Riding the momentum of a 14-game win streak, the Boston University softball team (26-13, 6-0 Patriot League) battled its way to a 3-1 victory over Providence College (21-12) Sunday afternoon behind seven strikeouts from junior pitcher Allison Boaz, last week’s Patriot League Pitcher of the Week.
Graduate student center fielder Jen Horita sparked the BU offense with two RBIs and two hits, while senior second baseman Aliyah Huerta-Leipner contributed a pair of hits, including a double. Sophomore shortstop Kayla Roncin added two knocks of her own to improve to a .453 batting average. Despite the victory, the Terriers did have two errors, including one that scored a run for the Friars, and stranded six runners on base.
Head coach Ashley Waters noted both the team’s success and the need for improvement.
“For us it took us a little bit to get going and this has been a little bit more of a rest week,” Waters said. “So I don’t think our best happened today, but I do think that we did enough to obviously scrap and win, which is always the ultimate goal.”
Boaz opened up the game by causing three straight groundouts, including two which rolled back to the mound. Providence threatened to strike in the second with a lead-off single by senior first baseman Jessica Tomaso that whistled just out of the reach of the diving BU sophomore right fielder Lauren Keleher, but Boaz quickly got back into her groove with two strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning.
The Terriers looked poised to start off strong with runners at first and second with one out in the top of the first, but a strikeout by senior left fielder Emily Gant and a groundout by Horita stranded two. Déjà vu struck in the second inning when runners at first and second and one out ended with Providence’s senior ace Daniela Alvarez escaping unscathed.
“We need the one through nine to hit,” Waters said. “We need to put the ball in play. The part that’s getting me is just getting runners in scoring position and not being able to kind of move them.”
Providence applied heavy pressure in the top of the third, when a throwing error and a single put two batters on base. Eventually, sophomore pitcher Tori Grifone stepped up to the plate and placed a line drive into the right-field grass. Sophomore catcher Jacque Harrington, who had been on third, stretched for home to try and break the deadlock, but Keleher quickly collected the ball and gunned it to the catcher to keep the game scoreless.
The Terriers were finally able to add runs to the score column in the bottom of the third. Keleher sent a double over the outstretched mitt of the center fielder before Roncin, who leads the Patriot League in batting average, kept the Terriers’ foot on the gas with a hard line drive past the third baseman to place runners at the corners.
Roncin then stole second before Horita sent a triple to the left-field corner, scoring BU a 2-0 lead. Senior first baseman Nicole Amodio kept the rally alive with a pop out to right, allowing Horita to tag up and push the lead to 3-0.
“I told Jen Horita if she hits a home run I would shave my head so I actually turned in silence because I thought to myself, ‘oh my god, this is actually going to carry,’ and I don’t know how cold my head would get the rest of the spring,” Waters said.
The Friars responded in the top of the fifth with a lead-off double by graduate student right fielder Micaela Abbatine and a walk by freshman pinch hitter Gabriella Sebastian, which put runners at the corners after a passed ball. A ground ball to Roncin looked to stop any momentum, but a costly error made it a 3-1 ballgame. The Terriers escaped the inning with minimal damage thanks in part to a diving stop by Huerta-Leipner.
A bunt single by Horita and a bloop single by Huerta-Leipner set the Terriers to score an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, but ultimately no runs crossed. BU ended the game with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, turning the historical record between the teams to 24-16-1 all-time in favor of the Terriers.
Boaz improved to 15-4 on the season with her performance, marking the most wins of any pitcher in the Patriot League, and an ERA of 1.49.
“Ali’s done a really great job,” Waters said. “She is incredibly consistent and it’s been obviously really beneficial in terms of the win column.”
Throughout the game, the Friars utilized seven pinch hitters, which Waters believes assisted Boaz in her success.
“I think they had kept their lineup all the way through I probably was going to go with [Lizzy] Avery at some point just to shift up momentum,” Waters said. “Getting to battle against kids that hadn’t seen [Boaz] yet was actually a benefit.”
With the win, the Terriers extend their win streak to 15 and remain on top of the Patriot League standings with 14 games left in the regular season. Next, the team will face off against the University of Massachusetts Amherst at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
“The ultimate goal is to show up to the field every day to win and compete,” Waters said. “We have our eyes on the prize and whatever is in between there is just noise … We’re going to continue to push the boundaries and get ourselves to a good spot.”