Softball drops series to Maine, but clinch third straight AE berth

After splitting a doubleheader on Saturday, the Binghamton softball team dropped a pivotal 10-inning rubber match against Maine to lose the series. However, with a game one victory, the Bearcats clinched their third consecutive berth in the America East tournament.

“I think we started off the weekend well,” BU head coach Michelle Burrell said. “The first win was a much-needed win for us and secured us getting into the tournament. The second two games we made little mistakes here and there and couldn’t push a run across. We really needed to just put some more runs across to give our defense and pitching a little more room to work.”

The series opener saw two Bearcats extend hitting streaks in the top of the third inning. Sophomore outfielder Sydney Harbaugh tripled to lead off the inning, lengthening her hitting streak to 13 games. Freshman outfielder Gabby Bracchi followed with an RBI single to knot the score at three. Bracchi’s hit prolonged her streak to 17 games, tying a program record that had stood since 2010.

The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, when junior shortstop Caytlin Friis led off the inning with a single. Two batters later, Harbaugh delivered a go-ahead two-run homer to put Binghamton in front, 5-3. Senior pitcher Demi Laney retired Maine (17-17, 8-8 AE) in order in the bottom of the inning to secure the win for the Bearcats (20-21, 9-5 AE).

BU’s bats would go cold in the next game, finishing with four hits over seven innings. Harbaugh scored a run off of a wild pitch in the first inning, but that was all the offense Binghamton could muster. Maine tied the score in the bottom of the frame and took the lead the following inning. Binghamton couldn’t retaliate, and lost, 3-1.

“I thought their pitcher [redshirt senior Hannah Hill] did a really good job,” Burrell said. “She kept us off balance and did a really good job on the mound. I think we had little miscues that would have been a run here or there.”

The Bearcats continued to struggle offensively in the series finale. In their longest game since March 27, 2010, Binghamton scored just two runs in the extra-inning contest. BU held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, but a double from Maine freshman infielder Felicia Lennon followed by a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout tied the score. Neither team managed a run over the next four innings until a walk-off RBI double by junior catcher EmJ Fogel gave the Black Bears the series victory.

Throwing a complete game, Laney allowed just 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings of work. However, without much run support, she received the loss.

“It’s always good to play in those close games,” Burrell said. “We obviously wanted to come out on top but the extra inning experience was good for the girls. We are kind of learning from it and know what we have to do in order to win those games.”

Laney, who broke the all-time program career strikeout record in the opener, kept the Bearcats competitive in the series. She pitched 16 2/3 innings while striking out 14 and allowing only five earned runs. Harbaugh scored five of the Bearcats’ eight total runs in the series.

Binghamton returns to action with a doubleheader against Cornell on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex.