Late season series are generally pivotal for teams with playoff hopes. But the Binghamton University softball team’s 3-1 record this weekend just didn’t matter.
Binghamton swept Saturday’s doubleheader against Colgate University, and split a doubleheader at Niagara University a day later, but the University of Maine clinched the fourth and final play-off spot to knock the Bearcats (22-29, 7-11 America East) out of contention.
Maine needed just one win in its three-game set at University of Hartford, and wasted no time in getting the job done with a 5-1 victory in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Entering the weekend, Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell said she wanted her team to play hard despite knowing Maine needed just one win to eliminate the Bearcats from postseason contention. And following the results, she said she thought her team did just that.
“Overall, I thought we played really well together as a team,” she said. “We found out after the Saturday games that we didn’t make the [America East] tournament. I thought the girls just went out and played relaxed. We hit the ball well, and pitched well.”
The Bearcats used strong performances from sophomore second baseman Jessica Bump and freshman third baseman Linda Verduzco to sweep Colgate, 2-1 and 7-2. After going 1-for-3 in the opening game against the Raiders, Bump finished 3-for-3 in the second game and scored twice. Verduzco drove in four runs in the second game.
With the pair of victories, the Bearcats completed their home season with a 14-3 record, the team’s best since transitioning to Division I.
On Sunday, the Bearcats dropped the opener to Niagara, 1-0. Each team had only three hits, and the Purple Eagles scored the game’s only run on a first-inning wild pitch. Niagara sophomore Kim Bryson, who tossed a three-hit shutout, struck out five batters and did not issue a walk.
Down 2-0 in the night cap, BU bounced back to take the game 5-2. Back-to-back doubles by sophomore first baseman Mikala King and Bump put the Bearcats on the board in the second inning, and a third-inning single by freshman Caitlyn Friis put Binghamton ahead for good.
Bump recorded another RBI in the top of the fifth inning, and King secured the victory when she singled home junior outfielder Jessica Phillips to give the Bearcats a 5-2 lead.
Burrell said that she was pleased to see her team display a vintage team effort in both the weekend series.
“Bump had a really good weekend and also a good week,” she said. “Mikala [King] had a good week, Linda Verduzco played well too. But I thought the team had a little bit of help from everybody and that’s what we’ve been looking for.”
Bump, who went 13-for-25 with three home runs last week, earned America East Player of the Week honors.
With six wins in their last eight games, the Bearcats’ end-of-season form was a stark contrast to their overall conference and regular season records, which were both under .500, and left them out of the America East tournament.
“I don’t think our records for both the season and conference series tell the whole story,” Burrell said. “Because there were some games where we played well but didn’t win, where just one pitch or not giving up one hit would have changed everything.”
Burrell did admit that while the Bearcats’ recent level of play is encouraging for next season, the team must improve under pressure to be successful in the long run.
“I think the tough part is that in conference games or important games, we played really tight,” she said. “Quite a number of times we were ahead and we ended up giving away games. I think the team needs to learn to perform better under pressure. And especially because we made it into the conference tournament for the first time last year, the expectations were high coming in. We’ve got to learn to deal with that because we will probably be doing that year after year now.”