By: David Souza
The Boston University softball team began last season with disappointing trips to all along the east coast and California. However, the Terriers turned those lessons learned against some of the nation’s best to valuable wins in the Patriot League. The season culminated in a conference championship for BU and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
This season, the Terriers are looking to repeat – in more ways than one. BU began the season with rough showings in Florida and the west coast, returning to Boston with an 8-14 record. And while their drought continued for a rough stretch against east-coast squads, the Terriers (11-20, 3-3 PL) have finally begun to show shades of last season with their three-game sweep over conference foe Holy Cross (5-19, 2-4 PL).
The weekend began with a Saturday afternoon double-header, highlighted by a prolific day for senior Gabi Martinez at the plate. The infielder went 6-for-7, drove in four runs, scored three times, and played three different positions as the Terriers cruised to a 4-1 win in the opener and a 9-3 romping in the second game.
Martinez credits her explosive weekend to her constant practice in the batting cages.
“[I’ve been working on] my hands mostly…they’ll be the first things that drop and your hands should be going straight to ball,” said Martinez. “You identify where the pitch is and you just adjust, you throw in that direction. I’ve really been focusing on just getting everything going towards the pitcher and towards the pitch.”
“During the National Anthem, I was just looking out and was like, ‘You know, today is going to be the game.’”
Head coach Ashley Waters praised her senior slugger, recalling how she often has to kick Martinez out of the batting cage when the infielder refuses to stop practicing.
“She hits nonstop…she deserved a day like today,” Waters surmised.
Offensively, sophomore Alex Heinen aided Martinez, notching her team-high sixth homer of the season in the opening contest. With the Terriers leading by one in the bottom of the fourth, Heinen turned on an Alexandra Held (3-7) pitch and deposited it over the wall in left field to push the BU lead to four.
The tandem of Martinez and Heinen were responsible for all of the Terrier runs in the first game and drove in six of the nine BU runs in game two.
On the mound, the Terriers had a pair of right-handers toeing the rubber on the weekend. With three games in two days, it was vital for BU that their starters went deep into games to preserve the small core of relief they have. Kali Magane (6-8) and Makinna Akers (5-6) answered the bell.
Magane tossed two complete games, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, while Akers squeezed in a third in the middle contest.
A five-foot-four freshman, Magane threw a combined 12 innings – her second outing coming in a shortened, five-inning contest. In those dozen frames, Magane allowed one run on seven hits and struck out 12 total Crusaders. She was named Turnpike Trophy MVP.
“Kali and Makinna both did a great job, it’s their job,” said Waters. “If you start a game, your expectation is that you’re going seven innings and I feel like we haven’t really had that the past couple weeks.”
Akers began her outing by allowing three runs in the top of the first, but settled down afterwards, silencing the Holy Cross bats and earning the win after allowing just three hits after the first frame.
The Terriers responded after going down early. Building off of their win in game one, BU struck for runs in the bottom of the next three frames to quickly take the lead back from the Crusaders.
“We’ve been down by worse,” Waters said she told her team. “We’ve been trying to find our groove, trying to find our offense, and I feel like we kind of did it…we have an incredible offensive lineup, it’s just a matter of them figuring it out and working together.”
The scarlet and white would add a trio of runs in the bottom of the sixth to round out their 13-run Saturday.
Sunday was a similar result, but a different path to victory, as BU blanked Holy Cross 8-0 in five innings.
While Martinez and Heinen sparked the Terrier offense on Saturday, the BU bats were led by a pair of juniors in the final game of the series.
First basemen Kaitlin Sahlinger and outfielder Emma Wong both recorded multi-hit performances, scoring a pair of runs combined, and driving in five of the eight tallies. The pair bookended the BU onslaught with strikes in the first and fifth inning.
Sahlinger opened the scoring with a two-run single up the middle, plating Moriah Connolly and Jilee Schanda. Half a dozen runs later, Wong sealed the win with a bases-clearing triple to left, bringing in three runs.
Connolly, the leadoff hitter and senior shortstop for the Terriers, reached a milestone on Saturday by stealing her 100th base in her collegiate career. She is the first player in Patriot League history to reach the centennial mark and is second all-time in team history in stolen bases behind Jayme Mask ’14. Of Mask’s 123 swiped bags, 89 came in the America East conference.
“You don’t find speed like Moriah’s,” said Waters. “She’s the heart and soul [of the program]; she just has an absolute spark to her; she lights things up, she gets things going. On her best day, she’s incredible, and on her worst day she still finds a means to be incredible.”
The weekend sweep puts the Terriers in fourth place in the Patriot League. Their next conference matchup will come this weekend in Boston in a three-game series with Army West Point. However, before that, BU will have to do battle with rival Boston College on Wednesday at 4 PM in Chestnut Hill.