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Softball defense improves in last 4 contests after rough start in opening tournaments

After struggling through a stretch of defensive difficulties en route to seven losses in 10 games during the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational and the Under Armour Showcase, the Boston University softball team picked up the pace in its last two tournaments, winning six of nine games.

SARAH FISHER/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO Shortstop Brittany Clendenny has driven in a team-leading 25 RBI for BU this season.

SARAH FISHER/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO
Shortstop Brittany Clendenny has driven in a team-leading 25 RBI for BU this season.

While the Terriers (14-11) have improved offensively, outscoring opponents 29-14 at the Yale Invitational. BU coach Kathryn Gleason said the root of the team’s success has been in its rock-solid defense, which committed only three errors in the four-game stint in Fairfield, Conn.

“We played great defense, Gleason said. “Our pitchers aren’t going to get a lot of strikeouts so we have to play great defense and I think we did that this weekend.”

Between BU’s three pitchers, sophomores Lauren Hynes and Melanie Russell and freshman Makinna Akers, there have been just 103 strikeouts accumulated in the 25 games played, an average of 4.12 a game. So with the lower number of punch-outs, the Terriers have had to rely on their defense.

Despite the lack of opportunities to play on their home field at BU, Gleason’s squad has taken advantage of Nickerson Field and New Balance Field to get extra defensive practice in. The effect of the extra grounders and fly balls showed after the team struggled during its late February early March slide.

“We’re just trying to get as many repetitions in as we can,” Gleason said of improving the defense. “We haven’t been on our field yet so just making the most of what we have. Being able to be outside on New Balance Field and Nickerson and just getting them to feel comfortable and I think that comes with repetitions and we were able to do that a lot last weekend. We hope to do that this week.”

According to Gleason, having a strong defense behind the starting pitcher will help the pitcher’s mindset throughout the game, especially knowing that they do not have to rely on just strikeouts.

“[We can be] confident that we don’t have to strike people out and getting some ground balls and getting some fly balls when they are behind you,” Gleason said. “Getting ahead of the hitters and shutting the door when we do give up a big hit or a home run. I think they’ve responded and done a great job with that. They’ve done a great job of complementing each other.”

 

Offense coming together

 

One of the major developments at the Yale Invitational was the progression of the Terriers’ offense. In their four games, the Terriers averaged an impressive 7.25 runs per game. During the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament, the Terriers posted only 3.8 runs per game, despite taking three of five games in the tournament.

The seniors have been a huge help in this year’s improved offense. Outfielder Jayme Mask leads the team in both batting and on-base percentage at .452 and .505, respectively.

Shortstop Brittany Clendenny has compiled strong numbers thus far in 2014, hitting .318 as well as driving in a team-best 25 runs in as many games played.

Despite catcher Amy Ekart’s .233 batting average, she has been a force in the power department again, clubbing five doubles and two home runs.

Gleason said the team’s growing confidence in their approach at the plate, in addition to the team settling into spots in the lineup, has led to the offensive upswing.

“They are getting [confidence] each day in practice with their swing,” Gleason said. “We believe that if you’re struggling a little bit, just keep swinging because that’s how you’re going to get what some people call a slump. We just encourage to just keep swinging.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that our focus is completely on playing the game and not playing an opponent, not playing ourselves, just playing the game and each time in the game, you’re going to be set up with a different situation.”

 

Younan earns 2nd Patriot League Rookie of the Week 

 

Freshman infielder Brittany Younan earned her second Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors this week after hitting .533 (8-for-15) and slugging an astounding .800 at the Yale Invitational. In addition, Younan played a role in 10 of the 29 runs the Terriers scored during the tournament. The freshman previously earned Rookie of the Week honors on March 10.

The Chico, Calif., native went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored during a 13-2 victory over Yale University. Younan hit a crucial solo homer in the Terriers’ 8-3 victory over Bryant University.

 

For the year, Younan is second on the team in batting with a .392 batting average. She has seven extra-base hits this year and is second on the team with 17 RBI.

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