Bettencourt leaves void for Minutewomen

By Steve Levine

There’s no question that without Katie Bettencourt, the Massachusetts softball team has a void in its lineup.

Bettencourt, a junior right fielder and reigning Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Year, has missed the last six games with an injury suffered on March 13 against St. John’s. Bettencourt was 2-for-4 in the game with a run scored before she sustained an internal injury to her liver sliding headfirst into second base. She is out indefinitely.

UMass head coach Elaine Sortino knows that, while Bettencourt’s production will be missed, there is a silver lining.

“[Missing her] is big considering how many kids we graduated last year,” said Sortino. “But the upside of this is that the young kids have stepped in, stepped it up and continued to get better. Every day we get better and I just think that’s going to make for a great future.”

Bettencourt started all 53 games for the Minutewomen last year, batting .333 (51-for-153) with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 34 runs scored. She hit her first career grand slam this season in UMass’ 10-0 season opening victory against Penn State.

No matter how long Bettencourt remains on the shelf, Sortino is confident that the remaining outfielders will step up in her absence.

“We’re still at the beginning of what is a lot of season left and I really believe that when the bell lap comes, they’re going to be ready to sprint,” said Sortino.

With UMass’ two home-opening games slated to begin today at 2 p.m. against conference-foe Dartmouth, the bell lap may have already rung.

Plourde isn’t everything

While junior starting pitcher Sara Plourde is the clear-cut ace of the Minutewomen staff, opponents should not forget about UMass’ other primary pitchers, freshmen Lindsey Webster and Caroline Raymond.

Webster has been on the wrong end of some tough luck, as she is 0-3 in four appearances (two starts) to go along with a 3.85 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Raymond has made six appearances (two starts), compiling a 4.00 ERA with eight strikeouts in 14 innings. Raymond went the distance in both of her starts, the first coming against Temple on March 26, when she earned her first collegiate win, allowing two runs in five innings to go along with four strikeouts.

“It’s really coming along,” Sortino said of Webster and Raymond’s progress. “I thought Caroline threw very well over the weekend. Lindsay hasn’t been out there in a while but she’s going to get her time.”

The Minutewomen are glad to have two talented freshmen that can make starts when Plourde needs rest. Still, Plourde remains the unquestioned ace who will dictate much of UMass’ success. She was the Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year last year as well as the national strikeout leader. In 19 starts, Plourde is 8-10 with 15 complete games, sporting a 1.89 ERA to go along with 205 strikeouts in 125.2 innings.

Statistics aside, Plourde and Sortino agree that Plourde has yet to reach top form this season, but she’s been improving as of late.

“I think we figured out some pretty good things for Plourde,” Sortino said. “Some people are going to be surprised tomorrow because we were able to figure some things out over the weekend when we looked at some game tape. She had her best workout of the year [yesterday]; she looks like she’s in fast forward coming off the mound.”

Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]