All season long, Boston University softball coach Shawn Rychcik has stressed that one of the most important factors in the team’s successful play has been its strong defense.
In 2011, the Terriers (27-13, 8-3 America East) finished the season with a .959 fielding percentage. So far this year, they have a .974 fielding percentage.
With this fielding percentage, the Terriers are ranked 15th among NCAA Division I teams, only 10 points behind the first-place team.
Of the team’s regular players, senior left fielder Erica Casacci leads the Terriers with a perfect fielding percentage. Close behind Casacci, sophomore catcher Amy Ekart holds a .996 fielding percentage behind the plate.
“We’ve pretty much got the same defensive team out there that we had last year,” Rychcik said. “And I think the fact that they’re all a year older . . . and now they’ve got probably 70, 80 games under their belts [helps].”
It is the Terriers’ strong defense that allowed BU’s pitchers, all three of whom are not usually strikeout pitchers, to have confidence that the players behind them will be able to handle whatever comes their way.
Although their fielding percentages are not as high as those of Casacci and Ekart, the team’s middle infielders, junior second baseman Emily Roesch and sophomore shortstop Brittany Clendenny, have both continuously demonstrated a full-body dedication to stopping the ball.
Sophomores provide base of Terriers’ team
In the America East Championship series against the University at Albany last spring, the Terriers started six freshmen. Since then, those six players, along with sophomore transfer student Chelsea O’Connor, have become the solid base upon which the team rests.
“Their talent is starting to shine, and they’re getting some confidence,” Rychcik said. “They’re able to handle the ups and downs of the season and making mistakes and bouncing right back.”
Members of the sophomore class lead the team in wins, ERA, home runs, RBIs and batting average, with many others following closely behind.
Sophomore pitcher Holli Floetker has been the strongest link on the Terriers’ strong pitching staff all season, recently picking up her 15th win of the year – more than she collected all of last season – in a no-hitter last Thursday. Her 1.64 ERA is the team’s lowest, and she continues to solidify her position as the Terriers’ ace with every game.
Ekart and third baseman Megan Volpano lead the team with 25 RBIs apiece, and O’Connor is in a close second place with 21.
All year, Mask has led the team in batting average as she excels in her position of lead-off batter.
“They’ve always been hard workers,” Rychcik said. “A lot that goes into what they’re asked to do at practice and, you know, they all want to get better.”
A changed America East
In many ways the America East Conference is incredibly different than it was during the 2011 season. Having won only five conference games last season, Stony Brook sits atop the America East with only one loss to the Terriers, as the Seawolves, BU and Albany battle it out for first place.
“Both Stony Brook and Albany are both a little bit better than they were last year,” Rychcik said. “We are [too]. So it’s the strong records of the top-three teams.”
After sweeping Stony Brook last season, the Terriers have found themselves struggling against their improved conference rival, whose successful push to the top of the conference has been almost unstoppable.
One thing that remains the same, however, is the Terriers’ competition with Albany, who defeated them in the championship game last season. This year the Terriers have gotten a measure of revenge, winning the regular season series 2-1. Despite this, the Terriers continue to look forward to the conference championship.
Rychcik said, “Both teams have stepped up their games.”
CORRECTION:The article originally stated that Amy Ekart and Jayme Mask were possessed the top-two fielding percentages on the team. However, Erica Casacci leads the team with a perfect fielding percentage and Ekart holds the second spot.