UMass off to worst start since ’08

By Michael Wood

The Massachusetts softball team closed out play in the Cathedral City Classic on Sunday and finished its west coast road trip with five consecutive losses.

The Minutewomen, who never lost more than three-straight games over the last two seasons, are off to their worst start since 2008, when they began the year with a 2-6 record.

In the first game of the road trip, the Maroon and White took on No. 14 California in a day-night doubleheader and fell, 4-0. The Golden Bears scored two unearned runs in the first inning and two more in the second were just enough to get past UMass and starting pitcher Sara Plourde.

Jolene Henderson shut out UMass and held the Minutewomen to only two hits at the plate. She allowed only back-to-back singles in the third inning and one walk while striking out 10.

Plourde went six innings, struck out 10 batters and walked two for the Minutewomen.

In the nightcap, UMass faced even stiffer competition in No. 7 Washington. The Huskies knocked the Minutewomen out of the NCAA tournament two years ago en route to a Women’s College World Series title.

Plourde received the night off after pitching in Game 1 of the doubleheader and was replaced by freshman Lindsey Webster.

After leading the Huskies, 2-1, going into the third inning, UMass allowed eight runs, including two home runs to give Washington a 9-2 lead, which it would never give up.

Freshman Kaitlin Ingelsby pitched four no-hit innings to get the victory after entering the game with one runner on base and nobody out in the fourth inning.

Webster struck out 10 batters in six innings and allowed five earned runs on nine hits. She was replaced in the seventh inning by freshman Paige Hansen, who gave up a single and three consecutive walks. The Minutewomen quickly put Webster back on the mound and she closed out the game with back-to-back strikeouts.

A day later, the Minutewomen were again unable to find a groove on offense, dropping their third game to No. 19 Oklahoma State, 5-0.

The Cowgirls scored three unearned runs on just one hit in the first inning and followed up with one run in the fifth and another in the sixth.

Kat Espinosa went all seven innings for OSU, striking out four batters while scattering five hits and one walk.

Kyllie Magill led UMass on offense, going 2-for-3 at the plate. Plourde pitched seven innings, striking out eight and allowing two earned runs.

Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader saw the Minutewomen drop their fourth game of the weekend to No. 11 Texas, 3-0.

Longhorn pitcher Blaire Luna tossed a one-hit shutout, striking out 10 batters and walking one in the process.

Magill registered the only hit for UMass, a hard single through the right side of the infield in the third inning, but the squad was unable to generate anything from it.

Plourde threw seven complete innings and allowed five hits, two earned runs, walked six and struck out seven Longhorns.

In its last game on the west coast, UMass brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning before falling to Fresno State, 7-5.

Tiffany Meeks led the Minutewomen on offense, going 3-for-3 with a solo home run in the sixth inning and two runs batted in. Magill also homered on the day.

After leading UMass, 2-1, Caitlin Stiglich hit a grand slam to left-center field in the sixth inning, which gave the Bulldogs a 6-1 lead and put the game out of reach.

Plourde started the game but was replaced by Webster in the fourth inning, then re-entered the game in the fifth and pitched the final two-and-one-third innings. Plourde finished the game with 11 strikeouts and gave up six earned runs on four hits and two walks.

The Minutewomen dropped to 2-8 on the season and will travel to Georgia for the Buzz Classic next weekend where the team will look to get back on track.

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]