Minutewomen roll past Charlotte, run win streak to 14

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

Maria Uminski/Collegian

During its now 14-game winning-streak, the Massachusetts softball team has gotten major contributions from a number of individual performers to win big games.

On Sunday, the Minutewomen (30-11, 15-0 Atlantic 10) relied on team defense and timely hitting to spark a doubleheader sweep of Charlotte.

This was especially the case in Game 2 of Sunday’s twin bill, during which UMass only got three strikeouts from pitcher Sara Plourde, but the defense put together a flawless effort to lift the Minutewomen to an 8-0 win in five innings.

“[Error-free efforts] are what we practice defense for everyday,” said UMass coach Elaine Sortino. “When [Plourde] is striking out 15 batters, you only get to throw the ball around. I think we have a phenomenal defense and it was nice to get to give them a chance to play.”

Cyndil Matthew put the mercy rule into effect in the bottom of the fifth when her two-run double gave the Minutewomen the win in walk-off fashion.

Freshman shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson led the way at the plate for UMass with two hits, two runs scored and three runs batted in, including scoring the first run of the game to give the Minutewomen all the scoring the would need.

The Amherst native came up big once again when her two-run double in the second drove home Teea Rogers and Christine Della Vecchia to give UMass a 3-0 advantage.

Plourde helped out her own cause the very next inning with a solo shot to dead center, her ninth of the season. The Bristol, Conn. native believed she drew a walk when a 2-2 pitch missed the strike zone. After realizing it was only ball three while standing on first, Plourde made a statement by hammering a fastball right in her wheelhouse on the very next pitch.

After Diaz-Patterson drove home another pair with a triple to right, Katie Bettencourt sacrificed a groundout to bring in Diaz-Patterson for a commanding 6-0 lead.

“I thought we had a lot of timely hitting in Game 2, and I thought we were a lot more comfortable in the box as an offense,” said Sortino.

Minutewomen take Game 1

UMass found itself in its share of difficult situations, but solid defense and Plourde’s perseverance in the circle led the Minutewomen to a 3-1 win in Game 1.

“Overall, I thought it was a really tight first game,” said Sortino. “I thought we were a little tight, but I thought we held our own, played well and I thought we really did well to open things up in the second game.”

In such a low-scoring affair, there were few offensive highlights for both teams, but the greatest one belonged to UMass in the fourth, when Tiffany Meeks launched her sixth home run of the season to give the Minutewomen their third and final run of the game.

UMass broke a scoreless tie in the third with two runs. Matthew kicked things off with a leadoff triple with a shot to deep right centerfield, which was followed by an RBI single by Diaz-Patterson. After a single by Bettencourt moved Diaz-Patterson to third, Plourde hit a sacrifice ground ball to score the shortstop.

The Minutewomen may not have needed to put up staggering offensive numbers to come away with the win, but the 49ers sure made it interesting at some points in the game.

In the top of the second, Plourde walked the first two batters she faced, and then hit Chelsea Stamey to load the bases. The senior pitcher got some help from her outfielders as each of the next two batters hit fly balls to the outfielders, who played the ball perfectly in order to prevent the runner on third from scoring. From there, Plourde did what she does best, fanning Alex Rogers with one of her 11 strikeouts to get out of the jam.

“[Plourde’s ability to get out of tough situations] is fantastic,” said Sortino. “You’re not going to just give people good pitches to hit and [situations] like that develop. You got to be able to get out of the tough situation, that’s what you live for,” she said.

Plourde no-hits Fairfield

The Minutewomen ran their winning-streak to 12 games earlier in the week, as Plourde tossed her seventh no-hitter of the season en route to a 4-0 triumph over Fairfield on Thursday.

Homers by Bettencourt and Kyllie Magill lifted UMass’ offense, which gave the senior pitcher all the run support she needed as she shut down the Stags (26-24) with 12 strikeouts in a six-inning affair that was called early due to darkness.

Neither team was able to generate much offense early, as the game remained scoreless through the first three frames.

That all changed in the bottom of the fourth, when Bettencourt’s solo shot to right center gave the Minutewomen a lead they would not relinquish.

That would not be it for UMass, however, as just two batters later Magill took Fairfield pitcher Rebecca Trott’s offering deep to straight-away center to push the lead to two.

The Stags responded by drawing a pair of walks to put two on with one out, but Plourde was able to escape the inning after forcing the next two batters to pop out to end the threat.

Diaz-Patterson added some insurance for the Minutewomen in the fifth with an RBI triple, and was driven home on Plourde’s sacrifice fly to right field.

UMass concludes its regular season home schedule with a matchup against Boston University on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Canelas.