Plourde shuts down Colonials in doubleheader sweep

By Stephen Hewitt

Not even a week off from playing could slow down the Massachusetts softball team.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

In fact, it only helped it pick up more steam as the team continued its tear through Atlantic 10 play.

After Tuesday’s game versus Connecticut was postponed due to scheduling conflicts, and then Thursday’s game at Boston University also postponed due to heavy rain in the Boston area, the Minutewomen were back on the diamond for a doubleheader with George Washington on Sunday. And as it turned out, the wait paid dividends.

UMass (21-11, 8-0 A-10) picked up a pair of decisive road shutout victories against the Colonials, matched its best winning streak of the season at five games and improved its impressive run to 10 wins in its last 11 games dating back to March 25.

No other player greeted the return back to the field better than Sara Plourde.

It seemed like any ordinary day for the senior ace, who mowed down GW (15-26, 5-7 A-10) with back-to-back no-hitters and 25 total strikeouts. And a weekend after hitting two home runs in the Minutewomen’s doubleheader sweep of St. Bonaventure, Plourde was back at it again at the plate Sunday, belting another pair of round-trippers to once again lead UMass on offense to its victories.

Despite Plourde’s dominant day, the second game of the doubleheader proved to be more of a nail-biter than the first. UMass prevailed, 2-0, but it wasn’t without some drama and suspense.

Cyndil Matthew used her quickness to lead off the game with an infield single and then promptly stole second base. Quianna Diaz-Patterson followed her with a double to left centerfield that easily scored Matthew as the Minutewomen pulled out in front by a run.

While Plourde did pick up the no-hitter – her sixth of the season – she did have to pitch herself out of a few jams.

In the second inning, after Kyllie Magill committed a throwing error, Plourde threw a wild pitch before walking the next batter to load the bases. But in true Plourde-style, she got herself off the hook by forcing the next batter into a pop up to shortstop that ended the inning.

Plourde settled into a groove on the mound, as she allowed, at the most, one runner on base in each inning. She also gave herself some insurance in the sixth inning with the Minutewomen lead still at 1-0.

After Katie Bettencourt popped up to start the inning, Plourde came up to bat. She drew a 3-1 count, received the green light and smashed a solo home run to left field to increase the UMass lead to 2-0. Plourde then went on to mow down the Colonials with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh as the Minutewomen prevailed.

Plourde punishes GW

The first game of the day was anything but suspenseful as the UMass bats came out in full force for an 8-0 victory over George Washington.

Plourde finished with 13 strikeouts in a shortened five-inning game as the Minutewomen collected nine hits and quickly forced the Colonials to make changes in the pitching circle.

Diaz-Patterson walked in the first inning and eventually came around to score on a Magill single to put UMass ahead 1-0, but the floodgates really opened up in the second.

After Christine Della Vecchia reached on an error, she stole second, and after Matthew drew a walk, Diaz-Patterson singled down the right field line to score Della Vecchia.

Bettencourt then fouled out, which set the stage yet again for Plourde, who once again took advantage of her opportunity and hammered a three-run home run to right centerfield to give UMass a commanding 4-0 lead.

The Minutewomen extended their lead with a three-run fifth inning that put the game out of reach for good. Stephanie Mayne doubled to left to score Tiffany Meeks. And after Lindsey Webster entered the game to pinch run for Mayne, Teea Rogers singled to center to score Webster. Rogers eventually came around to score after a Diaz-Patterson RBI single.

Plourde allowed two runners on in the bottom of the inning, but they didn’t score as UMass took the shutout.

Next up for the Minutewomen is a trip to Boston College on Wednesday afternoon. UMass beat the Eagles, 4-2, in Amherst on April 4, which started its current winning streak. After that, the Minutewomen will then return home to kick off a 10-game home stand, beginning with a series against Saint Joseph’s on Friday and Saturday.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Hewitt.