Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, student-athletes across the country had their seasons come to an unexpected early conclusion on March 12. Senior catcher Sara Herskowitz, a veteran starter on Binghamton University’s softball team, was one of many players across the nation who saw their senior season come to an abrupt end.
Herskowitz said she was in class when the news escalated and the inevitability of the situation began to set in.
“My phone started blowing up, about ‘this conference is canceled,’ and ‘this team pulled out,’” Herskowitz said. “It was super hard to stay focused during my class hearing all these things coming in about everyone else getting canceled. Then I realized that half of our schedule was gone by the time my class was over.”
Shortly thereafter, the America East (AE) conference canceled all remaining athletics competitions, and BU head coach Michelle Johnston sent out a text to the team revealing the crushing news. Herskowitz’s senior season was over, and the Bearcats were faced with an unprecedented situation amid the global crisis.
“It is a really big adjustment being that this is usually the most hectic time of the year for us,” Herskowitz said. “One day we were hustling, practicing, lifting, getting everything in before we had to leave for a tournament, and an hour later everything was canceled — it was all gone. It was definitely a shock, going from the most hectic time of our lives to being told to do nothing.”
With a good mix of strong senior leadership and talented young players, BU was among the favorites to win the AE title in 2020. The Bearcats Sports Complex had been selected to host the conference tournament, and the team seemed primed to make a run.
“We had a very talented and really special team this year, we all knew it,” Herskowitz said. “It’s such a shame that we won’t get to see how it would’ve played out, because we all knew we would’ve gone far.”
Early in the season, the team had been developing in nonconference games against top competition from power conferences. The team was starting to hit its stride as AE play neared.
“We definitely didn’t start out on a great note, but we were to about to jump into the heat of the season, the best part of the season,” Herskowitz said. “We always come together — we were coming together. We all had a great attitude at that point. It’s a real shame to see how it won’t be played out.”
Herskowitz has been the Bearcats’ starting catcher since arriving on campus as a freshman. Additionally, she has been one of the team’s top hitters over the last four years. In her shortened senior season, Herskowitz batted .314, good enough for third on the team, and last season she was second on the team with seven home runs.
In addition to Herskowitz, this year’s six-member senior class consists of several standouts who have made a lasting impression on the program.
“We’ve been through it all together, I think that’s the most upsetting part,” Herskowitz said. “I’m so grateful that the NCAA is offering to give back a year of eligibility to the seniors, but we are all in different places right now and obviously not all of us can come back. For the ones that can come back, it just simply won’t be the same without the people we started with.”
Herskowitz has not yet decided whether she will play softball again next year, but she is in a good position to make that choice. Prior to the start of the pandemic, she was accepted to the University’s master of public health program.
Even if Herskowitz decides to come back next season, she acknowledged that it won’t be possible for her entire class to return. Knowing this is likely the end for some of her classmates, she reflected on how much the group has meant to each other during their time playing softball together at BU.
“The six of us have grown tremendously as people,” Herskowitz said. “I know that we have learned more from softball than anything we’ve done in our entire lives, and I guarantee all six of us are going to have a really bright future.”