One game at a time.

That has been the mantra of the 2013 Binghamton softball team, and it won’t change as the Bearcats (29-15, 14-4 America East) host the America East Softball Championship this week.

The No. 2 seeded Bearcats know they’ll likely need to play No. 1 Albany at least twice in order to earn the conference’s NCAA tournament bid, but for now, they’re focused on Thursday’s opponent, No. 3 Hartford.

“We are definitely not overlooking Hartford,” BU head coach Michelle Burrell said. “Our goal is to come in and win that first game.”

The Bearcats have reason to confidently approach the opener of the double-elimination tournament, as they took two of three from the Hawks (21-32, 10-8 AE) on the road three weeks ago.

But junior second baseman Jessica Bump, who went 3-for-7 with a pair of homers against Hartford, said Binghamton cannot rely on success repeating itself.

“It’s good knowing pitchers’ tendencies and what your approach should be at the plate,” she said. “But I think Thursday’s a new day, and we’ve just got to take it one game at a time this weekend.”

With Bump catalyzing the offense out of the leadoff spot — her .348 average and 10 home runs were team highs — the Bearcats have frequently pounced on opponents early. Bump said she likes trying to set the tone in her first at-bat.

“I need to pick it up a little this weekend, be patient yet aggressive at the plate so I can get on base,” she said. “I’m really confident that if I get on I have a really good chance of scoring every time.”

That’s because Binghamton boasts a bevy of offensive talent behind Bump. Freshman right fielder Sydney Harbaugh hit .314 out of the No. 2 spot, and freshmen Lisa Cadogan, Tiffany McIntosh and Taylor Chaffee combined for a .313 average and 24 home runs in the middle of the order. Even sophomore shortstop Caitlyn Friis, the No. 8 hitter, belted five homers this season.

“All of our hitters are confident that if they put a good swing on the ball that they can put it over the fence,” Burrell said. “I think it helps to have that kind of power in our lineup, we definitely have speed as well, so I think there’s a lot of ways we can score.”

But as potent as the offense has been, Burrell stressed that this year’s team has been her most reliable defensively since she took the helm four years ago.

Mistakes in the field cost the Bearcats several games in 2012, when they committed 72 errors and missed the conference tournament. This year, that total has shrunk to 45.

Junior pitcher Demi Laney, who went 15-5 with a 2.33 ERA this year, said the defensive improvement has allowed her to pitch more freely.

“I honestly pitch kind of care free now,” she said, “and I think that really helps me relax and stay confident, knowing that [the fielders] will back me up.”

In college softball, pitchers start games multiple times in one weekend, so an individual’s hot streak could power a team through the tournament. But Burrell and Bump agreed that they do not want to rely on Laney or senior Rhoda Marsteller to carry the team.

“I think we’re always looking to score more runs,” Bump said. “Our pitchers have done a great job, but scoring more runs takes a little pressure off them as well. We’re a team that has the capability of scoring four or five runs a game, and I think we need to take that into the weekend.”

For the Bearcats, 2013 has already been a record-breaking campaign. The 29 wins is a program best, and Binghamton had never finished as high as second in the America East.

Next on the bucket list? Win the conference championship and receive a bid to the NCAA tournament.

And to do it at home?

“That,” Laney said, “would be awesome.”

First pitch against Hartford is set for Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex.

NOTES: The America East announced its award winners on Wednesday afternoon, and 10 Bearcats received accolades. Burrell was named Coach of the Year, while Cadogan was selected Rookie of the Year. Cadogan also appeared on the first team, where she was joined by Bump, Laney, Harbaugh and McIntosh. Marsteller made the second team as well as the all-academic squad, where she was accompanied by Bump, junior third baseman Mikala King and senior left fielder Jessica Phillips. Chaffee joined Cadogan, Harbaugh and McIntosh on the all-rookie team.