After going 1-4 in the James Madison Tournament over the weekend of March 18, the Binghamton University softball team swept a three-game road series at Hartford to open conference play.
The Bearcats (11-8, 3-0 America East) suffered three heart-breaking losses in the five-game tournament. In the opening game against Lehigh, Binghamton clawed back from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh and tied the game on a sacrifice fly from junior Colleen Whitaker. Lehigh’s Liz Lucas responded with a two-run shot in the top of the eighth to take a 4-2 lead, and Binghamton could only muster one run in the bottom of the inning, falling short 4-3.
Junior Kristen Emerling fanned a career-high nine Lehigh batters and pitched all eight innings while surrendering only two earned runs. Sophomore Jessica Phillips and junior Meghan Tucker led Binghamton’s offensive effort. Phillips went 2-for-4 with a run scored and Tucker went 1-for-2 with one RBI.
Just 30 minutes later, the Bearcats took the field again to play St. John’s University. Binghamton’s Rhoda Marsteller, a sophomore, and St. John’s Aleshia Link engaged in a pitcher’s duel, and the score was knotted at one in the seventh inning. After Binghamton failed to capitalize on sophomore Shannon Kane’s one-out single, St. John’s came up in the bottom of the inning. Marsteller started the inning by walking Jackie Reed, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error by freshman Lisa Cutrona. St. John’s Myriah Rodgers followed with a two-run, walk-off home run, and the Bearcats lost 3-1.
Marsteller allowed three hits, three walks and three runs in 6.1 innings while Kane and Cutrona both went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Binghamton avenged its loss the following day, using a five-run sixth inning to defeat St. John’s 5-3, but lost in walk-off fashion against James Madison in the afternoon. After pitching six solid innings, Marsteller walked three batters in the bottom of the seventh, and James Madison loaded the bases with two outs and the score tied at one. Sophomore Kate Price relieved Marsteller but surrendered a walk-off single to Jasmine Butler, and the Bearcats fell 2-1.
Despite taking an early 4-1 lead behind two-run homers by Phillips and senior Stephanie DeLuca, the Bearcats lost 9-5 to Lehigh to conclude the tournament.
The following weekend, Binghamton visited Hartford to open conference play. Binghamton entered the series with a 7-7 overall record while Hartford stood at 3-11.
The Bearcats used a six-run second inning, highlighted by freshman Anna Blessing’s solo home run and Phillips’ grand slam, to take control of the series opener, which ended as a five-inning, 10-2 Binghamton victory.
As a team, the Bearcats went 14-for-29 at the plate, and Phillips and DeLuca both went a perfect 3-for-3. Marsteller recorded her second win of the season, giving up two runs in four innings.
In the second game, Phillips hit a solo shot in the first and Cutrona jolted a two-run homer in the second to give the Bearcats an early 3-0 lead. Binghamton led 4-2 at the start of the sixth inning before breaking out for 10 runs. Whitaker and Blessing began the inning by hitting back-to-back home runs, and an onslaught followed. The Bearcats batted around and recorded eight hits and four home runs. Senior Deannie Plemon and DeLuca went yard later in the inning.
Hartford responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bearcats held on to win 14-4 in six innings.
Emerling tossed a complete game, striking out five and allowing only two earned runs, and every Bearcat batter recorded at least one hit. Binghamton’s six home runs broke the school’s previous record of four, which was set against Siena on April 21, 2005.
In the series finale, Phillips hit another first inning solo shot, but Hartford tied the score at one on a single by Nicole Springer. Freshman Jessica Bump singled in Cutrona with one out in the third to give Binghamton a 2-1 lead. After Kane lined out, Phillips stepped to the plate with Bump on first and sent the ball over the left-center field fence for a two-run homer. Plemon followed Phillips with a solo home run to center, and the Bearcats finished the inning with a 5-1 lead.
Marsteller set Hartford down in order in the third, not allowing Binghamton’s hot bats to cool. The Bearcats scored four more runs on five hits to take a commanding 9-1 lead in the top of the fourth. Bump, Phillips and Whitaker all had RBI singles in the inning.
Hartford managed to score one run in the fourth, but Binghamton used a two-run triple by Plemon and a two-run homer by Whitaker in the sixth inning to increase the lead to 13-2, the game’s final score.
The pitching trio of Marsteller, Price and freshman Demi Laney struck out eight and allowed four hits and four walks in six innings. Phillips and Whitaker each recorded three hits in three at-bats while Bump went 3-for-4.
Phillips was named America East Player of the Week and Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Player of the Week.
On Sunday, Binghamton hosted Niagara for a doubleheader in the team’s home opener. On the strength of Phillips’ grand slam and Emerling’s five innings and one earned run, Binghamton defeated Niagara 7-2 in the first game. The Purple Eagles took the second game 5-4.
Over the course of the series, Binghamton scored 37 runs and had a team batting average of .478. Phillips went 8-for-9 with four home runs and is now hitting .520 with eight homers this season.