Over the weekend, the Binghamton softball team looked to continue its strong start to the 2023 season during a four game series against George Mason in Virginia. Despite entering the series on a six game win-streak, BU dropped its double-header on Saturday but bounced back on Sunday with a two-game sweep of its own. The Bearcats exited the weekend with an even 2-2 record versus GMU.
“This weekend was a good test for us as we were playing the same team four times,” wrote Binghamton head coach Jess Bump. “We took a lot out of the weekend as a whole, as the set up of the games [are] similar to what our America East slate will look like. Overall, it’s easy to say it’s tough coming home 2-2 as we should’ve come home 4-0, but I think it was an eye-opening weekend, and we learned a lot about ourselves.”
The Bearcats (11-7) kicked off the scoring for the weekend in the first contest, plating a first-inning run after redshirt sophomore utility Lindsey Walter scored on a fielding error from the Patriots (11-7). BU took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, courtesy of an RBI double from junior catcher Hailey Ehlers. Although this finished up the scoring on the visitor’s side, freshman pitcher Brianna Roberts held George Mason scoreless over the first six innings. GMU’s drought ended in the seventh, however, as the hosts posted a three-run inning and won the game 3-2 in walk-off fashion.
“[Ehlers] has been working through a lot of things in her swing and the last two weekends has continued to look better every at bat,” Bump wrote. “She has a confident presence, and is swinging free right now, which obviously has really helped her results. She also did a great job behind the plate this weekend, and held George Mason — who has 57 stolen bases on the year — to none.”
Game two of the series began in a similar fashion as the first, with the Bearcats posting the opening runs early. Ehlers added her second RBI double on the weekend, this time plating three runs in the second inning as Binghamton grabbed a 3-0 lead. The Patriots posted their response in the fourth inning with a three-run frame of their own, knotting up the score. BU was unable to strike back, however, as the hosts held it scoreless for the remainder of the contest. George Mason added the winning run in the sixth as the Bearcats dropped the second game 4-3.
“Saturday were tough losses as we were up in both of them late in the game,” Bump wrote. “We talked a lot about how we can’t get complacent and have to continue to score runs throughout games. [George] Mason took advantage of some of our pitchers’ misses, which resulted in some runs late.”
Binghamton kicked off Sunday’s action with another hot start in game one, posting a first inning 2-0 lead courtesy of a two RBI single from redshirt sophomore outfielder Brianna Santos. GMU quickly responded in the bottom of the inning with a three-run outing of its own to take the lead. Despite this, BU remained competitive and regained the lead in the second inning, plating four runs as freshman infielder Akira Kopec and sophomore outfielder Sarah Rende each hit RBI doubles, giving the visitors a 6-3 lead. The Patriots added just one more run in the contest as Roberts earned the win in the 6-4 effort.
In the final game of the weekend, Binghamton struggled to score early and George Mason took a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Santos continued her strong performance on the weekend, however, assisting in a BU comeback with a two-run triple in the third followed by another two-RBI hit in the fifth as the visitors trailed 5-4 heading into the penultimate inning. In the sixth, the Bearcats blew the game open, plating eight runs to leave GMU out of reach. Ehlers led off the frame with a solo homer, and soon after graduate student infielder Alli Richmond drove in three runs with a double.
Finally, after batting around the order, Ehlers capped off the inning with a two-run triple. Binghamton added its final run in the seventh and took the weekend’s final contest 13-5. Graduate student pitcher Sophia Pappas was awarded the win after entering for relief and allowing no runs in two innings pitched.
“The two wins [Sunday] were really gritty, and wins like that make us better,” Bump wrote. “We have the ability to score a lot of runs when we get momentum. We were much better with runners in scoring positions all day today, which is what we lacked day one.”
BU will return to action on Saturday, March 18 for the Penn State Tournament, its final tournament before the start of conference play. First pitch is set for 9 a.m. against Cornell at the Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park in University Park, Pennsylvania.