Eight-hour bus rides from New York’s southern tier to Virginia can be tedious and likely get old pretty quickly. But for the second straight weekend, the Binghamton University softball team will make the trek.
The Bearcats (6-8), who went 3-1 at last weekend’s Adidas/Longwood Classic, are set to participate in the three-team Radford Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. Binghamton is scheduled to face off against Lehigh University first on both days, and will finish against Radford University both times as well.
Despite the hassle, the trip will mark just the team’s second bus trip of the season, so the players aren’t quite restless yet — at least according to head coach Michelle Burrell.
“They’re some long bus trips, but we tend to do different things on the bus,” she said. “We give them some study time and some movies.”
During last week’s trip to Longwood University, the Bearcats’ improved defense and timely offense resulted in three wins. Binghamton topped University of North Carolina Central twice and the hosting Lancers once. The Bearcats fell to Longwood on a walk-off three-run home run in their only defeat of the tournament.
In the final game of last weekend’s tournament, Binghamton defeated Longwood, 2-0. The Bearcats recorded just three hits, but solid pitching and essentially flawless defense helped preserve the win.
Burrell said that her team hopes to build on that particular win this weekend.
“We saw definitely in our last Longwood game we kind of put everything together,” she said. “Even though we didn’t have that many hits, we were pretty consistent with our at-bats and had good at-bats. We played really good defense, good pitching. It was kind of the first game in a while that I felt we had put everything together.”
Sophomore first baseman Mikala King has swung a hot bat through Binghamton’s first 14 games, leading the team with a .349 batting average and 11 runs batted in. She and junior outfielder Jessica Phillips, last year’s America East co-Player of the Year, are tied for the team lead with three home runs.
Last weekend, King cooled off slightly, though she did belt a key home run in the loss to Longwood. King went 2-for-10 in the tournament.
“She goes up to every at-bat with a good approach,” Burrell said. “She’s done a really good job staying consistent. She’s done well in pressure situations, so she’s done a really nice job so far.”
Aside from King, Phillips and senior outfielder Meghan Tucker have delivered offensively. Phillips leads the team with a .510 on-base percentage and a .686 slugging percentage while Tucker is hitting .333.
The production from freshman infielder Caytlin Friis has been especially important. The No. 9 hitter boasts a .297 average through the first 14 games of her collegiate career.
Burrell said having such a reliable hitter at the bottom of the order helps tremendously.
“Once we get through the lineup, that’s almost like another lead off [hitter] for us,” she said. “She’s done a really good job getting on base, and she’s been in situations where she’s been able to drive in runs too. She’s had a really good approach in the box.”
The Bearcats will need production from their best players this weekend. Lehigh and Radford each have 8-8 records. The Mountain Hawks, who had won six straight games, have lost two of their past three while the Highlanders just returned from playing two tournaments in Hawaii, winning four games and beating No. 20 Florida State.
When asked if she was jealous of Radford’s trip to Hawaii, Burrell said she was fine with her team’s schedule.
“I’d like to go to Hawaii, but I think right now just playing games is what we’re looking to do,” she said. “We’ve been very lucky with the places we’ve gone — we’ve had really nice weather.”
This weekend, however, the weather in Radford won’t be as nice, as thunderstorms are expected to strike throughout Saturday and Sunday.
The Bearcats are set to open the tournament against Lehigh at noon on Saturday.