In the opening series of conference play, the Binghamton softball team captured two victories against UMBC. Even though there was frequent snowfall and frigid weather, the Bearcats (9-14, 2-1 America East) dominated on the mound and in the batter’s box to take down the Retrievers (7-22, 2-3 AE) over a three-game spread.
Kicking off the series with a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, the pitching matchup featured BU sophomore Rayn Gibson and UMBC senior Kim Puccio. Despite the disadvantage in experience, Gibson held her own and thrived as she propelled the Bearcats to a 6-3 win.
“Her composure on the mound, both yesterday and today, was awesome,” said BU head coach Michelle Johnston. “She did a really good job as well as the defense stepping up behind her.”
Behind Gibson’s 11 strikeouts and two earned runs over her complete game, senior center fielder Jessica Rutherford and sophomore designated player Kassidy Seary provided instant offense in the first game. Both players posted two RBIs and a combined three hits in game one.
Unable to repeat their success in the second game, however, the Bearcats struggled mightily to contain UMBC’s offense. The rotation, which began with freshman pitcher Chelsea Howard (6-14), surrendered an inefficient 15 hits and seven earned runs in the 8-6 defeat.
Searching for a bounce-back victory, Gibson and the team turned in a 7-0 shutout victory over the Retrievers on Sunday. Undeterred by the inclement weather, Gibson struck out nine batters and allowed only three walks. She ultimately finished the series 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA and struck out 20 batters.
“I had to rely on the defense,” Gibson said. “They did a great job making all of the plays behind me and trusting that if I throw good pitches, whatever happens, we’re going to get out of it and do great.”
In addition to the flawless pitching showing, Binghamton poured in four home runs in the rubber game. Struggling early in the season to generate offense and deliver clutch hits, the offense was undoubtedly present over the course of the entire weekend, especially in the sixth inning of the third contest.
During that frame, BU opened the floodgates against the Retrievers’ pitching staff. Rutherford recorded a one-out solo home run only to be followed by a three-run bomb from sophomore designated player Rozlyn Price and a two-run home run from freshman pinch hitter Alex Guay. On the weekend, Price homered twice and led the Bearcats with four RBIs, while Rutherford was four for 10 (.400).
“We were obviously looking for quality at-bats and they all came together in that inning,” Johnston said. “It was good to see them get some momentum and feed off of each other.”
With only two nonconference games remaining, both of which are against Syracuse in mid-April, the Bearcats are seeking to go above .500 for the first time this year. In order to repeat as the regular season champions, Binghamton started AE play on the right foot, taking two out of three this weekend.
“Especially this weekend, we’re winning as a team and losing as a team,” Gibson said. “We’re on a roll right now and I hope we keep riding it.”
The Bearcats are slated to take on the Albany Great Danes in a two-game series on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. from Albany Field in Albany, New York.