After falling twice to Stony Brook University at the East Gym Field last weekend, the Binghamton University softball team reestablished its homefield advantage this week, sweeping a doubleheader against St. Bonaventure University on Tuesday and splitting with Cornell University a day later.
The Bearcats (19-28, 7-11 America East) have completed their conference slate, but it is still undetermined whether or not they’ll make the playoffs. The University of Maine needs to win just once during its three-game set against University of Hartford this weekend to clinch the fourth and final America East tournament berth. If the lowly Hawks (9-39, 3-12 AE) sweep the Black Bears (15-27, 6-8-1 AE), Binghamton will sneak into the postseason.
But because the Bearcats cannot do anything to improve their standing, head coach Michelle Burrell said her team has taken a load of pressure off itself.
“We’re just going out one game at a time, kind of like we have been, but I do think overall the team has been more relaxed, especially at the plate,” she said.
And the results of a more relaxed approach were evident this week.
The Bearcats outscored the Bonnies by a combined 8-1 score over Tuesday’s two games, taking the first contest 4-1. In the opener, Binghamton strung together a couple of hits in the third and fifth innings to take a 2-0 lead, and a pair of sixth-inning solo home runs from sophomores Jessica Bump and Chelsey Locatell gave fellow sophomore Demi Laney a four-run cushion entering the final frame.
Laney had allowed just two hits through the first six innings, but she surrendered a solo home run and a benign single in the seventh. Regardless, the Bearcats prevailed.
Despite committing three errors in the second game, Binghamton did not allow a run. Junior Jessica Phillips got the Bearcats on the board with a fourth-inning solo shot, her 11th home run of the season, and Binghamton used doubles by Locatell and sophomore Lisa Cutrona to tack on three more runs.
The solid pitching effort persisted, as juniors Kate Price and Rhoda Marsteller combined for seven strikeouts and a four-hit shutout in the 4-0 win.
Even though Binghamton committed five errors against the Bonnies, the defense cracked down when needed.
“Overall, our defense is playing behind our pitching better than it was earlier on in the season,” Burrell said.
In the opener against Cornell, Binghamton came out strong, scoring three runs in the first. Sophomore Mikala King delivered an RBI single and Bump hit a two-run triple.
But the Big Red pushed two runs across in the third and two more in the sixth to win 4-3. The Bearcats did have opportunities to add runs in the third and fourth innings, but Bump and freshman Caytlin Friis each lined into inning-ending double plays with runners in scoring position.
“We just had a couple of things that didn’t really go our way,” Burrell said.
But the Bearcats came out strong in the second game, scoring five runs on seven hits and using solid pitching performances by Marsteller and Price to win 5-1.
Binghamton scored four of its runs on solo home runs. King and Friis each hit one, and Bump delivered two. On the week, Bump went 6-for-12 with three home runs and a triple.
“[Bump has] been aggressive early on in her at-bats and has gone after some good pitches,” Burrell said. “She’s come up with some clutch hits for us, especially later in the game to add some extra runs so we don’t have as much pressure on us in the sixth and seventh innings.”
Two more non-conference doubleheaders remain on the Bearcats’ regular season schedule. They are set to host Colgate University in a rescheduled affair on Saturday before finishing the season at Niagara University on Sunday.
Burrell said her team understands it still has an outside chance at a postseason berth.
“Because we do have a slight chance to make [the conference tournament], we’re going to make sure we’re still playing and that we’re ready in case that does happen,” she said.
First pitch against the Raiders is scheduled for noon.