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Pitching controls URI offense

The Boston University softball team’s 7-4 victory Tuesday afternoon against the University of Rhode Island marked its 25th on the season.

Following wins at University of Massachusetts–Lowell, College of the Holy Cross and a weekend sweep of Colgate University, the Terriers (25-18, 8-4 Patriot League) began their six-game home stand with their sixth consecutive win, and the pitching has certainly been one of the keys to victory over the last few weeks.

So far this season, a lot of the focus has been put on the Terriers’ commanding offense. Not including Tuesday’s victory versus URI (11-29), the Terriers led the Patriot League in 10 offensive categories including batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits and total bases.

The Terriers’ pitching, however, has made tremendous strides in overcoming the injury problems that plagued this staff in the middle of the season, and now it looks as if they are firing on all cylinders again.

After freshman pitcher Makinna Akers was taken out of the game against the U.S. Military Academy on March 29, sophomore pitcher Lauren Hynes was left as the only healthy pitcher remaining on staff, and was forced to tough out the next 58.1 innings all by herself. Aided by the powerful BU bats, Hynes flourished in that stretch, picking up five wins and amassing a 3.12 ERA over nine games.

BU coach Kathryn Gleason said she was happy with Hynes’ performance in such a difficult situation.

“Lauren has given us a chance,” Gleason said. “She’s given us a chance and that’s all we’ve been asking of her.”

An April 12 matchup against Holy Cross (9-19, 5-7 Patriot League) was the first in nearly a month that featured someone in the circle not named Lauren Hynes, as Akers returned in a relief role, allowing only one run off two hits and one walk in her three innings of work.

Sophomore pitcher Melanie Russell returned in the following game after nearly eight weeks on the bench and pitched well, allowing no hits, posting a strikeout and giving up just one walk in her 1.3 innings in the circle.

With both Akers and Russell healthy, a spark has been put into this rotation. Since the meeting with the Crusaders, the team is 6-2 while allowing only 17 runs for a cumulative staff ERA of 2.51.

During the eight-game span, Russell showed that she was ready to retake the circle. In her 22.1 innings, she has gone 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA, including two complete-game victories over Lowell (9-29) and Colgate (9-24, 2-10 Patriot League).

Russell has also had the strikeout pitch working for her as well, and since her return, she has struck out 28 of the 85 batters she’s faced, nearly 30 percent of hitters. The stretch includes an outing against Holy Cross where she struck out five of the six batters she faced.

Gleason said she is excited to see her pitching staff back to full health.

“[The key has been] I think just getting them back into the rotation,” Gleason said.  “And just getting them innings and experience because they were out for a little bit. Makinna [was out] two weeks and Mel almost six weeks. [We’ve tried] to get them innings and get them more confident on the mound.”

Akers’ win against the Rams Tuesday was her second since coming back, bringing her to an overall 6-2 record. Her six-inning, three-run performance against URI has brought the freshman’s ERA to a minuscule 2.34, trailing only two others in Patriot League rankings.

Following a four-game losing streak, the return of the two pitchers was excellent news, and with them pitching well and the offense firing on all cylinders, things are looking bright during the final run of the season. Both the team and the pitchers themselves are glad to be pitching again.

“It feels good to come back,” Akers said. “It’s great to be out with the team, and especially my freshman year, it’s fun to come out to actually start a game”

Despite succumbing to fatigue in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game, Akers expressed faith in herself and the rest of the team to finish the season out strong.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” Akers said.  “We’re going to start seeing harder teams [coming up] so we got to step it up a little more… Fatigue is always a factor this late in the season, and on top of it all the injury doesn’t help anything, but we all have to work through it.”

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