Binghamton softball dominates in sweep of UMBC

A 2-7 start to the 2013 season seems far in the past for the Binghamton softball team, which continued its winning ways of late with a weekend sweep of UMBC.

Mikala King’s .571 average on the weekend propelled the Bearcats to a sweep of UMBC and made the third baseman one of five Bearcats to hit .300 or higher for the series.

The Bearcats (15-11, 5-1 America East), who have never posted a better six-game start to conference play, have won 13 of their last 17 games. Only undefeated Albany stands ahead of Binghamton in the America East standings.

“We definitely played a competitive schedule early on, so I think that prepared us going into conference play,” Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell said. “I think one of the things we were kind of struggling with in the preseason tournaments was getting our entire lineup hitting, and I think that’s changed.”

Binghamton rode effective hitting and dominant pitching to a 22-3 combined score in three games against the Retrievers (8-28, 1-8 America East) this weekend.

On the offensive side, five Bearcats hit .300 or higher, with junior third baseman Mikala King leading the way with a .571 average. Freshman catcher Taylor Chaffee drove in a team-high five runs and belted Binghamton’s only home run of the weekend.

Junior pitcher Demi Laney led the charge on the mound, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 14 in 12.1 innings. Her shutout in Sunday’s series finale was her fourth of the season.

The Bearcats almost started the series on a sour note, however, as UMBC led Saturday’s opener 2-0 after six innings. But senior left fielder Jessica Phillips, who batted .500 on the weekend, drove in two runs with a two-out single to right center, tying the game and forcing extra innings.

“[Phillips] had a good presence about herself this weekend,” Burrell said, “and I thought she went into that at bat with confidence and that made a big difference.”

With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Chaffee hit a groundball to the pitcher, whose only play was to first. She retired Chaffee, but freshman right fielder Sydney Harbaugh scored the go-ahead run.

Senior pitcher Kate Price allowed a two-out single in the bottom half, but a strikeout quelled a potential UMBC rally and ended the game with Binghamton winning 3-2. Price tossed 3.2 scoreless innings of relief.

In the nightcap, Binghamton pounced early with a three-spot in the first inning en route to a 14-1 thrashing of the hosts. UMBC sophomore pitcher Miranda Clark, who struggled with her control throughout the game, walked the first three batters and hit one more to catalyze the Bearcats’ first-inning rally. Clark finished with 10 walks in 4.1 innings.

Binghamton put the game out of reach with a seven-run seventh inning, extending the lead to its final 13-run margin. A two-run double by sophomore shortstop Caytlin Friis highlighted the rally.

BU senior Rhoda Marsteller and freshman Stephanie Arneson did not allow an earned run in seven innings of combined work.

And with Laney leading the way in Sunday’s finale, the Bearcats did not need any more than their one first-inning run. The junior scattered four hits and two walks while fanning eight in the 5-0 shutout.

“[Laney] threw a really good game on Sunday to finish UMBC,” Burrell said. “She just really threw her game. She threw her pitches, and threw what she throws the best.”

Freshman first baseman Lisa Cadogan gave the Bearcats a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a RBI single, and a two-run Chaffee home run highlighted a four-run sixth.

The Bearcats are set to visit St. Bonaventure on Wednesday for a non-conference doubleheader before hosting Maine for a three-game series this weekend.

“I think we’re in a good spot with how we’ve started,” Burrell said. “One of our goals is to host the [America East] tournament this year … We’re just kind of going one game at a time right now.”

First pitch against the Bonnies (5-27, 2-10 Atlantic-10) is scheduled for 3 p.m. at McGraw-Jennings Field.