UMASS OPENS ATLANTIC 10 PLAY AT SAINT LOUIS WITH SUNDAY DOUBLEHEADER
Coming off a solid week of play in Clearwater and Tampa, Fla., the Massachusetts softball team travels to St. Louis, Mo. where it will open Atlantic 10 Conference play against the Saint Louis Billikens. The teams will square off in a doubleheader at the Billiken Sports Center, with the first game beginning at 11 am Central Time.
Live stats will be available at UMassAthletics.com by clicking on the GameTracker links. Postgame interviews with coaches and selected student-athletes will also be available following the conclusion of the day's play. Both games will be broadcast online at UMassAthletics.com via SportsJuice.com.
UMass will return the Western Mass. and open its home schedule this week with a four-game homestand, beginning Tuesday against Dartmouth at 3 p.m. The Minutewomen will also host Quinnipiac Wednesday at 3 p.m. before welcoming Dayton to Amherst for single games on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at Noon. Saturday will also be poster day with 2012 season posters available at the gate.
Head Coach Elaine Sortino is in her 33rd season at UMass with a 1,140-478-6 (.705) overall record. The 2004 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee ranks fifth among active Division I head coaches in wins and has guided the Minutewomen to 22 Atlantic 10 championships, 20 NCAA Tournaments and three Women's College World Series appearances.
UMass is coming off a 2011 campaign in which the Minutewomen finished with a 29-19 overall record and were second in the A-10 at 14-5. Sara Plourde (1st), Cyndil Matthew (2nd), Kyllie Magill (HM) and Lindsey Webster (HM) were named to the A-10s all-conference squad, with Plourde adding league Pitcher of the Year honors as well. Plourde was also named to a pair of All-America teams - second team by Easton and third team by the NFCA.
Series History with Saint Louis
Umass has posted an 11-1-1 record against Saint Louis, dating back to the first meeting six years ago in St. Louis. SLU claimed the initial contest 1-0 before UMass responded with a 13-3 win in five innings in 2006. The Minutewomen are 4-1-1 against the Billikens at the Billiken Sports Center. UMass has never lost in Amherst to the Billikens in six games. The lone tie in the series occurred two years ago at SLU when the teams went into the ninth inning knotted in a 3-3 score when rains forced a delay. Due to UMass' travel arrangements, the game ended in a tie. That is only the seventh tie in school history and the only one in 387 all-time Atlantic 10 regular-season games for UMass.
UMass' Atlantic 10 History
UMass has been the class of the Atlantic 10 Conference over the last three decades. UMass has claimed parts of 21 regular season titles and 22 tournament crowns while racking up a dominant .868 regular-season winning percentage.
UMass Team Analysis
UMass returns 15 letterwinners, eight position starters and all three pitchers from last season's squad that went 29-19 overall and 14-5 in the Atlantic 10.
All four of the Minutewomen who earned all-conference a year ago return in RHP Sara Plourde, 2B Kyllie Magill, OF Cyndill Matthew and OF Lindsey Webster.
The 2012 squad consists of five seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and five freshman. The 22-member team hails from 11 different states, with the majority coming from Massachusetts (7), California (2), Connecticut (2) and New Hampshire. UMass also has one player each from Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
UMass Picked Second In A-10 Preseason Poll
UMass has been predicted to finish second in the 2012 Atlantic 10 Championship in polling of the conference coaches. Head Coach Elaine Sortino's Minutewomen have won the six of the last seven A-10 titles, 15 of the last 17, and 22 overall. Fordham, the 2011 champion, was predicted to repeat with Saint Joseph's in third.
Charlotte was predicted fourth, followed by Temple, Dayton, Saint Louis, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and La Salle.
The six-team, double-elimination A-10 Championship will be held May 9-12 at the Billiken Sports Center in St. Louis, Mo.
The 4-1-1 on Sara Plourde
Senior All-American pitcher Sara Plourde looks to continue the dominating form that has made her one of the most efficient pitchers in the country over the past two seasons.
She established herself as one of the nation's top pitchers in 2010, posting a 40-8 record with a 1.30 ERA. She followed that up with a 2011 campaign that saw her go 27-15 with another 1.30 ERA.
Plourde led the country in strikeouts in 2010 with 556, the highest single-season total in UMass history and ninth-highest in NCAA history. She broke Danielle Henderson's UMass mark of 465 by 91 Ks. She again led the NCAA in Ks in 2011 with 498.
In 2010 she led the country in strikeouts per seven innings (12.5) and tied National Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie of Washington for the nation's lead in wins (40). She broke Brandice Balschmiter's UMass single-season wins record of 35. She ranked second in 2011 in strikeouts per seven innings at 11.8.
Among the list of awards she has collected include being named NFCA All-American twice, NFCA All-Region twice, A-10 Pitcher of the Year twice, ECAC Pitcher of the Year, A-10 All-Conference twice, ECAC All-Star, A-10 All-Championship Team and was named A-10 Pitcher of the Week 10 times in the past two seasons.
As she enters her senior season, she is poised to make a run at a number of UMass and NCAA career records.
By leading the country in strikeouts for the second time a year ago, Plourde became just the six player in NCAA history to do so twice in a career, joining Monica Abbott (Tennessee), Cat Osterman (Texas), Danielle Henderson (UMass), Trinity Johnson (South Carolina) and Michele Granger (California). Only Osterman and Granger have led the nation in Ks three or more years, both doing so all four years of their eligibility.
Plourde Named To ASA USA Softball Player of the Year "Watch List"
The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America has named UMass junior pitcher Sara Plourde to its initial "Watch List" for the 11th Annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. The two-time All-American and 2010 A-10 Pitcher of the Year is one of 50 players nationwide to be named to the list.
This marks the sixth-consecutive year that a UMass player has been named to the Preseason Watch List. Plourde, who also earned the nod a year ago, joins Carly Normandin (2010), Brandice Balschmiter (2007-09) and Whitney Mollica (2007) as Minutewomen that have garnered the distinction.
The 2012 Pre-Season Watch List includes 23 seniors, 20 juniors and seven sophomores. It is comprised of 50 players representing 31 schools and 13 different NCAA Division I Conferences with the Big 12 and the Pac-12 Conferences leading the way with six schools represented. Along with Plourde, Jen Mineau of Fordham was also on the list, giving the Atlantic 10 Conference a pair of honorees.
The ASA will announce the 25 finalists on April 11. A player does not have to appear on this initial watch list to be considered as a top 25 finalist. However, once the top 25 finalists are named the winner of the award will come from that list. Freshmen qualify for the top 25 list once they have competed at the collegiate level.
Follow UMass Softball
UMass Athletics offers several ways you can follow the Minutewomen. Your No. 1 source for information and news on the softball team is always UMassAthletics.com. Check in often for previews, recaps, news, box scores, and blog entries.
You can now follow UMass softball on Facebook! Simply search UMass Softball and click the "Like" button to follow the Minutewomen and receive up-to-the-minute news.
Follow UMass Athletics on Twitter at twitter.com/umassathletics. Receive the latest news on all UMass teams straight to your Twitter feed.
All of the latest UMass videos: hightlights, interviews, features, etc., can be seen on UMass' YouTube channel. Just go to youtube.com/umassathletics.
2012 Season Tickets Now On Sale
2012 UMass Softball Season Tickets are on sale now! The 22-time Atlantic 10 Champions are primed for another successful season in 2012 and the Minutewomen look forward to you joining them at the UMass Softball Complex for their 17 home games on 14 dates. Tickets can be ordered by calling 866-UMASS-TIX or by visiting the ticket page at UMassAthletics.com.
UMass softball season tickets are once again the best deal around, with plans ranging from $26 to $70 - that works out to between $1.52 and $4.17 per game! Purchasing softball season tickets also earns you Priority Points towards other UMass season tickets, including basketball, football, and hockey.