Balschmiter tosses no-hitter, sets UMass career wins mark in 8-0 victory

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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It’s not easy to overshadow ‘the furthest home run’ that Elaine Sortino has ever seen in her 30-year tenure as Massachusetts softball coach.

But at the rate Brandice Balschmiter is racking up school records and personal milestones, it’s no surprise that the star pitcher was once again the story despite a tape-measure blast from Samantha Salato.

Balschmiter recorded her school-record 109th win in a fitting way, throwing her eighth career no-hitter in an 8-0, six-inning run-rule victory over Providence Tuesday night at the UMass Softball Complex.

Backed by Salato’s two home runs and four runs batted in, the senior ace struggled with her command early before setting down the final 11 batters in a row to give her the landmark victory ‘- passing former UMass star Danielle Henderson (1996-1999) for sole possession of first place.

It’s been a memorable past few weeks for Balschmiter, who became the second Minutewoman to record 1,000 career strikeouts in a win over Vermont on April 2. But the accolades couldn’t be any further from her mind.

‘Honestly, it’s just another win,’ said Balschmiter, who moved into a tie with former Arizona pitcher Jennie Finch for 25th in NCAA history with No. 109. ‘This stuff doesn’t matter in the long run.

‘Looking back on the season, I’ll probably think, ‘Hey, this is really cool that it happened,’ but our goal is to get to the [College] World Series. And I won’t be satisfied until we get there,’ she added.

The Minutewomen ended the game an inning early by scoring two runs ‘- one on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and another on a bases-loaded walk ‘- in the bottom of the sixth inning for the run-rule win.

UMass, which is ranked No. 17 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll, extended its winning streak to 12 games and improved to 24-6 on the season. Tuesday’s tilt against Providence (13-25) was the first of back-to-back non-conference games on the schedule for the Minutewomen, who will face Boston University Wednesday night in Amherst.

By the time that game begins, Salato’s first home run might still be traveling. The senior slugger drilled a 2-0 offering from Julie Fowler high into the air and well over the fence ‘- and the 20-foot high scoreboard in left field ‘- for a 3-run shot to put UMass ahead, 4-0, in the bottom of the third inning.

‘It might be the furthest I’ve seen in a game in my career. It landed out in the parking lot, maybe 260 [feet]?’ pondered Sortino. ‘It would have to be at least 250 ‘- because it’s 190 to the fence, 220 to the bleachers and 30 more feet to the parking lot.

‘It was a slow-pitch home run.’

It was also a long drive that dented a red mini-van in the parking lot.

‘I heard a rumor that the person’s car she dented isn’t very happy about that,’ said a laughing Balschmiter after the game. ‘Given the balls I see her hit out here everyday in practice, I’m not surprised. That was definitely one of the farthest ever.’

As Balschmiter began to settle down in the third inning, Salato’s long drive added insurance runs that UMass turned out not to need. But that didn’t stop Salato from adding another one in the fifth inning ‘- this time on a line-drive shot to left-center field to put the Minutewomen up 6-0.

‘Anything to help Brandice out is always great,’ Salato said. ‘She deserves it and if I can help her, that’s good.’

Balschmiter didn’t need much assistance in her 17th victory of the season. After walking the leadoff batter in the first and third innings, nobody reached base safely against her for the rest of the game.

‘Eventually I started to figure out my strike zone wasn’t the umpire’s strike zone today,’ Balschmiter said. ‘I was just trying to move the ball around and get some foul balls here and there and keep them off-balanced. The first couple of innings were a little shaky and then I found out where he wanted it.’

Providence pitchers Fowler and Danielle Bertolette had trouble finding the umpire’s strike zone. The two combined to issue eight free-passes compared to just one strikeout. Balschmiter struck out six.

‘We swung at good pitches. Eight walks, one strikeout ‘- that’s a great stat,’ Sortino sa
id. ‘We hit the ball well even when it was caught. It was a great performance at the plate.’

With eight walks, UMass finished with just four hits ‘- two of which came via the long ball from Salato. Junior leadoff hitter Carly Normandin had a run-scoring single in the fourth to extend her hitting streak to 16 games, and shortstop Whitney Williams had the other on a single in the third.

UMass scored a run in the top of the first without the benefit of a hit, as freshman second baseman Kyllie Magill walked, stole second and scored the game’s first run after Providence third baseman Katelyn Revens made an error on a groundball by Salato.

Fowler, making her first start this season and second of her career, took the loss for the Friars. She allowed four runs (three earned) in three innings of work.

Game notes

Williams was hit in the back by a pitch in both the fourth and sixth innings.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]