The Boston University softball team is starting to hit its stride with the playoffs fast approaching, sweeping a weekend set with Patriot League foe Colgate University.
After winning both games of the doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, the Terriers (16-24, 7-8 Patriot League) beat the Raiders (14-16, 9-6 Patriot League) by a score of 9-3 on Sunday for their seventh-straight victory.
The Terriers struggled during the early part of the 2015 season, and coming into the weekend, only Lafayette College had a worse record in conference play. But fresh off a win in their first home game of the season on Wednesday, the defending Patriot League champions appear to be headed in the right direction.
“We were just kind of tired of being beaten,” said freshman third baseman Jilee Schanda. “We decided we were going to stop it, and one of our coaches [assistant coach Bill McDonald] gave us a really inspirational speech. We took it to heart, and we’re fighting for each other now.”
Timely hitting and a strong pitching performance from sophomore Makinna Akers characterized both games on Saturday. She relieved junior pitcher Melanie Russell in the first inning of game one after Russell found herself in a jam. Akers, who had pitched a team-high 96.2 innings coming into the weekend, rose to the occasion against the Raiders, holding them to just three earned runs and striking out 10 on the afternoon.
“Colgate’s a great hitting team,” said BU coach Kathryn Gleason. “Their top two players are hitting over .460, so Makinna came in and did a great job. We don’t ask them to strike out hitters. We just ask them to give us a chance, and she definitely did that.”
After Colgate scored three runs in the first inning following a costly BU error by junior first baseman Lauren Hynes, Akers was able to shut down the Raiders for the remainder of the game. The Terriers got one back in the second inning thanks to an RBI double from freshman infielder Kaitlin Sahlinger, but it remained a 3-1 game until a dramatic finish in the seventh inning.
Junior Brigit Ieuter, who owns an impressive 2.56 ERA on the year, began to break down in the final frame after shutting down the Terriers’ offense for most of the afternoon. Walks by Sahlinger and senior left fielder Mandy Fernandez started BU’s rally off, and when Colgate made the switch to junior Megan Carnase out of the bullpen, she could not stop the bleeding. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Carnase hit sophomore catcher Gabi Martinez to plate the winning run.
In the second game of the day, the Raiders and Terriers wasted no time on offense, both scoring in the first inning. Junior Mariel Schlaefer gave the Raiders the early lead with a solo shot, but BU was quick to respond.
In the bottom half of the first, Schanda stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered in a big way, sending one over the centerfield wall for her first career home run.
Coming into these games with BU as the Patriot League leader in home runs, the Raiders power struck again in the third inning when sophomore Katie Bushee cut the lead to two. But that is the closest they would get, with the Terriers adding two more runs in the bottom of the third and Akers only allowing three hits in the final four innings of play.
In the final contest on Sunday afternoon, which also happened to be Senior Day, BU honored its seniors well with a convincing victory. The Terriers struck first in this one, scoring four first-inning runs. The rally was capped off by a three-run double by Hynes, who finished with four RBI on the day.
Akers started her fourth straight game but only lasted two innings. This time, it was Russell bailing her out and getting her sixth win of the year. Russell was impressive all afternoon, pitching five innings of two-hit, one-run ball and also adding six strikeouts.
Junior Alex Gadiano added a home run for Colgate in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to two, but BU ran away with the game after that. The Terriers added three more runs in the fifth, with Fernandez capitalizing for a double that plated two.
Fernandez may have been the only senior to record an RBI in Sunday’s contest, but Gleason had nothing but praise for all three seniors following the victory.
“Mandy’s been starting with us in center field all the time, and [senior second baseman Emily] Felbaum had a little injury earlier in the week, so we’re glad she can be in there, but it’s a big deal for [senior infielder Kendra Meadows]. She has played a role the last three years, and this past year, she’s really gotten in there. She accepts her role and will do whatever it takes.”