It was a five-run, fourth inning outburst — the kind the Binghamton softball team has become known for this season — that made the difference in Sunday’s victory over conference rival Albany. With the 10-2 win, the Bearcats (30-13, 12-3 America East) moved one game ahead of the Great Danes (30-14, 10-3 AE) to capture sole possession of first place in the AE.
After splitting Saturday’s doubleheader, BU struck first in the finale, going up 3-2 after two innings. Binghamton’s offensive onslaught in the fourth, sparked by a two-run triple by sophomore second baseman Stephanie Bielec, put an Albany comeback out of reach. Sophomore center fielder Jessica Rutherford drove in Bielec with a single before senior first baseman Lisa Cadogan and senior catcher Taylor Chaffee each contributed RBI doubles to put Binghamton up, 8-2.
The Binghamton offense, which ranks seventh among all Division I teams with a .347 batting average, has recorded at least five runs in an inning 15 times this season. For BU head coach Michelle Burrell, the strength of both the lineup and bench has led to Binghamton’s offensive dominance this year.
“We’ve had so many different people stepping up in each game,” Burrell said. “Just the fact that we have everybody contributing is really important heading into the conference tournament.”
The Bearcats plated two more runs in the next inning thanks to a home run by sophomore third baseman Kate Richard and a sacrifice fly from Cadogan. Sophomore pitcher Sarah Miller held the Great Danes to just four hits in the victory, improving her record to 14-6.
Burrell attributes the team’s success to the players’ desire for home-field advantage during the conference tournament.
“I think they’re working to be as good as they can come conference tournament,” she said. “They’ve really wanted to play at home. Right now, I think they’ve got themselves in a good spot.”
In the series opener, Binghamton’s offense again gave the team a head start. The Bearcats jumped out to a 10-0 lead after just two innings of play. Rutherford recorded three hits in the matchup, breaking the program record for hits in a single season with a second-inning single up the middle. Junior left fielder Gabby Bracchi also entered the record books this weekend, scoring her 50th run of the season, a new program-high.
Despite their large deficit, the Great Danes chipped away. Albany eventually came within two runs in the final frame, when junior catcher Elizabeth Snow delivered a three-run homer. Snow, the 2014 AE Rookie of the Year, leads Albany and the AE with a .442 batting average. Albany’s hopes at an unlikely comeback came to a close when BU senior pitcher Cara Martin entered the game in relief and tallied her third save of the season.
“I thought [Martin] did a great job,” Burrell said. “She just had a really good presence about her, like she was going to come in and dominate and finish the game. She stuck with what she was good at and got a few ground balls.”
Martin failed to bring the same presence to the mound in the nightcap, however, surrendering five runs and two home runs in just one inning of play. The Great Danes never relinquished their lead and eventually came out on top, 10-2.
BU is set to return to action on Tuesday against Syracuse, before concluding its season with a three-game series against AE rival Hartford over the weekend. First pitch of Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m. from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.