UMASS HEADS TO COLUMBIA REGIONAL FOR 21ST NCAA REGIONAL APPEARANCE
The Massachusetts softball team begins play at the 2012 NCAA Softball Columbia Regional on Friday against DePaul at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The winner advances to Saturday's winner's bracket game against the Missouri-Illinois State winner. The loser will drop into the loser's bracket and play the MU-ISU loser at 6:30 pm ET.
Live video, live audio and Gametracker stats will be provided for all UMass games via the links at UMassAthletics.com. Postgame interviews with coaches and selected student-athletes will also be available following the conclusion of each day's play.
UMass has won a season-best 22-consecutive games, 27 of its last 28 and 32 of its last 36. The Minutewomen are 13-0 at home, 12-3 in true road games and 13-8 in neutral-site games. UMass is the third team receiving votes in both polls this week.
The Minutewomen are hitting .278 as a team, first in the Atlantic 10 and 100th nationally, and boast six players hitting at .275 or better. Elsewhere in the league UMass is first in slugging pct. (.435), on-base pct. (.364), triples (10), RBI (223), opponent batting avg. (.149) and batters struck out (536). The team is second in batters hit-by-pitch (45) and third in steals (66).
Leading the charge are the top two in the batting order, junior OF Cyndil Matthew (.414-1-19) and freshman SS Quianna Diaz-Patterson (.341-4-41). QDP had a 12-game hitting streak earlier this season which is the longest by a Minutewoman, while her recently-halted stretch 25-straight games reaching base was ended in the A-10 Championship. Matthew's streak of reaching base is at 25 games entering the NCAA Columbia Regional.
Senior All-America Sara Plourde is 36-9 with a 1.73 earned run average and leads the nation in strikeouts for the third-consecutive year with 520. She also has 42 complete games, 13 shutouts and seven of her 16.5 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 .315 with 11 HR and 32 RBI.
Head Coach Elaine Sortino is in her 33rd season at UMass with a 1,157-481-6 (.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, 23 A-10 Tournament titles, 20 NCAA Tournaments and three Women's College World Series appearances.
UMass Making 21st NCAA Tournament Appearance
UMass is making its 21st NCAA appearance with an all-time record of 32-41 (.420), including a 29-33 regional mark, 1-2 in super regionals and 2-6 in the Women's College World Series. The Minutewomen are one of just 13 programs with at least 20 NCAA berths. UMass made a Super Regional appearance in 2006 and advanced to the WCWS three times (1992, 1997 & 1998).
This week's trip to Columbia marks UMass' first regional away from Amherst since 2005 when the Minutewomen were sent to Austin, Texas. The Minutewomen hosted five-consecutive regionals at the UMass Softball Complex from 2006-2010 before missing the tournament last year. UMass has made prior regional trips to Princeton, N.J., Tucson, Ariz., Norman, Okla., Lafayette, La., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Athens, Ga. and Austin, Texas.
UMass Against The Field
UMass has faced all three teams in this week's regional in program history with a combined 6-10 record. The Minutewomen are 5-3 against DePaul, 0-5 against Missouri and 1-2 against Illinois State. UMass has never faced any of the three in the NCAA postseason.
vs. DePaul: DePaul won the most recent game, 8-0 in five innings at this year's NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla. UMass won the first three meetings, including the initial matchup in 1986.
vs. Illinois State: UMass has not faced Illinois State since the 2010 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., a 1-0 Minutewomen victory in a game that Sara Plourde no-hit the Redbirds with 18 strikeouts and four walks. The Redbirds claimed the previous two games, 4-1 in 1997 and 5-2 in 2006.
vs. Missouri: The Tigers have won all five meetings, three of which have come at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. (1996, 2002 & 2010). The 2010 contest saw sixth-ranked Mizzou emerge with a 2-1 win over the 20th-ranked Minutewomen, despite being outhit 5-3.
UMass With Shortest Trip To Columbia Among Three Visitors
One oddity of note is that despite Massachusetts' Amherst campus located 1,200 miles from Columbia, Mo., UMass only had to make a 120-mile drive from St. Louis on Interstate 70. The Minutewomen claimed the Atlantic 10 Championship at Saint Louis University's Billiken Sports Center last week and stayed in town to see where they would be sent for the NCAA Tournament. That allowed the team to cut any potential air travel down considerably, while making it possible for head coach Elaine Sortino to stay with the team. Sortino, who is undergoing cancer treatments, is not allowed to fly and traveled to Missouri in an RV. She has documented her journey - titled Impossible Is Nothing Tour - with an online photoblog at www.umrv2012.blogspot.com.
The trip began just over two weeks ago with UMass' road series at Fordham, where Sortino was able to spend time with her mother, sister, niece and nephew in her hometown of Yonkers, N.Y. before venturing on to St. Louis where her brother resides.
Early-Season Schedule Paying Dividends
UMass compiled a 16-10 record over the first six weeks of play leading up to the start of its Atlantic 10 schedule. Of those 26 games, UMass was 2-4 against ranked teams with eight of the losses coming to eventual NCAA Tournament teams.
UMass With Four Walk-Off/Last At-Bat Wins In Last 8 Games
After being involved in just five games that were decided in the final inning over the first 41 contests, UMass has been involved in four over the past eight games with all of them benefitting the Minutewomen. UMass got a walk-off single in the home finale against Boston University, scored in the top of the 17th in a 2-1 win at Fordham, scored in the bottom of the sixth to claim a 2-0 win over Fordham in the Atlantic 10 Championship semifinals and got a walk-off home run a day later in the tourney title game.
UMass has lost two games this season on walk-offs, against UAB in the home opener and at No. 24 South Florida in eight innings on March 19.
Win Streak Reaches 22 Entering NCAA Regional
UMass enters this week's NCAA Regional riding a 22-game winning streak, the longest active stretch in the nation. 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. UMass' last loss came at Connecticut on April 3.
Recapping Last Week's Atlantic 10 Championship
UMass swept through last week's Atlantic 10 Championship tournament with wins over George Washington, Fordham and GW in the title game on Saturday.
The Minutewomen outscored their opponents 10-4 and trailed for one out during the weekend. Sara Plourde was named the Most Outstanding Player after posting a 3-0 record with 33 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .075 avg on five hits. At the plate, the senior hit a tournament-best .571 with a double, two RBI, a .714 slugging pct. and a .667 on-base pct. Junior OF Cyndil Matthew was named to the all-tournament team after batting .500 with a triple and three runs. Senior 2B Kyllie Magill also secured a spot on the team with her walk-off HR in the seventh to lift UMass to a 3-2 win over GW in the championship. It is believed to be the first walk-off HR in school history.
The Minutewomen have won 16 of the last 18 Atlantic 10 Championships, seven of the last eight and 23 titles overall. Before last year's 1-2 tourney performance, which included a pair of 10-inning losses, UMass had won six-consecutive crowns. UMass now has an all-time record of 79-17 (.817).
Of their 23 championships, 20 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 an 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. and 3-0 in St. Louis, Mo.
UMass Sweeps Atlantic 10 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 last 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 last 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 & Fordham Play 17-Inning, 5-Hour Game
Two weeks ago, UMass defeated Fordham 2-1 in 17 innings at Bahoshy Field in the Bronx. The game was the longest in each school's histories and tied for the 15th-longest in NCAA history. The 5:00 time of game was the second-longest in UMass history behind the 5:13 time against Washington in the 2009 NCAA Amherst Regional title game.
Starting pitchers Sara Plourde and Jen Mineau each threw complete games and combined to strikeout 37 batters (19 by Mineau and 18 by Plourde), the sixth-most by a starting duo in NCAA history.
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 (36), strikeouts (520), strikeouts per seven innings (12.3) and fewest hits allowed by seven innings (2.61). She is also third in shutouts (13) and 58th in ERA (1.73). Offensively, Plourde's 11 home runs put her 84th in HR per game.
Cyndil Matthew and Quianna Diaz-Patterson have their names scattered across the nation's leaders. Matthew ranks eighth in steals, seventh in triples, 13th in runs and 32nd in batting avg. Diaz-Patterson is 42nd in doubles, 77th in RBI and 286th in batting avg.
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 22-game winning streak. In fact, the Minutewomen led the A-10 in league games with a .987 fielding pct and 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 three 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.
Matthew Near The Top Of Atlantic 10 Rankings
UMass junior OF Cyndil Matthew has been on a tear this season. She enters the NCAA Regional 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 49 games at shortstop and currently is tied for or leads the team in RBI (41) 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 (36), strikeouts (520), 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 .111 batting average in 295.0 innings this season.
Her 1,641 career strikeouts are eighth 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 three times and Player of the Year once, ECAC Pitcher of the Year, A-10 All-Conference three times, 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 .315 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI over the last 26 games. Her 10 HRs in 19 A-10 games led the league and her 27 RBI were 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 the home finale 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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