The Binghamton softball team continued its early season play this weekend by splitting four games at the Hampton & Norfolk State Tournament. The Bearcats (3-12) were victorious in their first two games, beating Norfolk State 5-4 on Friday and Wagner 8-0 on Saturday, but concluded the tournament in a disappointing fashion with losses at the hands of Hampton on Saturday and Delaware on Sunday.

Continuing with the early season trend, Binghamton saw strong production from its pitching staff while its offense often struggled.

“We’ve been really happy with overall how our pitchers have been doing,” said Binghamton head coach Michelle Johnston. “And I think if we can kind of get our offense going and [get] a little more confident, then we’ll start to see some better results.”

Johnston said she was pleased with how her pitchers kept the team in games, evident by the staff’s collective 2.77 ERA in the tournament.

Senior pitcher Rayn Gibson led the team with 10.1 innings spread across two starts, though she lost them both. Gibson struggled slightly in her first start, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits, five walks and eight strikeouts against Hampton (15-4). She bounced back on Sunday by allowing two runs (none earned) on two hits and four punch-outs.

The Bearcats seemed to lose Sunday’s game because of two miscues in the top of the fourth. Delaware (19-4) scored its first run thanks to a fielding error by sophomore second baseman Marissa Braito and its second thanks to a wild pitch later in the inning.

Binghamton also received strong pitching performances from senior Rozlyn Price, junior Chelsea Howard and sophomore Morgan Bienkowski. With three shutout innings, Price picked up her first win of the season against Wagner (3-6) while also hitting 1-3 with an RBI double in that game. Howard appeared as a reliever in two games and tossed multiple shutout innings in both. She sat down nine batters and gave up zero walks in her 5.2 innings.

“[Howard] has been really effective coming in off of a lot of pitchers,” Johnston said. “She’s got really good control of her pitches right now. I think she’s confident in what she’s throwing and that’s making a big difference for her.”

Bienkowski started BU’s opening game of the weekend against Norfolk State (6-12), throwing seven innings and giving up four runs on eight hits while striking out nine and walking nobody. She secured the win thanks to a two-out, two-run homer from Price in the top of the seventh. Senior catcher Sara Herskowitz then followed that with a two-run single to give BU the lead.

Johnston said she was happy to see the offense build off each other’s momentum to bunch hits together and capitalize with multiple runs.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Johnston said. “We’ve been working for those back-to-backs offensively because that’s how we’re going to score runs. I think that was a really good example of where, if we can continue to do that, then that’ll put us in a better spot offensively.”

Herskowitz, along with a few other returners, has struggled so far this season, but her .600 batting average led the Bearcats this weekend. She also scored twice, picked up two RBIs and collected two multi-hit games.

“She’s got the ability to both use small game and hit for power,” Johnston said. “I think she’s got a little ways to go as far as building some confidence and getting a little more aggressive, but I think that’s something that we’re kind of working on with a lot of [Binghamton batters].”

Other Bearcat batters with big weekends included Braito, senior outfielder Stephanie Ragusa, junior shortstop Makayla Alvarez and freshman outfielder Tessa Nuss. Braito went 7-for-13 with two runs. Ragusa collected six hits in 15 at-bats and posted career highs with four hits and three runs against Wagner. She leads the team with a .400 average on the season. Alvarez hit 5-for-12 for a .417 average this weekend with three runs and three RBIs, while Nuss added four hits in 12 at-bats and three runs.

“Right now we’ve been putting [Ragusa, Nuss and Braito] at the top of our lineup because they’ve been doing such a good job at putting pressure on defenses,” Johnston said. “We feel like we can use their speed off of each other, so we’ve been happy with what the three of them have been doing at the top of their lineup. Hopefully we can figure out a way to score them more often.”

Next up for the Bearcats is the Liberty Softball Challenge, where they will play five games. First pitch in the opener against Northern Illinois is set for 9 a.m. on Friday, March 13 at Kamphuis Field in Lynchburg, Virginia.