It has been nine months since the Binghamton softball team took to the diamond, but the Bearcats return to play this weekend with a full schedule ahead. With a newly promoted head coach, a few new faces and multiple returning players, the team comes into the season sitting in the middle of the America East (AE) preseason poll at fourth.

“I’m really excited to get started this week,” said Binghamton head coach Jessica Bump. “The team really worked hard over winter break. They came back healthy and in shape, so we were able to get right back into softball activities.”

Bump, who has been with Binghamton since 2017 as an assistant coach, was promoted to a full-time head coaching position this season. Bump served as the team’s acting head coach to start the last season after former head coach Michelle Johnston took time off for maternity leave. Now after Johnston’s decision to step down from the team’s head coaching position last May, Bump holds the reins for the 2022 season.

“Going from an assistant coach to a head coach is a pretty big transition,” Bump said. “I always thank [Johnston] for giving me a lot of responsibilities over my five years here. The transition was pretty easy. I found the biggest thing is just being the one that’s making final decisions and having to watch over everything from afar.”

BU is coming off of a 25-game season in 2021 where the team finished with a total record of 11-14 and a conference record of 6-11. This put BU at sixth in the AE conference standings, ending the season second-to-last ahead of only Hartford. However, sophomore pitcher Allison L’Amoreaux said the team took advantage of their time off and is prepared for the upcoming season.

“I think we’re all excited to be back,” L’Amoreaux said. “You can tell that everyone worked over break, individually, and it’s like that we never missed a beat … It was nice knowing that, so now we can come back and focus on what we needed to do as a team rather than getting everyone back as individuals first.”

In her freshman campaign, L’Amoreaux ranked first on the team in ERA and WHIP while pitching 26.2 innings. Due to her lack of innings pitched, the sophomore did not qualify for AE leaderboards, but her ERA of 1.31 would have ranked second in the conference.

Binghamton will open up the season with an 18-woman roster including 15 returning players and three new additions. The new players include freshman utility Sarah Rende, freshman outfielder Alayna Harbaugh and junior transfer infielder Alex Musial.

“We only have three newcomers this year, so our fall season kinda got started pretty quick,” Bump said. “We knew where they were gonna fit in defensively, so we played a really good, competitive fall, and I was really happy with how the girls came out and competed.”

Although the team has fewer members than last season, the players are confident that this will only improve their play.

“We’re lower in numbers, but I think that’s more of an advantage because we mesh so well together that it transfers over on the field,” L’Amoreaux said.

Senior infielder Marissa Braito shared L’Amoreaux’s sentiment.

“This team is unique because of our numbers,” Braito said. “We’re pretty limited, but I don’t think you’re gonna be able to tell that we don’t have as many arms or as much depth.”

Despite a shrunken roster, BU retained Braito, senior pitcher Sophia Pappas and senior infielder Makayla Alvarez, who ranked eighth in the conference in batting average and on-base percentage with .350 and .403, respectively. All three were named to the AE second-team all-conference.

With the Bearcats’ first full slate of games since 2018, BU’s now has almost two months of nonconference outings scheduled for 2022. Binghamton’s first conference clash is a three-game series against UMass Lowell on April 9.

“I’ve been here when we’ve had regular seasons, [COVID-19] seasons and shortened seasons,” Braito said. “So getting back into that regular season is gonna be so nice.”

The Bearcats are slated to open play in Statesboro, Georgia for Bash in the Boro. The first matchup is set against Radford on Friday, Feb 11. First pitch for the season opener is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Eagle Field in Statesboro, Georgia.