University of Massachusetts-Amherst sophomore pitcher Sara Plourde got the best of the Boston University softball team last Wednesday by throwing a two-hit gem en route to a 3-0 win.
This time around, BU will be looking for some payback.
As the Terriers (20-13, 5-1) take the BU softball field for a rematch against the No. 22 Minutewomen (25-7, 8-0) Tuesday, they will be doing so without the momentum of an eight-game winning streak. Since UMass broke that streak six days ago, the Terriers have gone 2-2. A win against a nationally ranked team would certainly swing momentum back in their favor.
“It would definitely carry a lot of weight,” BU coach Shawn Rychcik said. “They are the marquee team in the Northeast. They’ve got 20 straight NCAA appearances and five straight conference titles. That’s the program that everybody in the Northeast would like to become. I have a lot of respect for their program, and I think the girls do too. It’s not going to help us in conference, but it would be a great pick-me-up to pull off a win against UMass.”
To win, the Terriers will need to figure out Plourde, whose 13.1 strikeouts per seven innings leads the nation and whose 1.09 ERA ranked 18th through April 4. She is the clear ace of the Minutewomen staff, as she has started 24 of their 32 games.
“She throws really hard, and she’s got great movement,” Rychcik said. “She throws hard enough that it makes you swing a little early, and then the ball is moving in and out of the zone so she’s got both things going for her. That’s why she’s one of the best in the country right now.”
The Terriers will counter with freshman hurler Whitney Tuthill, who has shown promise through her 10 starts on the year. Her .750 winning percentage and 2.54 ERA lead the Terriers’ pitching staff, and her no-hitter in her second collegiate start against the University of North Carolina-Charlotte was the first by a BU freshman since 2007.
During the 3-0 loss to UMass on April 7, a powerful Terrier offense looked dazed and confused against Plourde, who struck out 15 batters. This time around, BU will have the benefit of having recently faced the ace, and they will look to capitalize on mistakes early.
“She’ll come right after you on 1-2, 0-2 counts,” Rychcik said. “We just need to stay aggressive. She doesn’t have a ton of off-speed stuff so the plan will be to just stay aggressive at the plate. If you wait for her to make a mistake, walk four or five people, it just doesn’t happen so we’ll just stay aggressive and attack her from there.”
BU will look for big hits from junior outfielder April Setterlund, whose .573 BA leads America East and is second in the nation. Against Plourde in particular, they will look to freshman pitcher and outfielder Taylor Cowan, who hit a double off Plourde the last time the teams met, as well as sophomore infielder Erica Casacci.
“[Cowan and Casacci] swung the bat pretty well against her,” Rychcik said. “So you might get to see them get some good swings. You might see one of those two get a couple hits.”
Rychcik pointed out, however, that beating UMass is not as simple as targeting one area of the game in which to perform well.
“I think you can’t just pick out a weakness on them,” Rychcik said. “We’re going to have to get out of a bases-loaded jam and get a double play here and there. You’re not going to just shut them down. A lot of things have to go right. Hopefully, you get a mistake, and you hit it.”
As good as a win over UMass would be for the Terriers, it would not count toward their conference record.
“We haven’t beaten UMass since I’ve been here,” Rychcik said. “At this point in time, conference starts to become a big picture. To be 5-1 in conference, that’s a good start for us, and we’ve played the two toughest teams in the conference. [The game against UMass will] be an uphill battle for us, but it’ll prepare us for conference.”