UMASS RESUMES CONFERENCE PLAY WITH FINAL VISIT TO CHARLOTTE
Following last weekend's 3-1 record against Fordham and La Salle, the Massachusetts softball team heads south to face Charlotte in a Sunday doubleheader, beginning at Noon. This will mark the final visit by a UMass sports team to the Queen City before the 49ers leave the Atlantic 10 for Conference USA.
• Live Video via the CBS Sports subsciption service will be available for both games, slong with a free audio broadcast and live stats at UMassAthletics.com.
• UMass enters the weekend at 10-17 overall and 6-2 through eight league games. The Minutewomen have won eight of their last nine and their only game this week - a 7-4 win at Boston College. UMass has five players hitting .300 or better, with eight at .320 or higher in A10 play. UMass has outscored its A10 competition by an average of 8.6-to-6.4 (8.3-to-4.9 when not counting the 17-11 Fordham loss).
• Charlotte enters the game 16-20 overall and 4-6 in A10 play following a two-day sweep of Rhode Island on Friday and Saturday. The 49ers are coming off a two-game sweep of Rhode island and are 13-7 at home this season. Briana Gwaltney leads six players hitting over .300 with a team-best .376.
Series With Charlotte
• UMass leads the series 15-3, including a 4-2 margin in Charlotte and 9-1 in Amherst.
• Last season, UMass swept a home doubleheader in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 610 as part of the Sixth Annual Softball Fan Fest. The Minutewomen won the first game, 3-1, before taking a 8-0 win in five frames. Sara Plourde picked up both wins as she struck out 11 in game one and three in a two-hitter in game two. She also belted a solo HR in the run-rule game. Tiffany Meeks . Katie Bettencourt and Quianna Diaz-Patterson each had three hits in the doubleheader, with Diaz-Patterson driving in three and scoring twice.
• Two years ago, the teams split a two-day series in the Queen City on the opening weekend of conference play. UMass got a solo home run from Audrey Boutin in the second inning while Plourde struck out eight and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to preserve 1-0 victory. The 49ers claimed the second game, 3-2 in 14 innings. At the time it was the second-longest game in UM softball history, just shy of the 15-inning contest against Washington in the 2009 NCAA Amherst Regional. Last season, UMass and Fordham played a 17-inning game to take the top spot.
• In 2010, Plourde no-hit the 49ers in the first game, striking out 13 and allowed just one base runner on a walk, in a 3-0 UMass win. Bettencourt was 2-for-2 with a home run and a double. The following day, UMass completed the sweep with a 5-1 win as Plourde struck out 17 in a three-hitter, while Meghan Carta drove in two runs and Carly Normandin was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. The Minutewomen and 49ers met again in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, with UMass winning an elimination game, 9-4, to move on to the finals a day later. Normandin, Kyllie Magill, and Sarah Reeves combined for eight hits, five RBIs and three runs scored.
Bats Coming Alive Over Past Four Weeks
• It's pretty safe to say that the UMass offense hit a low point of the season on March 17 when it failed to get a hit in a 5-0 loss to UNLV. But since that day, UMass has seen its team batting average climb in all 10 games, going from .201 to .278. The Minutewomen have also collected double-digit hits in seven of their last nine ball games.
Mound Work Developing As Well
• In addition to the offense doing its part, the pitching staff has become more efficient and seen its ERA decrease to its lowest figure all season, at 5.20. While still not as low as many would prefer, the number has gotten lower then the previous game in seven of the last eight games, with the lone hiccup as part of the 17-11 loss to Fordham last weekend. They are still walking a lot of batters, averaging 5.8 per game over the past nine and 5.2 for the season.
Fielding Still A Work In Progress
• The defense has been the one part of this UMass team that hasn't followed the lead of its previous teams. The Minutewomen are last in the Atlantic 10 in both fielding pct. (.916) and errors (68). The team has shown the ability to be solid in the field of late, collecting its only two error-free games last week against Fordham and La Salle. They also turned a school-record four double plays in the 9-5 win over the Rams on Friday before adding two more on Saturday.
Three Minutewomen Bring Lengthy Hitting Streaks Into The Weekend
• Cyndil Matthew and Tiffany Meeks each have career-long 10-game hitting streaks following the mid-week contest at Boston College. Quianna Diaz-Patterson has a nine-game streak and has reached base safely in 11 total contests. Katie Bettencourt had a nine-game streak snapped at BC on Tuesday.
• Bettencourt, Matthew and Meeks have each hit safely in all eight Atlantic 10 games thus far. In A10 play, Diaz-Patterson has a seven-game streak, followed by Taylor Carbone at six and Christine Della Vecchia at five. Bettencourt, Carbone, Diaz-Patterson, Matthew and Meeks have all reached base at least once in all eight conference contests.
• UMass has averaged 6.1 runners left on over the course of the season. That number has risen in the past 10 games to 7.5 per contest. The Minutewomen left 11 on-base at Boston College on Tuesday (going 0-for-4 with a hit batter and a fielding error RBI with the bases loaded), tying their season high set earlier at Dayton and vs. Western Michigan. UMass is hitting .310 this year with runners on base and .291 with runners in scoring position. In A10 play, those averages are .447 and .415.