Sophomore shortstop Makayla Alvarez came to the plate with runners on first and second base. Cheering with her team, sophomore pitcher Chelsea Howard watched from the dugout.
“I’m calling it right here — she’s gonna smack one,” Howard said to one of her teammates.
Howard’s hunch was correct, as Alvarez mashed a three-run home run to activate the mercy rule, ending the final game between the Binghamton softball team and Maine and rewarding Howard with a win. The Bearcats ecstatically gathered around home plate, swarming Alvarez in jubilation. With the win, Binghamton (17-27, 6-12 America East) wrapped up its regular season in dramatic fashion against conference rival Maine (11-27, 3-11 AE). After dropping the first game 8-2, the Bearcats rallied to take the next two, putting themselves in prime position to qualify for the America East (AE) Tournament in May.
On a rainy Senior Day on Saturday, freshman pitcher Morgan Bienkowski (4-6) pitched a complete game to lead the Bearcats to a 3-1 victory. After dropping the opener, the win had massive implications for seeding in the AE, with Binghamton and Maine battling for the sixth and final seed in the conference tournament.
On Sunday, the two teams were deadlocked in a pitching duel until the bottom of the fifth. Howard (3-3) faced a few close calls, but blanked the Black Bears for five frames. Maine freshman pitcher Emily Reid (3-13) had her no-hitter broken up in the bottom of the fifth — an inning that became an offensive explosion for the Bearcats. Head coach Michelle Johnston seemed to instill positivity, and it paid off.
“We saw what happens when our defense is working behind [our pitchers], what we can do,” Johnston said. “Our bats were a little quiet in the early part of this game, but things can change pretty quickly, and that’s how it happened today.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the Bearcats had nine batters reach home safely — all without recording an out. After sophomore utility player Sarah Benn broke up the no-hitter, classmate outfielder Lauren Martinez hit her second home run of the season, a three-run shot. Martinez was mobbed at home plate as her team began to drive in runs.
“I honestly didn’t know it was going out, but it went out, and I was pretty excited about it,” Martinez said.
The next three hitters in the lineup loaded the bases for junior catcher Sara Herskowitz, who doubled to clear the bases and score three RBIs. Two batters later, Alvarez came to the plate and sealed the victory for BU with her three-run blast. Alvarez drove in a team-high five RBIs during the series, capping off a 9-0 victory with her home run.
“They gotta know they’re capable of [taking over offensively] at any point,” Johnston said.
The win left the Black Bears needing a series sweep over third-place Stony Brook to save their season. With Binghamton having a bye the final week of the season, the Bearcats will need a favor from their SUNY rival, the Seawolves (25-16, 9-6 AE), in order to guarantee a spot in the postseason. If the Seawolves can avoid being swept by Maine, Binghamton will qualify for the AE Tournament.
If BU qualifies, it will face either UMass Lowell, Albany or Stony Brook in the AE Tournament starting on Wednesday, May 8. The championship will be hosted by the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut.