By: Dave Souza
A year removed from winning the Patriot League Tournament, the Boston University Softball team finds themselves at a crossroads as conference play looms on the horizon. Despite starting the year at 5-4, with impressive wins both close and without doubt, the Terriers (8-14) have endured a west coast road trip that has yielded just three wins in March.
BU began the season with promise, opening their defense of last year’s conference title with back-to-back tournaments in Florida. In their first contest of the season, the Terriers defeated No. 23 Florida Atlantic – turning in arguably their biggest victory of the season, thus far. That victory served as a catalyst for the scarlet and white in their hot February.
During their time in the sunshine state, BU scratched out hard fought wins over North Florida, 1-0, Alabama-Birmingham, 5-3, and South Carolina, 5-4. Even more impressive was their blowout victory notched over nearby Quinnipiac, 8-1.
And while the Terriers stood just a game above .500, their losses gave as much hope as their wins. Against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, who began the year on fire with five wins out of their first seven, BU fell 1-0 in a contest where Kali Magane (4-5) pitched a complete game.
Other close defeats in Florida included a one-run loss to Eastern Michigan, where the Eagles posted three runs in the bottom of the seventh, as well as a loss to NC State.
However, then the Terriers departed for California, where they began a swoon that would stretch the better part of a month. First came the San Diego Classic, where BU won a lone contest while dropping four. On back-to-back days the Terriers were shut out in five innings.
A two-game series split with host Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles looked to be a step back in the right direction for the struggling squad. But, another bevy of losses buried BU in California.
In the Long Beach State Tournament, the Terriers won one of six contests, dropping three straight at one point. BU did have a chance to salvage the tournament after beating Cal State Fullerton on the second day, but a loss to No. 10 UCLA and then dropping the second contest with the Titans kept BU down.
A big reason for the Terriers struggles has been offensive production. Last season, the Terriers had six hitters batting above .300. This season, BU has just two – seniors Moriah Connolly, .352, and Gabi Martinez, .319. Their team average of .256 is almost half a point lower than their combined opponents average of .298.
BU has been on the down side of comparisons with their opponents this season. Despite having 22 more at-bats, the Terriers have recorded 155 hits – 19 less than their opponents – and have stretched across 77 runs – 29 less than their opposition.
Depth of experience on the mound – or lack their of – has also been an Achilles Heel for the Terriers this season. With just one senior headlining the staff, BU has been forced to rely on a pair of freshman to help lead the way.
Last year, senior Melanie Russell and Lauren Hynes led the way with a pair of sub 2.40 earned-run averages. This season, senior Makinna Akers (4-3) leads the staff with a 3.07 ERA. That number, however, is encouraging, as Akers has vastly improved from a junior campaign where she crafted a 5.43 ERA in 16 appearances for BU.
Both freshman, Magane and Lizzie Annerino (0-3), have been solid for the Terriers on the bump thus far. Annerino has been used mainly as a reliever, though has made four starts in her college career. Three of her nine appearances have been lengthy outings, as she has pitched three innings or more in a third of her games played.
Magane has been a young bright spot for this BU squad. The freshman from nearby Wrentham, Mass. has emerged as the Terriers’ second starter behind Akers. On the season, Magane has posted a 3.38 ERA while pitching in 58 innings – the most of any BU hurler.
Junior Sydni Overly (0-3) has an ERA in the high sixes, but that number is inflated largely from two sub-par outings against San Diego State and Long Beach State, respectively. And while Overly has pitched in 22 innings, the second lowest on the team, the southpaw is tied with Akers for the most strikeouts, with 27.
Last season, the Terriers were 10-11 at the midway point of the season. Despite their under-.500 record, BU had learned from their non-conference shortcomings and turned them into a Patriot League crown in mid-May.
This year, BU can very well do the same. To do so they’ll have to focus on maintaining leads in the later innings and not waiting until their last opportunity to find their offensive groove.
What’s the key to doing both? Staying consistent.