Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass begin busy home stretch with UConn

By Ryan Fleming, Collegian Staff

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If there’s anything to be learned in the last couple days from the Massachusetts softball team, it’s that they can bounce back from a loss.

Fortunately for the Minutewomen, they’re getting back on track at arguably the most important stage of the season.

After handling Rhode Island in Tuesday’s doubleheader with ease, after a rare loss days earlier ended a 49-game conference winning streak, UMass has five games remaining in the regular season, including Thursday’s matchup with Connecticut (28-19).

‘It was extremely important because we took two very big steps in the right direction,’ UMass coach Elaine Sortino said after Tuesday’s doubleheader. ‘It was a very hard day for us Sunday. We were totally out of character, and it was great to see our team come together and just execute across the board, both defensively and offensively.’

In their second meeting of the season, the Minutewomen will look to put a bit of distance between the two teams early on. UMass (31-7, 13-1 Atlantic 10) won the previous meeting on April 23, 6-4, on a seventh inning grand slam by Carly Normandin.

Normandin is finding her hitting groove again. The junior center fielder had seven RBIs ‘- a single-game school record ‘- in Tuesday’s first game, hitting a three-run home run and a grand slam to propel the Minutewomen, 13-0, in just five innings.

In the second game Normandin had her hitting streak snapped at 24 games, three shy of UMass record of 27 held by Barb Marean.

‘She’s doing what she’s been doing,’ Sortino said Tuesday. ‘The best part about her is that she’s a great leadoff hitter. She gives you great speed to run with and she’s a tough out. She’s just very consistent and a great weapon in our lineup.’

It isn’t just Normandin’s power numbers that are improving, though. The Minutewomen smacked seven home runs on Tuesday to move their season total to 39.

In a move that might have shown her shying away from using freshman pitcher Sara Plourde, Sortino opted to not start Plourde ‘- her usual tactic ‘- and start Brandice Balschmiter for the second game.

Plourde had the worst outing of her young career in UMass’ 11-6 loss on April 26. She allowed 15 hits, 11 runs (five earned) while only striking out two. Plourde’s earned-run average is still at a low 1.69.

The freshman is almost certain to start at least one game in the next few days as the Minutewomen have five games in the next four days.

One aspect UMass will have to improve to its game is its fielding. In the Minutewomen’s last loss, UMass committed four fielding errors leading to seven unearned runs. Shortstop Whitney Williams currently leads UMass in errors with 11 and is the only Minutewoman with a fielding percentage under .900. Freshman second baseman Kyllie Magill is second on the team with seven errors.

If the Minutewomen want a running start into the postseason then they have to refine all the aspects of their game starting Thursday afternoon against the Huskies.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected]

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