To open its 2020 season, the Binghamton softball team headed south to College Station, Texas for its first of several preseason tournaments. At the Aggie Classic on the Texas A&M University campus, the Bearcats dropped all five matchups against strong competition from the Big East and Southeastern Conference (SEC), as well as the Southland Conference.
“We know that offensively, we gotta put more runs on the board,” said Binghamton head coach Michelle Johnston. “We’re not gonna win games scoring one, two runs. I think that’s something that we’re going to focus on.”
The team played its first game on Friday against St. John’s. In the circle for opening day was the team’s breakout player from last year’s AE Tournament, sophomore pitcher Morgan Bienkowski.
“[Bienkowski] obviously came on really strong at the end of the season last year, and she’s worked really hard throughout the summer and she’s done a really good job as far as improving all of her pitches,” Johnston said. “We definitely expect her to be one of our starters.”
Bienkowski pitched a complete game as Binghamton was defeated 6-1 by the Red Storm (2-8). St. John’s scored the first six runs of the game, but a solo home run from sophomore pitcher Sophia Pappas scored the lone run of the day for BU in the bottom of the seventh.
In the second game, BU fell in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Lamar University (4-6). Senior pitcher Rayn Gibson started for the Bearcats, also pitching a complete game with five strikeouts.
“Both [Bienkowski] and [Gibson] on day one on Friday, they both threw really well, and unfortunately, we had quite a few mistakes and gave them extra opportunities and that’s what ended up hurting us, along with not being able to score some runs,” Johnston said.
On Saturday, Binghamton was defeated 10-2 by host Texas A&M. Trailing 2-0 in the third inning, Pappas hit a two-RBI single to tie the game; five runs from the Aggies in the bottom of the frame, however, put the game away.
In a rematch against St. John’s, Binghamton fell 5-2. Freshman outfielder Tessa Nuss drove in BU’s first run of the game in the fifth inning, as she competed in her first weekend of collegiate softball, and senior outfielder Stephanie Ragusa went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Binghamton capped off the event without a victory after falling 4-1 in a loss to Lamar on Sunday morning.
“We’re obviously trying to learn from our mistakes,” Johnston said. “The first game we had quite a few. We’re also moving some players around, our outfield is a little thin right now, we’ve got some injuries, so we’ve kinda been seeing how different players look both out in right and left field. We’re just trying to get a feel for how everyone’s working with each other.”
Before competing in another nonconference event, the Bearcats have next weekend off. Johnston hopes to reduce some of the team’s mistakes as it prepares to take on several top programs at the Tiger Invitational in two weeks at Auburn University.
“We got a lot of video from this weekend, so they’re going to get to see their at-bats, so we’re gonna kinda review some mechanics and pitch selection type things,” Johnston said. “We’re playing six games when we go down to Auburn, so we’re gonna make sure our pitchers are ready to throw some volume.”
BU will open the event with a matchup against Georgia Southern on Friday, Feb. 28. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Alabama.