Softball gears up for start of season

Expectations are running high for the Boston University softball team as it enters its first season of play in the Patriot League. In a preseason poll, the Terriers were picked to finish second in the conference and received a total of three first place votes.

In addition to the second-place selection, senior outfielder Jayme Mask, senior shortstop Brittany Clendenny and senior catcher Amy Ekart were all named to the preseason All-Conference team.

“I don’t think there’s pressure going into the Patriot League, we’re just excited,” said BU coach Kathryn Gleason. “I think it’s a credit to the program and to our team that we would be picked by the coaches to finish second.  I always tell the kids it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

In their last season in the America East, the Terriers went 21-26-1 and were unable to participate in postseason play due to the shift in conferences.

Gleason said even though her team is largely facing new opponents this season, it has not changed its overall mindset and the way they play the game.

“We don’t really see the competition as something we have to change in our style,” Gleason said. “The game doesn’t know and we just go out there and take the field and we’ll see what happens.”

This season, the Terriers will have a mixture of youth and experience, as the team boasts five returning seniors and a total of seven freshmen.

In terms of pitching, BU will have to replace the production from pitcher Whitney Tuthill who graduated following the year. In the 2013 campaign, she led the team in all major pitching categories including ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched.

One of those looking to fill the hole left by Tuthill is sophomore pitcher Lauren Hynes. As a freshman, she pitched in a total of 92.2 innings, and finished the year with a 4.19 ERA and 59 strikeouts.

The Terriers also added a transfer from the University of California-Davis in the form of sophomore pitcher Melanie Russell.

Russell redshirted the 2013 season, but as a freshman in 2012 she struck out 14 batters in 20 innings and had one complete game for the Anteaters.

Though the Terriers have some experience in Hynes and Russell, Gleason said it is important that the new players have come into the season ready to hit the ground running.

“The newcomers have come in ready to go,” Gleason said.  “Definitely there will be a couple of them starting, in the infield, outfield or on the mound.”

One of those freshmen looking to make an impression early on will be pitcher Makinna Akers. The Roseburg, Ore., native was a member of the Adidas Future Team and a four-year varsity starter at Roseburg High School.

On the offensive side of things, the Terriers bring back some key bats that will look to provide run support for the young pitching staff.

Mask, last year’s America East Player of the Year, compiled a .399 batting average, while posting 37 steals and a .464 on-base percentage, both career-high totals.

In the middle of the lineup, Ekart will look to bring back the power she showed during 2013. The catcher drilled a team-best five home runs last season and drove in 22 runs. Ekart also collected six doubles and also crossed the plate 21 times.

To start their season, the Terriers will play in five tournaments in warm weather cities throughout the country. BU’s first game of the season will come against the University of South Carolina, a team that advanced to the NCAA tournament last year before being eliminated by the University of Texas.

BU has prepared for the season for the past few months, and with a tough test in the Gamecocks looming, the Terriers are ready for the season to start. Gleason said the team is confident heading into the season, but will be ready to change things up once the games start.

“We’ve been practicing indoors for four and a half weeks so now its time to put it on the field,” Gleason said. “It’s all facets of the game that are going to need to adjust and I’m sure we’ll come back with a laundry list of things to work on.”

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