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Softball wins America East title, advances to NCAA regionals

With a 5-0 victory over the University at Albany, the Boston University softball team claimed its third America East tournament championship in four years. The victory came after the Terriers defeated Stony Brook University and the University of Maine in preliminary rounds to advance to the final.

“We played really, really well all weekend,” said BU coach Shawk Rychcik. “We played some of our best ball of the year. Really under a tough situation, a lot of pressure and a lot of stress trying to win at home.”

After being pushed back a day because of rain, the tournament opened on Friday with an afternoon game between the Terriers and fourth seeded Maine. The Terriers’ 3-2 victory came largely at the hands of a three-run homer by senior first baseman Melanie Delgado and dominant middle three innings by sophomore pitcher, and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Holli Floetker.

The Black Bears opened the game against the Terriers with two hits in the first two innings but were unable to score. BU scored all three of its runs off of one hit in the bottom of the second when Delgado knocked a two-out homer over the wall in left field.

After a single to right by senior second baseman Emily Roesch and an infield single by sophomore catcher Amy Ekart, Delgado put the Terriers on the board for the first and only time with her home run.

Floetker allowed a two-run home run in the top of the third, but went on to shut down her opponents, not allowing a hit for three innings after the home run. Though she ran into trouble in the top of the seventh, Floetker held the lead for the Terriers as they walked off with a win.

Floetker improved her record on the season to 18-3 and allowed six hits in the opening game of the tournament as the Terriers advanced to the semifinals.

In their second game, the Terriers defeated Stony Brook 7-3 in a matchup marked by back-and-forth play and smart base-running. Junior pitcher Whitney Tuthill picked up her 14th win of the season in a complete-game effort.

BU took the lead in the top of the first when after being hit by a pitch and advancing to third after two more walks, sophomore right fielder Jayme Mask scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore center fielder Chelsea O’Connor.

“Stony Brook was back-and-forth early,” Rychcik said. “They really swung the bats well and we were just able to get a big hit late.”

Stony Brook tied the score up quickly in the bottom of the first. The game would remain tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the third when Stony Brook took a 2-1 lead. Thanks to a solo home run by freshman designated hitter Mandy Fernandez, BU tied the score in the top of the fourth. The Terriers scored again in each of the remaining innings.

A sacrifice fly by Brittany Clendenny in the top of the fifth and then a solo home run in the top of the sixth by Ekart gave the Terriers a lead they would never surrender.

The Terriers’ opponents came within one again in the bottom of the sixth when Tuthill found herself in a bases-loaded jam with no outs after allowing a run. However, she forced the Seawolves to hit into three straight ground-outs to preserve the Terrier’s lead.

With three runs in the top of the seventh, including a two-run double by Roesch, BU solidified its 7-3 victory and advanced to the championship game against Albany, the team that defeated them in the same matchup last season.

Floetker posted her sixth shutout of the season in the Terrier’s 5-0 victory over Albany to claim the America East title and advance to the NCAA Regionals. Her two wins played a significant role in her along with teammates Clendenny, Mask, and Ekart being named to the all-tournament team. Mask and Clendenny both had two hits and Ekart had two RBIs in the Terrier’s victory.

“I think there’s a number of people that could have been MVP that weekend,” Rychcik said. “We had lots who played really well. [Holli’s] two wins were huge for us… But I could see someone else winning it that was very important for us.”

After being shut down in the top of the first inning, the Terriers were threatened in the bottom of the inning when Albany put a runner on third. Floetker worked herself out of the spot and BU went on to score twice in the top of the second.

With two on, Ekart hit a double to clear the bases, putting the Terriers on the board for the first time. Despite threatening again in the third after hits by Mask and Clendenny, the Terriers were unable to plate a base runner.

“You get to the championship game,” Rychcik said. “You know you’re close and just don’t want to lose that opportunity being that close. So there’s a ton of pressure that game.”

BU broke the game open for good with a three-run fifth inning. Casacci opened the inning with a base hit and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A single by sophomore third baseman Megan Volpano put runners at the corners and Clendenny knocked Casacci home.

The runners advanced after a sacrifice fly before the Great Danes changed their pitcher. The pitching change didn’t do much good for Albany after a single by Roesch scored Volpano. Roesch advanced on the throw and then took home after a wild pitch, putting the Terriers up 5-0 to close the inning.

Floetker retired nine straight batters to close the game and secure the America East championship for BU.

With the victory the Terriers will advance to the NCAA Regional in Berkeley, Calif. There, the Terriers, ranked No. 3 in their bracket, will face the University of Arkansas on May 18. It is the first time BU softball has ever gotten a No. 3 seed.

“We’re really excited about our draw,” Rychcik said. “Getting a No. 3 seed, you know. We’ve worked really hard and we’ve played a good schedule.”

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