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Softball trying to keep emotions in check in rematch with Albany

Emotions rode high during the last time the Binghamton softball team faced Albany.

File Photo Senior second baseman Jessica Bump will look to add to her team-high 13 stolen bases this weekend when the Bearcats play a three-game series against Albany.

The Bearcats (7-10) hosted the Great Danes (9-7, 1-2 America East) in the 2013 America East tournament, the winner needing just one more victory to secure the league’s bid to the NCAA tournament. Albany prevailed, 4-2 and Binghamton sputtered in a 9-0, season-ending defeat to Stony Brook later in the day.

When the two teams battle in a three-game series in New York’s capital this weekend, finding the appropriate balance of emotion will be key for the Bearcats.

“I think one thing that we learned last year from the conference tournament was we played with a lot of emotion,” BU head coach Michelle Burrell said. “I think that some of our emotion came out on the field, and that’s something that we’re trying to be consistent with this year with how we approach every game.”

But emotion cannot negate focus, a key for Binghamton’s hitters who will likely face Albany senior Brittany MacFawn more than once this weekend. MacFawn threw a five-inning perfect game against Binghamton in 2011. She went 28-9 with a 2.11 ERA and 283 strikeouts in 256 1/3 innings last year, when her devastating change-up and effective rising fastball flummoxed Binghamton in three of the four meetings.

MacFawn has been marginally less effective this year. She has started just eight of Albany’s 16 games, going 4-4 with a 2.91 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings.

The Bearcats are looking forward to their next shot at Albany’s ace.

“We’ve seen MacFawn a lot. We’re pretty familiar with her, other than our freshman class,” Burrell said. “I think we’ve gotten our lineup to where we really wanted it to be, and I think everyone kind of knows what their roles are with the lineup. We’re just looking forward to getting out and seeing what we can do against her.”

MacFawn generally does not award free bases to her opponents. She has walked just five batters this season. The Bearcats will need to locate the right pitch because falling behind MacFawn has proven treacherous.

“We want to be aggressive and really attack with our good pitch that we’ll see and our at-bats,” Burrell said. “So I think that will be our mindset, is just going after the first good strike.”

Because weather conditions spoiled last weekend’s America East opening series at UMass Lowell, the Bearcats haven’t played a game since March 16. They lost four times that weekend at George Mason’s Cherry Blossom Classic, and Burrell expressed her disappointment in the results.

But having last weekend off could actually benefit Binghamton for its series at Albany.

“Obviously you want to keep playing, but I don’t think it hurt us,” Burrell said. “I do think we were in a spot with just a couple girls who just had a little nagging, nothing-serious injury, that we were able to give them a little break and give them the weekend off last week. And I think the break was good for them, and hopefully they’ll come back feeling good going into conference play.”

And even though it comes a week later than expected, America East play affords the Bearcats a fresh start independent of their 7-10 record. Burrell thinks non-conference play will help her team as it begins its quest to return to the conference tournament, where the emotions always ride high.

“We’ve definitely seen some really good competition so far during the preseason,” Burrell said. “I especially think we faced a lot of top pitchers that have been doing really well. So I think that should prepare us for the type of pitching that we’re going to see in conference.”

First pitch against Albany is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Albany Field.

Ashley Purdy contributed reporting to this story.