Junior third baseman Kate Richard spearheaded an offensive onslaught for the Binghamton softball team this past weekend, propelling the Bearcats (21-21, 11-2 America East) to a three-game sweep of Maine. The wins secured BU first place in the AE Conference.
“Overall, we saw the team come together,” said BU head coach Michelle Johnston. “We were working for each other.”
The Black Bears (16-21, 10-4 AE) entered this weekend with a tenuous clutch on first place, but BU broke their grasp with back-to-back victories on Saturday.
“The goal today [Saturday] was just to have fun and play loose, defending our home turf,” said senior pitcher Shelby Donhauser.
Freshman pitcher Rayn Gibson took the mound against Maine senior pitcher Erin Bogdanovich in the opener. The game intensified in the bottom of the second inning, with Richard hitting a solo home run over the right field fence. Two batters later, freshman catcher Sara Herskowitz followed suit with a homer, doubling the Bearcats’ lead. Binghamton tacked on another run off a Maine error, leading 3-0 after two innings.
Maine responded immediately in the top of the third, capturing ground and evening the score at three. In the bottom of the fourth, Maine caught another taste of Richard’s impressive swing as she belted her second solo homer of the day to reclaim the lead for Binghamton.
Gibson completed the game with four shutout innings, improving her record to 8-5.
“A lot of people came through, a lot of people had big days,” Donhauser said. “I know Kate [Richard] had, like, two home runs, which was amazing and honestly that just started out momentum and kept it going.”
Richard did not show any signs of fatigue in game two, opening scoring with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning. Senior shortstop Crysti Eichner forced another run in drawing a bases-loaded walk.
“I thought [Richard] did a really good job and kept up focus throughout the day,” Johnston said.
Maine junior center fielder Rachel Carlson sparked the Black Bears’ offense in the top of the third inning by crushing an RBI triple deep into right field. BU responded with a more patient approach, as senior designated hitter Gabby Bracchi and junior second basemen Stephanie Bielec drew consecutive bases-loaded walks to score two to push the score to 4-1.
Richard fueled the offense by batting .800 with three RBI in five at-bats, bringing her season RBI total to a conference-best 42.
“Maine’s a great team,” said senior outfielder Bridget Hunt. “We knew what we had to do, and we knew they weren’t just going to roll over as soon as we stepped onto the field.”
Maine sprung ahead early in the first on Sunday to take a short-lived 2-0 lead.
Bracchi led the Bearcats off with a smooth bunt down the third base line before Bielec reached on an error by the shortstop, leaving two runners on base for Richard. The powerhouse third baseman then smoked a three-run homer over right center field, securing a 3-2 lead for Binghamton.
“[The two previous home runs] were in the back of my mind, but I know it’s best to get up there with a clear mind,” Richard said. “It’s best to think ‘base hit’ and not ‘home run.’”
The Black Bears held the Bearcats in check until the fourth inning, when an intentional walk to Richard sparked the BU squad. Hunt then cranked a two-RBI single to center field, expanding her team’s lead. An RBI double from both Herskowitz and Eichner added further assurance for a BU victory. Bielec concluded the game with a sixth-inning RBI base hit that enacted the AE standard mercy rule, giving Binghamton the 10-2 victory and three-game sweep.
The Bearcats are now 1.5 games ahead of second-place Maine with four regular-season games before they enter the first round of the AE Tournament.
“Our biggest thing right now is staying consistent with our energy,” Hunt said. “That’s what’s been moving us along.”
Binghamton’s next game is on Tuesday against Albany. First pitch from Albany Field is set for 2 p.m. in Albany, New York.