The Binghamton University softball team continued its early-season success in a big way this weekend, going 4-1 at the four-team George Mason Tournament in Fairfax, Va. The Bearcats are now 6-3 this season, a start better than any the program has seen in its 10-year NCAA Division I history. The team’s previous best start came in 2004, when Binghamton went 5-3-1 through the club’s first nine games.
The Bearcats started things off with a bang on Friday, downing Bucknell University 5-1 at the start of round-robin play. In the bottom of the first, sophomore outfielder Jessica Phillips, who is batting a team-best .462 after this weekend, belted a two-run double. After advancing to third on the throw, Phillips came home on a sacrifice fly by senior catcher Deannie Plemon to give the Bearcats a 3-0 lead.
The remaining runs were scored in the bottom of the third, when junior Briana Andrews doubled in freshman Jordan Sjostrand, and in the bottom of the sixth when Phillips struck again, doubling in freshman Jessica Bump for the Bearcats’ final run of the game. The only run surrendered by the Bearcats came in the top of the third, when Bucknell freshman Mallory Lyons drew a bases-loaded walk before the Bearcat defense managed to get out of the jam. Sophomores Rhoda Marsteller and Kate Price combined to allow only four hits and one earned run, while walking six and fanning two.
Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell has been most impressed by her team’s ability to come together in such situations.
“Our defense has really stepped up behind our pitchers,” she said. “I really think that has been helping our pitchers to gain more confidence on the mound.”
The following day, the Bearcats continued their success in two nail-biting games, beating host George Mason University 3-2 and Bucknell 1-0.
In the first game of the day, the Bearcats rallied behind the arm of junior pitcher Kristen Emerling, whose complete game included only two runs on six hits. Emerling walked three and struck out five while improving her season record to 2-1. Scoreless through the first two innings of play, it was Phillips who finally broke through with a resounding two-run home run in the top of the third, her third home run of the season. Phillips was named America East Player of the Week yesterday for her play over the weekend. Burrell has been very impressed with her budding star.
“This year she’s just playing with a whole year of experience under her belt, and she’s carrying herself that way,” Burrell said. “So I think she’s very confident when she goes to the plate, as her numbers show. I think she’s doing a fantastic job and [I] expect she will continue to do great things.”
Binghamton improved its lead in the top of the fifth when Plemon doubled Phillips home to make it 3-0.
The Patriots’ only two runs came in the bottom of the fifth, when junior Rachael Davies’ two-out single brought two runners home.
Later against Bucknell, stellar defense and pitching led the Bearcats to a 1-0 shutout. The Bearcats’ lone run came in the top of the third, when Phillips took advantage of an earlier error by Bison shortstop Mallory Lyons by singling home junior Meghan Tucker. The pitching efforts of freshman Demi Laney and Price were substantial, as Laney went 4.2 innings for the win and Price went 2.1 for the save. The pair combined to surrender no runs on only four hits, walking five and striking out eight.
On Sunday, the Bearcats split their final two games, beating Cornell University 2-1 in eight innings, but later losing to George Mason 5-4 in nine innings.
In the first game, the Bearcats struck early yet again, as sophomore Shannon Kane’s single was followed by an RBI double by Phillips. However, the Big Red came back in the bottom of the fourth, as Cornell’s Kristen Towne singled up the middle to bring home a run and tie the game.
The Bearcats struck their final blow in the eighth inning, as Phillips’ groundout to shortstop enabled Bump to score safely from third and get the Bearcats the 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the frame, Binghamton took care of business and downed the remaining batters in a 1-2-3 fashion.
In the final game of the tournament, Binghamton fell 5-4 to George Mason in a dramatic nine innings of play.
Binghamton carried a 3-0 lead through the first five innings, but the Patriots came back in the top of the sixth as Megan Blank ripped a two-run triple before scoring on a single by Stephanie Strother.
But the Bearcats battled back in the bottom of the frame, as a double to left field by freshman Lisa Cutrona led to a one-run single by Bump to take a 4-3 lead. George Mason then forced extra innings after Rachael Davies singled home the tying run.
Then in the top of the ninth inning, it was Davies who scored the go-ahead run for George Mason on a single by Emily Lafferty. The Bearcats were unable to retaliate in the bottom of the ninth, as they left a runner on first to end the game.
Marsteller and Price combined to surrender five runs on 11 hits in the final game, while walking four and striking out seven.
The Bearcats are scheduled to continue play this weekend as they head into the five-game James Madison Tournament. They are set to kick off the weekend with a doubleheader on Friday, with the first game slated for 10 a.m. against Lehigh University followed by a 12:30 p.m. contest against St. John’s University.
The team is scheduled for another twin bill on Saturday and is set to face off against St. John’s University at 10 a.m. and James Madison University at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Bearcats are set to close out their weekend against Lehigh at 10 a.m.