UMass Heads To St. Louis Looking For 23rd Atlantic 10 Championship Crown

May 9, 2012

The Massachusetts softball team begins play at the 2012 Atlantic 10 Softball Championship on Thursday against George Washington at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The winner advances to Friday's semifinal against the Fordham-Saint Joseph's winner. The loser will drop into the loser's bracket and play at either 7 p.m. ET on Thursday or 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

Live video, live audio and Gametracker stats will be provided for all UMass games via the links at Postgame interviews with coaches and selected student-athletes will also be available following the conclusion of each day's play.

Scouting UMass

 UMass has won a season-best 19-consecutive games, 24 of its last 25 and 29 of its last 33. The Minutewomen are 13-0 at home and 7-0 in A-10 home contests. UMass is 12-3 in true road games and 10-0 in A-10 road contests following their doubleheader sweeps at Fordham and La Salle last weekend. UMass has won 13-straight A-10 road games and has not been swept by a league foe on the road in seven years.

 The Minutewomen are hitting .280 as a team, first in the A-10, and boast six players hitting at .275 or better. Elsewhere in the league UMass is first in slugging pct. (.441), on-base pct. (.367), triples (9), opponent batting avg. (.153) and batters struck out (503). The team is second in RBI (215) and batters hit-by-pitch (43), while ranking third in runs (225).

 Leading the charge are the top two in the batting order, junior OF Cyndil Matthew (.408-1-19) and freshman SS Quianna Diaz-Patterson (.359-4-40). QDP had a 12-game hitting streak earlier this season which is the longest by a Minutewoman, while her current 25-game streak of reaching base is the longest this year, followed closely by Matthew's active 22-game streak.

 Senior All-America Sara Plourde is 31-9 with a 1.90 earned run average and leads the nation in strikeouts for the third-consecutive year with 447. She also has 36 complete games, 12 shutouts and six of her 15 career no-hitters this season. She tossed her second-career solo perfect game at St. Bonaventure and the 13th in school history. She is also hitting .294 with nine HR and 26 RBI.

 Head Coach Elaine Sortino is in her 33rd season at UMass with a 1,154-481-6 (.705) overall record. The 2004 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee ranks fourth among active Division I head coaches in wins and has guided the Minutewomen to 23 Atlantic 10 regular-season championships, 22 A-10 Tournament titles, 20 NCAA Tournaments and three Women's College World Series appearances.

UMass Atlantic 10 Tournament History

 UMass has won 15 out of the last 17 Atlantic 10 Chmpionships, six of the last seven and 22 titles overall. Before last year's 1-2 tourney performance, which included a pair of 10-inning losses, the Minutewomen had won six-consecutive crowns. UMass has an all-time record of 76-17 (.817).

 Of their 22 championships, 19 have come without a loss and three have seen the Minutewomen come out of the loser's bracket.

 UMass is 21-3 in tournament games played in Amherst, with a 11-3 record at the UMass Softball Complex and a 10-0 slate at Totman Field. UMass' record by other locations is: 6-0 in Bronx, NY, 1-2 in Charlotte, NC, 12-3 in Kingston, R.I.

UMass Sweeps Postseason Awards

 Sara Plourde was named the Atlantic 10 Player and Pitcher of the Year, with Quianna Diaz-Patterson and Elaine Sortino being selected Rookie and Coach of the Year respectively when the conference announced its regular-season awards on Tuesday.

 Plourde becomes the first player in league history to win the top honor for players and pitchers, as this also marks just the third time in A-10 history that a single school won all of the top awards.

 Joining Plourde on the first team is UMass junior leftfielder Cyndil Matthew, while second team honorees for the Minutewomen include Diaz-Patterson at shortstop, Kyllie Magill at second base, Katie Bettencourt in the outfield and Lindsey Webster at the designated player spot. Diaz-Patterson was also named to the All-Rookie team.

 Plourde's third Pitcher of the Year honor marks the seventh-consecutive year a UMass pitcher has won the award and 18th overall. Brandice Balschmiter won four in a row from 2006 to 2009. Kelly Daut (1994-95), Danielle Henderson (1997-99), and Kaila Holtz (2002-03) are the other multiple winners of the award in program history.

 Now in her 33rd year at UMass, Sortino has earned the A-10 Coach of the Year award an unprecedented 11 times, this time for leading the Minutewomen to their 23rd A-10 regular season title and the top seed in the A-10 Championship. She boasts a career record of 1,154-481-6 (.705) and ranks fourth in victories among active NCAA Division I coaches.

Plourde Named A Finalist For USA Softball POY Award

 Senior Sara Plourde was named one of 11 Finalists for the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America announced on Wednesday. The winner will be announced at the opening of the 2012 NCAA Women's College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City.

 The three finalists will be announced May 23, while the winner of the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be revealed on May 29 prior to the start of the NCAA WCWS in Oklahoma City.

 This year's finalists are comprised of five seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman. The student-athletes selected represent nine NCAA Division I universities and six athletic conferences. California and Oklahoma lead the way among universities with two athlete representatives each.

 The three finalists selected from this list will be announced May 23, while the winner of the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be revealed on May 29 prior to the start of the NCAA WCWS in Oklahoma City.

 The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award is voted on by coaching representatives from 11 Division I Conferences in the 15 ASA Regions as well as members of the media who consistently cover Division I Softball across the country, and previous Player of the Year recipients. 

UMass In The NCAA Rankings

 UMass has a number of players who appear in the top portions of the NCAA rankings in a number of categories. Sara Plourde currently leads the nation in victories (33), strikeouts (487), strikeouts per seven innings (12.3) and fewest hits allowed by seven innings (2.7). She is also fifth in shutouts (12) and 67th in ERA (1.76). Offensively, Plourde's 11 home runs put her 62st in Division I.

 Cyndil Matthew and Quianna Diaz-Patterson have their names scattered across the nation's leaders. Matthew ranks eighth in steals, 11th in triples, 20th in runs and 45th in batting avg. Diaz-Patterson is 21st in doubles, 53rd in RBI, 180th in batting avg and 211th in slugging pct.

 As a team, UMass ranks in the top 60 in nine of the 11 categories.

Top Three In The Lineup Setting The Table For UMass

 UMass' top three hitters in the lineup - Cyndil Matthew, Quianna Diaz-Patterson and Katie Bettencourt - have done their part to put the Minutewomen atop the Atlantic 10 in team batting in league games at .320, 23 points higher than Fordham. In fact, Diaz-Patterson finished second in A-10 games with a .435 avg., Matthew is third at .419 and Bettencourt is sixth at .357.  Matthew is second in runs scored and first in triples and stolen bases, while Diaz-Patterson is first in hits and RBI. Additionally, Sara Plourde, who has hit in the four and six spots this year paces all players in A-10 contests with 10 HR, is second to Diaz-Patterson in RBI and first in pitching strikeouts.

Minutewomen Strong On `D'

 UMass has been very solid on defense during its current 19-game winning streak. In fact, the Minutewomen lead the A-10 in league games with a .987 fielding pct and have committed just six errors. UMass did not make a miscue in 15 of 19 A-10 contests. Prior to a pair of errors in the first game against Charlotte two weeks ago, the Minutewomen had been clean in the field over their previous seven games.

UMass Completes Ninth Undefeated A-10 Regular Season

 UMass completed the regular-season with a perfect 19-0 record. UMass is the only school to have completed the regular-season undefeated, having done so nine times in the 29-year history of A-10 softball. Prior to this season, the last occurance came two seasons ago with a 17-0-1 mark.

Win Streak Reaches 19 Entering A-10 Championship

 UMass enters this week's Atlantic 10 Championship riding a 19-game winning streak, with its last loss coming on April 3 at Connecticut. The streak is the seventh-longest in school history and the 10th-longest unbeaten streak. The school record skein of 33-straight wins came during the 2002 campaign. That came to an end in the first game of the A-10 Tourney at Rhode Island against the Rams.

UMass Bat/Ball & Stick/Ball Sports Dominating Conference Play

 While the UMass softball team has a 19-0 mark in Atlantic 10 play thus far, some other spring sports are dominating their league competition as well. Entering the week, UMass softball, men's lacrosse (6-0 in CAA), women's lacrosse (7-0 in A-10) and baseball (11-7 in A-10) are a combined 43-7 in conference play for an .860 winning pct.

Matthew Near The Top Of Atlantic 10 Rankings

 UMass junior OF Cyndil Matthew has been on a tear this season. She enters the tournament leading the A-10 in batting avg. (.408 - 27 points more than second), on-base pct. (.479) and runs (49), while ranking second in steals (31). She also leads the team with 17 multi-hit games and collected a career-high four hits against Maryland (3/2) and Chattanooga (3/17) this season.

`Q' Delivers In The Clutch

 There's no denying the impact Quianna Diaz-Patterson has made on the UMass team this season. On her way to picking up A-10 Rookie of the Year honors, the freshman from Amherst Regional HS has stepped right in and produced form the get-go. She has started all 46 games at shortstop and currently is tied for or leads the team in RBI (40) and doubles (14), while ranking second in triples (3), runs (35), slugging pct (.569) and on-base pct. (.427).

Plourde Producing In Bunches In Final Season

 Sara Plourde is definitely doing her part to make her final season a memorable one. The two-time All-America selection from Bristol, Conn., currently leads the nation in victories (33), strikeouts (487), strikeouts per seven innings (12.9) and fewest hits allowed per seven innings (2.73). She has also held opponents to a nation's best .114 batting average in 274.0 innings this season.

 Her 1,608 career strikeouts are 10th all-time in NCAA Division I history. She is on pace to lead the country in strikeouts for the third time in her career, becoming just the third player in NCAA history to accomplish the feat. By leading the country in strikeouts for the second time a year ago, Plourde became just the sixth 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.

 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.

 Offensively she has been a threat to opposing teams as well. Since being inserted into the lineup prior to the Northwestern contest on March 20, she has hit .294 with nine home runs and 26 RBI over the last 23 games. Her eight HRs in 15 A-10 games lead the league and her 21 RBI are second. She hit a home run in five-consecutive games from April 8-15 which fell one shy of tying the NCAA Division I record.

Plourde Selected Ninth In National Pro Fastpitch Draft

 UMass senior Sara Plourde was selected ninth overall by the Carolina Diamonds in the 2012 National Pro Fastpitch Draft on March 8.

 National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Hermitage, Tenn. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL).

 Due to NCAA regulations, an active college senior-athlete is not eligible to sign with their respective franchise until her 2012 season is completed.

UMass Concludes Seventh Perfect Home Season

 Following Wednesday's win over Boston University, UMass concluded its home schedule 13-0 on the season. The Minutewomen are one of just five schools out of 289 at the Division I level who are still unbeaten in their home park. The others are Louisville (25-0), Louisiana-Lafayette (24-0), Texas Southern (16-0) and Nebraska (13-0).

 UMass has been perfect at home seven times in program history with the last time coming nine years ago when the 2003 squad went 18-0.

2012 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 DP/OF Lindsey Webster.

 The 2012 squad consists of five seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and five freshman. The 20-member team hails from 11 different states, with the majority coming from Massachusetts (7), California (2), Connecticut (2) and New Hampshire (2). UMass also has one player each from Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

UMass Selected 2nd In Atlantic 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 picked 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.

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.

A-10 Game Officials Honor Nick Cinquanto

 The Atlantic 10 Conference softball umpires and women's basketball officials will honor former coordinator and observer Nick Cinquanto by wearing a commemorative black patch during A-10 games this season.  Cinquanto passed away Sunday, January 22.

 Cinquanto, who served as the Conference's Coordinator of Soccer and Softball Officials and as a women's basketball officials observer, spent 20 years in various capacities with the Atlantic 10. He began his career with the league evaluating officials in 1988.

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