Softball drops two of three to Stony Brook, takes No. 3 seed into AE tourney

Freshman outfielders Bridget Hunt and Gabby Bracchi combined for four RBIs and a home run in Saturday’s game three victory to help the Binghamton softball team avoid a sweep at the hands of Stony Brook, the America East’s regular-season champion.

Tycho McManus/ Staff Photographer Senior second baseman Jessica Bump hit a grand slam in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Stony Brook.

The Bearcats will face second-seeded Albany as the No. 3 seed in the America East tournament on Thursday.

“I thought overall we played pretty well [this weekend],” BU head coach Michelle Burrell said. “In the first game we had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh. We just needed to come up with a big hit … I liked the way we responded on Saturday to get the win and give us good momentum going into the tournament and give the girls confidence knowing they can hit their number one pitcher.”

The series opener featured a pitching duel between BU’s senior ace Demi Laney and Stony Brook’s junior star Allison Cukrov. Laney scattered three hits over the first six innings while allowing only two Seawolves to advance into scoring position.

“I thought [Laney] threw a great game. She stayed really composed,” Burrell said. “We weren’t anticipating throwing her the whole game, but she looked really good out there. She gave us a good opportunity to win the game and I thought she did a great job.”

Cukrov was even more dominant, allowing only one Bearcat to reach base, via a walk, in the first six innings.

“The umpire had a wide strike zone for both teams. It made it difficult for the hitters, which is why it was the kind of game it was,” Burrell said. “[Cukrov] kept us guessing. She was throwing in and out. “

BU (21-23, 10-7 AE) finally put some offense together in the seventh. Bracchi opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior second baseman Jessica Bump. However, BU was unable to plate a run. After hitting a batter, Cukrov retired the next two and ended the rally. Stony Brook (32-16, 15-2 AE) scored a run in the top of the eighth, and the Bearcats couldn’t muster a response in their half, dropping the game, 1-0.

The nightcap was a completely different story, with offense coming early and often from both sides. The Seawolves pounced on BU freshman starting pitcher Annika Wiesinger, taking seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. Trailing by two in the top of the fifth, the Bearcats turned to freshman Shelby Donhauser for relief. Donhauser walked two while allowing eight earned runs before she was removed with one out in the game. Sophomore pitcher Stephanie Arneson managed to finally retire the Seawolves, who scored eight runs in the inning and stretched their lead to 10.

Thanks in large part to a Bump grand slam, the Bearcats mounted a furious rally, cutting the score to 13-10 in the bottom of the frame. BU never managed to tie the score — the team allowed two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh en route to its 16-10 loss.

Despite the consecutive losses, BU responded well the following afternoon. On their Senior Day, the Bearcats, led by Bracchi, scored four runs in the first two innings. Stony Brook strung together four hits in the fourth to tie the score, but the Bearcats took the lead back with a score in the fifth. Hunt homered the following inning to give the Bearcats an insurance run. Never looking back, BU held on to win its regular-season finale, 6-4. Donhauser captured her first career save in the effort.

“We overall did a better a job with our at-bats [on Saturday],” Burrell said. “We were more focused and individually, they kind of made some adjustments. We had better quality at-bats. We were seeing more pitches and taking them deeper into at-bats and I think that made a big difference.”

Bracchi finished the series with a .625 batting average and five RBIs. She was named America East Rookie of the Week on Monday for her performance.

Stony Brook will host the conference tournament, which begins Thursday. The four-team, double-elimination event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. with Stony Brook facing No. 4 UMBC at University Field. Binghamton and Albany will follow at approximately 3:30 p.m.