It has been over a year since the Binghamton softball team has taken the field, but the Bearcats are back this weekend. With a mix of veteran players and young talent, Binghamton is set to open its 2021 season at home against St. Bonaventure on Saturday.
“One of our focuses has just been making the most of every day,” said junior utility player Alli Richmond. “As we know, and other athletes across the country know, it can be taken away at any time.”
The Bearcats will be led this season by Michelle Johnston, who enters her 12th season as Binghamton head coach. However, Johnston is currently on maternity leave after the birth of twins last month. Assistant coach Jessica Bump spoke for the team at its preseason media day.
“As a coach, one of the things you enjoy the most about your jobs is seeing the girls compete, and it’s been a year since we’ve seen that,” Bump said. “So from my end, I’m just excited to see them smile and be back together with each other enjoying the game.”
Binghamton played just 15 games last season, going 3-12, however the team was not able to compete in conference play due to the pandemic. Following the season’s suspension, two of the team’s most important seniors chose to come back for an unexpected fifth year. Graduate student catcher Sara Herskowitz and redshirt senior pitcher Rayn Gibson both returned to the team.
“They’ve been our battery for four years,” Bump said. “Obviously, they have a lot of experience working with each other. I think because we’re getting right into conference play, having that experience is gonna be really important. I think on the other side of it, they’ve done a really good job working with our underclassmen and getting them acclimated.”
In addition to Herskowitz and Gibson, seven true seniors on Binghamton’s roster make up an experienced group for the team.
“More so for them, they know more than anyone that you can’t take a day for granted, and I think they’re really trying to send that message down,” Bump said. “You can kind of see that everyone is truly making the most of every day, and I think they’re helping with that.”
Seven freshmen joined the Bearcats this season in addition to the five sophomores that saw their season cut short before conference play. After starting all 15 games, sophomore outfielder Tessa Nuss had the highest batting average last season of any BU players that returned to the team.
“[Our freshmen class] brings a lot of versatility that we’ve been looking for over the last three or four years,” Bump said. “That was kind of our recruiting plan, to make our team more versatile and athletic, and I think the seven of them help us do that. Our depth at every position is a lot stronger than it has been, we’re three or four deep at everywhere.”
In a normal season, Binghamton would spend the first month of the season traveling south to face off against top competition before conference play. This year, they’ll have just one weekend of nonconference games before taking on America East (AE) competition.
“We normally have 20 or 25 games played prior to starting conference play, and that’s the time we’re using to figure out our lineup and figure out which pitchers work best together,” Bump said. “I think that’s been hard, but we’ve been preparing in different ways and we feel good that we’re prepared to start.”
Following this weekend’s series against St. Bonaventure, Binghamton will open conference play next weekend with three games at Stony Brook. BU will continue to play three or four game weekend series until the AE Championship, which is set to begin May 13.
“I think the girls are really excited for Saturday, obviously putting that uniform on and having that game-day feel is exciting, and it’s been over a year,” Bump said.
First pitch in Binghamton’s season opener against the Bonnies is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 20, at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.