For the second straight year, the Binghamton softball team is carrying the top seed into the America East (AE) Tournament. The Bearcats (21-23, 11-4 AE) will look to avenge their semifinal upset loss against Albany last season.
BU has captured the regular-season championship. On Thursday, the Bearcats will begin their quest for their second conference title and their first since 2015.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, junior third baseman Kate Richard, senior right fielder Bridget Hunt, junior center fielder Jessica Rutherford and BU head coach Michelle Johnston discussed hosting the conference tournament for the second season in a row.
“We’re all pretty excited; we’re finally done with classes,” Richard said. “We’re mostly focused on softball so that’s the main thing right now. We know how to go out and win one game at a time.”
Richard has had tremendous success this season; in the AE, she ranks seventh in batting average (.350), first in RBIs (46) and is tied for second in home runs (12). In a recent sweep of the Black Bears, Richard proved her hitting prowess, belting two home runs in the first game.
Hunt has also proven her ability to thrive at the plate this season. She has reached base in a team-best 18 straight games and leads the conference with six triples. She said the Bearcats are looking forward to having home field advantage again.
“I think we’re just so excited to be on our home turf,” Hunt said. “It’s always a great feeling to come out with the fans that we have and have our community base come support us. I think what we want to focus on for this weekend is to just truly take the game one pitch at a time, we don’t want to get to far ahead of ourselves.”
In 2015, Binghamton defeated Stony Brook in back-to-back games on the road to take the conference championship.
“I think we’ve now had the experience of playing in the tournament both at home and on the road, so I think we kind of know the pressure of being at home and expectations,” Johnston said. “I think we’ve taken a few things from last year and we’re going to work to play nice and loose this week and come out and play our games.”
Rutherford, who broke the Binghamton single-game hit record with five hits against UMBC this past April, expressed her eagerness to continue the Bearcats’ high level of play.
“The mood is definitely excitement, the excitement is there, we’re all pumped,” Rutherford said. “We all know that we did our job to get here and now we just want to be able to finish it off at home. We want to be able to finish it off with our fans here. We’re doing it for the community, the fans and ourselves.”
The All-Conference Awards Banquet was held Tuesday night at the University. The Bearcats walked away the victors with nine players honored spanning seven all-conference picks, and four First Team selections — the highest in the conference — among other accolades.
BU is set to play its first tournament game Thursday against Albany. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.