The Boston University softball team’s season ended Saturday night, as the Terriers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Louisiana State University in their second match of the day.
The Terriers (36-21, 13-5 Patriot League) traveled to Tucson, Ariz., to begin the regional round of the NCAA Tournament. After a 9-6 loss to No. 11 University of Arizona Friday, BU took on the University of Louisville early Saturday evening in an elimination contest.
The Cardinals (36-22) came into the day fresh off a slugfest against LSU (37-23) that the Tigers ended up taking by a score of 13-9. Louisville hoped to keep its offense going against the Terriers, as the Cardinals faced off against sophomore pitcher Melanie Russell. That was not in the cards for Louisville however, as the Terriers came out with authority.
Before Russell even took the mound, BU’s bats already gave her a substantial cushion. Following a groundout from senior right fielder Jayme Mask to start off the game, the Terriers got on the board almost immediately.
A single from freshman third baseman Brittany Younan and a double off the bat of senior shortstop Brittany Clendenny put two runners on for senior first baseman Chelsea Kehr, who drove in both of her teammates with an RBI single.
Two batters later, junior second baseman Emily Felbaum launched a three-run shot over the left field fence, effectively removing Louisville pitcher Rachel LeCoq from the game after just one third of an inning.
“To be honest, we had a terrible warmup before the game because it was hot and they were tired because of the time change and everything,” said BU coach Kathryn Gleason. “They just came out and attacked the ball, and Emily Felbaum came up huge with that home run to put us on the board early.”
In the bottom of the frame, it looked as if Russell was going to mimic LeCoq’s shaky start, as Louisville senior Katie Keller put Russell’s second pitch over the fence, cutting the deficit to four runs.
Despite the early homer, Russell responded by stymying the potent Cardinal lineup for the next five innings, as Louisville’s next runs came in the sixth with RBI singles from junior Whitney Arion and Keller. However, the additional runs would not be enough for the Cardinals.
Thanks to the five spot put up in the first, coupled with insurance RBIs from Clendenny and junior left fielder Mandy Fernandez in the fourth and a homer from freshman designated player Gabi Martinez in the seventh, the Terriers were able to pull out the victory and eliminate the Cardinals by a score of 8-3. Russell allowed just three runs off of 11 hits in the complete-game victory.
Hoping to stay off elimination for yet another game, the Terriers took on No. 23 LSU later that night.
The majority of this game was a tight contest. Russell allowed just two hits in the first two innings before getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, keeping the Tigers off the board long enough for the Terriers to strike first. In the bottom of the third, Younan’s RBI single through the middle scored Felbaum, giving the Terriers took a 1-0 lead.
The teams then traded homers in the sixth, as Clendenny lofted a two-run shot over the right-field fence, giving the Terriers a 3-0 lead. The Tigers responded in the bottom of the inning, as freshman Bailey Landry’s blasted a leadoff solo shot to make it a 3-1 game.
Everything was going well for the Terriers until the floodgates opened in the top of the seventh. With one out in the final frame, an errant throw from Clendenny advanced a runner to third base, sett the Tigers up for a big inning. Despite being down to their final out, the Tigers scored seven unearned runs off of five hits, most notably a three-run homer from freshman Sahvanna Jaquish.
After the Tigers’ big inning, the Terriers attempted one more rally, but came up short, as two groundouts and a lineout quickly squished the team’s hope of advancing in the tournament, as the Tigers prevailed 8-3.
“Our approach on the day was just ‘one at a time.’ … I think at that point, they really believed in themselves and each other that they had earned the right to be there and we earned the right to play against these teams,” Gleason said. “Sometimes, when you lose focus for a second, you start thinking ahead, and mistakes happen. One mistake led to another, so it’s unfortunate it had to end that way because they played so well leading up to that.”
Despite the disappointing conclusion to their 2014 campaign, the Terriers achieved a great deal of success in Gleason’s second season with a conference championship and the program’s fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in six years.
While the Terriers will lose four players to graduation in Clendenny, Kehr, senior catcher Amy Ekart and Mask, the team will still return 12 lettermen in 2015, including the Patriot League Rookie of the Year in Younan and an All-Patriot League First Team member in sophomore pitcher Lauren Hynes.
“This team accomplished so much,” Gleason said. “It was a tremendous journey and I think at the end of it, none of us wanted it to end. It’s great that we can go into the summer, having the journey that we went on, and they’re going to come back determined and they’re going to work hard this summer and be ready to go again in the fall.”