an 11-game homestand that will run for two weeks and feature seven different visiting teams.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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