Massachusetts softball pitcher Sara Plourde struck out 14 Boston University hitters en route to the 1,000th strikeout of her career and Cyndil Matthew scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat the Terriers, 3-2, on Wednesday afternoon at the UMass Softball Complex.
With her 11th strikeout that day, Plourde joined the ranks of UMass softball legends Danielle Henderson and Brandice Balschmiter as the third player in history to reach the 1,000 strikeout mark, but became the first to do it prior to her senior year.
“I think it’s outstanding,” UMass head coach Elaine Sortino said. “When you consider that she still has a lot of season left and she’s only a junior, I think it’s an outstanding accomplishment.”
Plourde reached the plateau after playing in only a handful games in her freshman season. Then, at the end of her sophomore year, she sustained a hip injury that affected her playoff status and her start to this season.
“It means everything [to return from injury],” Plourde said. “I would not want to be sitting again like I was last year and that’s kind of what gets me fired up sometimes. I realize that there was a time when I couldn’t pitch, so now, why not give everything I can, when I can?”
The Minutewomen took the lead early thanks to a third inning RBI single by Kyllie Magill that drove in Matthew. In the fifth, shortstop Jordan Storro hit her first career home run, which nearly cleared the second fence beyond the parking lot outside the stadium.
Despite the Maroon and White’s quick start, the intensity was matched by BU, as both teams traded hits and defensive gems throughout the game. BU alone made at least four sprinting catches in the outfield trying to chase down balls rocketing off the bats of the Minutewomen.
“I don’t think [the intensity] has anything to do with last year,” Sortino said. “I think it’s two good programs, and they both have the same destination and the same goals. We respect each other and it’s a good healthy rivalry.”
The Terriers tied the score in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run home run by April Setterlund to force UMass back to the plate. Setterlund took an outside fastball from Plourde and deposited it over the left field wall for her eighth home run of the season.
Matthew led off the seventh inning with a single through the left side. Then BU brought in a new pitcher to face Magill, who promptly reached on an infield hit to second base. With runners on first and third, the Terriers intentionally walked Lindsey Webster to load the bases and bring Audrey Boutin to the plate. Boutin hit a hard ground ball to second base, but Melanie Delgado threw the ball away and allowed Matthew to score the winning run.
Throughout the hard-fought last inning, Sortino never lost confidence in her squad.
“We just had to keep our poise,” said Sortino. “We were fortunate to have our quickest player as a leadoff batter with nobody out. The key to the whole thing was [Matthew] leading off with that shot. People are starting to see that she’s got power and not just speed. She’s really opening up her game, and she was big for us today going 2-for-3.”
Michael Wood can be reached at email@example.com.