UMass looks to continue hot play as it heads to BU

By Patrick Strohecker

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team looks to continue its winning ways as it heads to Boston today to take on Boston University.

The Terriers come into today’s meeting looking to avenge two close losses to the Minutewomen last season.

After its game against UConn was postponed Tuesday, the Minutewomen (19-11, 6-0 A-10) look to prolong their recent string of success, entering today’s contest on a three-game winning streak and a 12-4 record in its last 16 games. During that stretch, UMass swept a weekend series with St. Bonaventure, as the team outscored the Bonnies 18-2 in the Sunday doubleheader. Much of that success can be attributed to strong play on both offense and defense.

“We’ve seen it across the board,” said UMass coach Elaine Sortino. “We’re getting good pitching, better at-bats and our defense has been great. Defense wins championships.”

But the Minutewomen face a tough test from the Terriers (22-12, 6-2 America East), who are 12-5 in their last 17 contests. A downfall for the Terriers this season has been its streaky play. BU had an eight-game winning streak earlier in the season, but is currently in a 3-4 slump over its last seven games.

To get an idea of how closely matched both teams are with each other, UMass enters today’s game ranked No. 39 in the Division I softball RPI with BU right behind at No. 40.

“We look forward to the competition and they are a great rival to play against,” said Sortino. “We know it’s going to be a tough game.”

UMass senior pitcher Sara Plourde will likely be in the circle for the Minutewomen as she looks to pick up her 19th win of the season. Plourde picked up three key wins for the team last week, posting a 3-1 mark for the week and earning UMass Co-Athlete of the Week honors for the fifth time this season. She threw 25 innings, recorded her second career perfect game and 13th career no-hitter, and amassed 45 strikeouts to push her season total to 304 to lead all of Division I.

Plourde has been a major asset to this year’s team, pitching game after game while giving the Minutewomen a chance to win every time she toes the rubber.

“She has worked very hard on her development,” said Sortino. “She’s grown as a pitcher week to week and it has shown. She is a great competitor.”

The Terriers look to get a good offensive performance from top hitters Jayme Mask (.353), Megan Volpano (.339), Brittany Clendenny (.298) and Amy Ekhart (.227). Those four have combined for eight home runs and 63 RBIs on the season.     In the circle, both Holli Floetker (12-3, 1.72 ERA) and Whitney Tuthill (6-4, 2.40 ERA) have had great seasons thus far for BU.

Cyndil Matthew (.421) leads the UMass lineup, along with Plourde (.344), Quianna Diaz-Patterson (.333) and Katie Bettencourt (.292).

Today’s game is the first of two meetings between the longtime rivals.

“They have a great record and I am expecting our team to go out and compete,” said Sortino.

First pitch for the game today is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Boston University Softball Complex.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at MDC_Strohecker.