Softball Downs Fordham 5-0 To Move Into Saturday's A-10 Championship Game

Brandice Balschmiter pitched a four-hit shutout against Fordham Friday.

Brandice Balschmiter pitched a four-hit shutout against Fordham Friday.

May 11, 2007

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AMHERST, Mass. -- Sophomore Brandice Balschmiter (Newark, N.Y.) tossed a four-hit shutout, her 14th of the season, as Massachusetts (36-12-1) advanced to Saturday's Atlantic 10 Softball championship game after defeating Fordham (39-19) 5-0 Friday afternoon at the UMass Softball Complex. Balschmiter ran her consecutive scoreless innings streak to 36 in a row while the Minutewomen have now won 25 straight games overall and 31 in a row at home, both the longest active streaks in the nation. Balschmiter walked one and fanned eight while running her overall record to 26-8. UMass scored all five runs in the fifth inning highlighted by a two-run single off the bat of junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.). Senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) celebrated her 22nd birthday by going 1-for-2 and extending her hitting streak to 17 games. UMass will face either Fordham or Saint Louis in Saturday's championship game at Noon.

UMass had base runners in each of the first two innings against Fordham freshman Nicole Ayres, the A-10 Rookie of the Year, but were unable to scratch across a run. In the first, the Minutewomen had runners at second and third with one out after seniors Amanda Morin (Worcester, Mass.) and Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) got on via a single and walk, respectively. Junior Stacy Cullington (Encinitas, Calif.) bunted Morin and Molinari into scoring position, but Morin was thrown out at the plate by Fordham second baseman Stephanie Mott on a ground ball off the bat of junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.). Ayres then got sophomore Whitney Mollica (Windham, N.H.) to ground out ending the inning.

Fordham had its best chance against Balschmiter in the top of the third as it put runners on first and second with one out following a leadoff walk and one-out single. Balschmiter kept the Rams off the scoreboard though by inducing a soft line out and ground out to send the game on to the bottom of the third inning still scoreless.

The Rams threatened again in the fourth as Balschmiter hit Megan Hansen with an 0-2 pitch and then Megan Waldron doubled to the gap in right-center field with two outs, but Balschmiter got Mary Beth Puccio to fly out to mid-range right field on the first pitch ending the inning.

UMass took advantage of Ayres' wildness in the bottom of the fifth inning and put up a 5-0 spot. Freshman Whitney Williams (Kingsley, Pa.) was hit by a pitch and then back-to-back walks to Morin and Molinari loaded the bases with nobody out. Cullington took two quick called strikes and after fouling off six straight pitches, she ripped a ground ball that went through the legs for Fordham third baseman Allison Twarowski. Two runs scored and Cullington was able to move into scoring position herself when the throw came home.

Proctor followed by ripping a 1-0 pitch right up the middle driving in a pair of runs and making the score 4-0. Proctor, who took second base on the throw home, went to third base and later scored on a pair of Ayres wild pitches.

Staked with her first lead of the day, Balschmiter needed just five pitches to retire the Rams in the top of the sixth inning.

In the bottom of the frame, Rachael Wiggins replaced Ayres in the circle. Williams got on with an error and then Molinari legged out an infield single extending her hitting streak to 17 games. Molinari stole second base to move within seven of Tracey Osier's school record (103) giving the Minutewomen runners at second and third with one out, but Wiggins got Cullington to fly out and then struck out Proctor to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Fordham had a pair of two-out base runners on an error and an infield single but Balschmiter was able to get out of the jam and preserve her shutout.

UMass now awaits the winner of Friday's elimination game between Saint Louis and Fordham to learn its opponent in Saturday's A-10 Championship game at Noon. UMass would need to be defeated twice to not win the title. Live video, audio and stats of every A-10 Championship game will be available via the Championship Central button on Video is available on a pay-per-view basis for $6.95 a game or $24.95 for the entire championship. Tickets to the Atlantic 10 Softball Championship are $7.00 for adults for single days and $20.00 for a four-day package. A-10 students and children get in for $3.00 for single day tickets and $10.00 for four-day packages. Tickets will be sold at the entrance to the UMass Softball Complex on game-day. As always, audio is available at beginning 15 minutes prior to the scheduled first pitch. Bob Behler, Matt Goldstein and Emily Wehr have the call.



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