Riding a 10-game winning streak, the Massachusetts softball team entered play this past weekend looking to continue its momentum with doubleheaders against Syracuse and Atlantic 10-foe George Washington.
The Minutewomen (22-15, 10-3 Atlantic 10) split their two-game set with the Orange (30-11, 8-5 Big East) on Friday afternoon before winning both games on Easter Sunday against the Colonials (14-23-1, 4-11 A-10).
Sara Plourde threw a complete game and struck out 15 in game one on Friday, but it was SU’s Jenna Caira who got the better of her, also striking out 15 in a complete game one-hitter as the Orange won, 2-1.
Lisaira Daniels did it all for SU in its victory, as she went 3-for-4, including a solo home run in the third inning that put the Orange up 1-0 and ended Plourde’s streak of 41 consecutive innings at home without allowing an earned run.
UMass nearly rallied back in the seventh as it had the tying and winning runs on base. Candace Waldie, pinch running for Stephanie Mayne, scored from second when Cyndil Matthew hit a comebacker at Caira, in which she wildly threw away to first base to narrow the score to one.
However, with two outs and runners on first and third, Kyllie Magill came to the plate and grounded out on the first pitch she saw, ending the Minutewomen’s bid at a comeback, and giving them their first loss in nearly a month.
It was another pitching duel in Game 2, as Plourde and Caira returned to the circle for their respective squads.
Plourde was able to return the favor, as she threw a complete game two-hitter and recorded five strikeouts to outduel Caira’s complete game two-hitter and seven strikeouts in the Minutewomen’s 2-0 victory.
UMass was able to manufacture its first run of the game thanks to the baserunning of Waldie in the second inning. Pinch running for Audrey Boutin after she led off the inning with a single, Waldie advanced to third on a wild pitch and then a ground out. The Orange’s Jasmine Watson then threw the ball away in an attempt to double off Waldie, allowing her to easily score and give the Minutewomen a 1-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, after Teea Rogers led off with a single, she advanced to third following a sacrifice bunt and a groundout. With two outs, Matthew struck out, but Caira’s wild pitch allowed Matthew to first and Rogers to score to improve the UMass lead to 2-0, and where it would stay as the Minutewomen successfully completed the split.
UMass had a day of rest before returning back to the diamond on Easter Sunday against GW, and little did the fans in attendance know that the Minutewomen would deliver them a basket of treats in their doubleheader.
Plourde dominated the Colonials in Game 1, pitching a complete game one-hitter and striking out 12 to help the Maroon and White to a 6-0 victory.
Tiffany Meeks and Magill were the highlights of the game, as they combined to go 4-for-6, including Meeks’ fourth home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning to right-center field in the blowout victory.
It was a different story in Game 2, however.
Plourde was given the nod to start once again for her sixth start in five days, but she was roughed up early by GW, which included a four-run second inning that put the Colonials up early.
Plourde settled down, though, as she only gave up one hit following the second frame, and struck out 10 batters to give her squad a puncher’s chance at coming back.
“I really thought that Sara came back, regrouped, and pitched a really strong game [following the second inning],” said UMass coach Elaine Sortino.
That puncher’s chance became realistic in the sixth inning. Facing a four-run deficit and with runners on first and second, Meeks singled to drive in Waldie, pinch running for Boutin, to score, making it a 4-1 ballgame. After Rogers reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, Jordan Storro came through on an RBI single that drove in Maggie Quealy, who was pinch running for Stephanie Mayne, to reduce the deficit to 4-2.
That was all the scoring the Minutewomen could muster in the sixth, as Matthew flied out and Magill grounded out to end the inning. Plourde pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the seventh to keep the game at 4-2 heading into the Minutewomen’s last chance to break even.
Lindsey Webster led off and ripped a single to center field before Audrey Boutin charged into Clauss’ 0-1 offering and drove it over the right field fence for a two-run home run to tie the game at 4-4. UMass was unable to capitalize further, forcing the game into extra innings.
Plourde gave up a double with two outs in the eighth, but was able to pitch out of the jam by striking out the next batter she faced. Storro and Matthew each led off the bottom half with singles, before Magill drilled a single of her own up the middle that drove in the game-winning run from Storro and a 5-4 Minutewomen victory.
“This is big for us because all parts of the lineup did it,” said Sortino. “Everybody contributed to the comeback, and it’s a young team. We’re winding down [and] this was a big game for us in the conference. It meant a lot.”
UMass will continue its homestand when it hosts Boston University for a 5 p.m. tilt on Wednesday evening.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com.