After its most successful conference season in its Division I history, the Binghamton University softball team’s season has come to an end. The Bearcats finished in third place at the America East tournament, sandwiching a win over University of Maryland, Baltimore County between losses to University at Albany and Boston University.
Binghamton head coach Michelle Burrell implored her offense to be aggressive, and the Bearcats obeyed in their tournament opener — initially, at least. Freshman Jessica Bump doubled to left field to lead off the game, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior Meghan Tucker and scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Deannie Plemon. In between, sophomore Jessica Phillips, who was named America East Co-Player of the Year on Wednesday, walked and stole second.
Freshman Mikala King singled on the first pitch of the second inning and freshman Demi Laney followed with a single of her own. After King and Laney each advanced a base on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Lisa Cutrona, Binghamton’s potential rally was squashed by a double play. Sophomore Shannon Kane lined out to Albany junior second baseman Katie Wambold, who fired to third to nab King.
With its 1-0 lead still intact, Binghamton narrowly escaped a potential rally by Albany in the sixth inning. The Great Danes put runners on first and second, forcing Burrell to pull sophomore pitcher Rhoda Marsteller. Sophomore Kate Price took the mound and issued a walk to load the bases before fanning two to end the inning without allowing a run.
In the seventh, just two outs away from a loss, Albany finally pushed a run home. The Great Danes used a Bump error with one out to put runners at the corners, and a single tied the game. Price subsequently struck out the next two batters to keep the Bearcats alive.
In the bottom of the ninth, Price allowed a leadoff single and was subsequently relieved by Marsteller. After a single and a bunt put runners on second and third, an Albany RBI single knocked in the winning run.
Albany’s Brittany MacFawn pitched all nine innings after settling down, allowing just one run on seven hits while striking out six.
Aside from the seventh and ninth, Marsteller and Price pitched very well, fanning 10 Great Danes.
“I think that the game against Albany probably could have gone either way, and a hit here or there would have changed things,” Burrell said. “We put runners on and we put the pressure on them. We just unfortunately couldn’t come up with a key hit here or there throughout the game.”
Binghamton fell behind 1-0 in the first the following day in an elimination game against UMBC but used a Tucker home run to tie it in the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth, UMBC regained the lead on an RBI single off Marsteller.
The Bearcats loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and scored two runs off a wild pitch and then a sacrifice fly by senior Stephanie DeLuca, taking a 3-2 lead that would be the final score. Price tossed two perfect innings to preserve Marsteller’s win.
Binghamton recorded just two hits off UMBC senior pitcher Stephanie Weigman but managed to win.
Following their win, the Bearcats took the field to face Boston University, who fell to Albany 4-1 earlier in the day.
Marsteller allowed a first-inning run but stayed out of trouble until the fourth, when Boston put runners on first and second with no outs. Burrell substituted Price for Marsteller, and the reliever pitched out of the jam.
With the score still 1-0 in the fifth, the Terriers loaded the bases with no outs. Senior April Setterland, who shared America East Player of the Year honors with Phillips, singled home two runs and freshman Chelsea Kehr drove in another run later, extending Boston’s lead to 4-0.
The Bearcats went down in order in their half of the fifth, and the Terriers rallied with two outs, scoring three runs off a Setterland blast.
Binghamton couldn’t muster a rally, ultimately losing 7-0. With the loss, the Bearcats finished in third place and were eliminated from the tournament.
Price surrendered six runs on nine hits in four innings, and the Bearcats’ offense only amassed three hits.
While Burrell was happy with the team’s performance, she thinks the pressure may have gotten to the players.
“I think at times we got a little tight and played, I think, a little timid,” she said. “But overall … we didn’t have any real lapses, I thought we played hard every inning.”
The elimination marked the end of a historic season for Binghamton. The Bearcats qualified for the AE tournament for the first time, finishing with their first-ever winning conference record. Phillips also became the squad’s only conference Player of the Year in team history.