Sitting just a half-game out of the final America East playoffs spot entering the weekend, the Binghamton softball team swept a three-game series against conference-rival UMBC. The Bearcats (17-16, 8-5 America East) captured both games of Saturday’s doubleheader by scores of 8-5 and 5-2 and blanked the Retrievers (21-23, 7-5 AE), 4-0, in Sunday’s finale. With the sweep, Binghamton claimed possession of the fourth seed in the AE.
Binghamton jumped out to an early lead in all three contests against UMBC. In the series opener, the Bearcats scored six of their eventual eight runs in the first two innings. Opening scoring in the first inning was junior catcher Lisa Cadogan, who smacked an RBI single down the right-field line, scoring junior outfielder Sydney Harbaugh. Two batters later, freshman infielder Kate Richard gave BU an explosive edge when she launched a three-run homer over the left-center field fence.
Binghamton continued its success in the second, scoring two runs off of UMBC errors. The Bearcats added another bang to their lead in the fourth thanks to a two-run homer by Harbaugh.
“I think [the players] have worked to make some adjustments as far as coming out early and being prepared for games,” Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell said. “I think they’re starting off with a lot of energy in our warm-ups and that’s carrying over to what we’re doing on the field.”
After the Retrievers scored two runs in the home half of the first, they failed to score again until the bottom of the seventh. UMBC plated three runs in the inning but failed to complete the comeback, falling 8-5.
The nightcap followed a similar script as the first, as Binghamton scored three in the first three innings on an RBI double from freshman outfielder Jessica Rutherford and a two-run homer from junior catcher Taylor Chaffee.
UMBC closed the gap in the bottom of the fourth on a home run by freshman first baseman Carly Lesko, but BU responded an inning later with a Cadogan RBI single to push the lead to 5-1. Cadogan was 2-for-6 on the day and continues to lead the Bearcats with a .418 batting average.
Freshman pitcher Sarah Miller gave up just one run over five innings to earn the win for BU. She was relieved by junior pitcher Cara Martin, who held the Retrievers to one additional run to close out the game.
When asked about her team’s success, Burrell spoke of a dynamic in which each player feeds off the energy of others.
“I think they’re not putting too much pressure on themselves,” Burrell said. “They’re confident in each other so that they don’t feel the pressure that one person has to be the one to step up all the time. There are a lot of people contributing and I think everybody’s doing a really good job of just doing their role, doing everything that they can to help the team right now.”
The Bearcats continued their impressive play on Sunday behind a strong performance from Miller, who threw her first complete-game shutout of her career, allowing just four hits while improving her record to 7-6.
“She just had a really good start to the game and then we kind of put a couple of runners on and she had a couple of walks early-on,” Burrell said. “After that, she really just settled down, was able to get ahead of batters and I thought that made a huge difference. It was good to see her gain confidence as the game went on.”
Once again, the Binghamton offense struck first, scoring three runs off a Cadogan RBI single and a Chaffee two-run homer in the first inning. The Bearcats scored again in the sixth when Rutherford launched a homer to left-center field.
The Retrievers had no answer for Binghamton and dropped their sixth straight game.
Heading into the series, BU was directly behind UMBC in the conference standings. With the sweep, the Bearcats jumped the Retrievers in the standings to move into fourth place.
Binghamton is next scheduled to take on non-conference opponent Cornell today in a doubleheader. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. from Niemand Robinson Softball Field in Ithaca, New York, with a second game following shortly after.