After dropping two of three games to Stony Brook University this weekend in its final regular season conference series, the fifth-place Binghamton University softball team is basically assured it won’t be one of the four teams that will earn berths to the America East tournament. The Bearcats (16-27, 7-11 AE) can now reach the conference tournament only if the University of Maine loses all of its remaining four games.
“I thought we started out playing really well,” Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell said after the Bearcats split a doubleheader with the Seawolves (32-13-1, 11-2-1 AE) to open the series. “We played pretty good ball on Saturday. The loss on Saturday was a tough one. I thought we did what we could do, but now we are in a tough position. It is what it is right now.”
The Bearcats came out firing in the first game. Sophomore pitcher Demi Laney, who tossed her second shutout this season, struck out seven batters and did not issue a walk. Stony Brook pitcher Allison Curkov surrendered an infield single to senior outfielder Meghan Tucker in the fourth, and after senior designated hitter Chelsea Horne drew a two-out walk, sophomore second baseman Jessica Bump drilled a three-run home run. Her roundtripper proved to be the difference, as BU closed out the game 3-0.
“We came out fighting,” Burrell said. “Our defense and the pitching were terrific, and Demi just did a great job there. We just got that one key hit, which is what we have been looking for all season, so it was nice to see that come together.”
The Bearcats took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the second game, but the Seawolves used a controversial call at first base and a throwing error by freshman shortstop Caytlin Friis to take a 2-1 lead in the third. Burrell argued with the umpire after the call.
“I think the umpire missed the call at first base,” she said. “And then he thought [first baseman Mikala King] had bobbled the ball, and that’s the reason the runner was [safe]. I didn’t see [King] making any sort of bobbles at all. So I was just questioning that call.”
Neither team would score again, and Stony Brook garnered the split, 2-1.
On Sunday, Stony Brook’s Shayla Giosa delivered a back-breaking, two-out grand slam to put the Seawolves ahead 7-0 in the sixth inning. BU began mounting a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with one out and plating two runs. But it was too little, too late as the Bearcats fell 7-2.
After playing their last America East series of the regular season, the Bearcats now sit behind fourth-place Maine in the standings. The Black Bears, who play a single game with Boston University before a three-game series with University of Hartford, need just one win to clinch the final berth.
“Maine [is] in a really good position now, since they only need one more win,” she said. “At this point, I don’t think it is likely that we will get into the tournament.”
With the regular season coming to a close, Burrell couldn’t help but look back at certain conference games with regret, especially the series with Maine.
“There were some games that we’d like to have back during the season,” she said. “When we were on the road at both Albany and Maine, I don’t think we played the kind of ball we could. When you lose all three in a series, it really hurts you, especially at Maine when we were fighting with them for that fourth spot.”
Prior to the doubleheader on Saturday, seniors Horne, Tucker, Kristen Emerling and Briana Andrews were honored as they competed in the final home series of their careers. While Burrell looks forward to a new generation of players for next season, she admits that the graduating seniors will be missed by the team.
“We’ve got six freshmen committed to coming in next year at this time,” she said. “We are definitely looking forward to the class that is coming in. There are a couple of key positions where they can really help us. But we are definitely going to miss our seniors. They were players that were here prior to me. And they were very instrumental helping the turnaround of the program when I first got here [in 2010].”
The Bearcats are scheduled to host St. Bonaventure University today in a non-conference doubleheader. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.