NCAA, Softball, Sports

BU Softball squeaks past Colgate and Lehigh to advance to sixth-straight Patriot League Championship

Senior Aliyah Huerta-Leipner runs against Lehigh University on May 8. The Terriers will play Lehigh Saturday for the Patriot League title. MAGGIE WEN/DFP STAFF

Game 1: BU vs Colgate

The top-seeded Boston University softball team (39-15, 16-2 Patriot League) kicked off the 2022 Patriot League playoffs with a thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind, walk-off victory against the fourth-seeded Colgate University Raiders (19-27, 9-9 PL). 

“I often tell them we just need to be competitive,” Terriers head coach Ashley Waters said. “If we have an out left, we can still compete and I was really impressed in the last inning with the five hitters that came up and their ability to fight.”

Junior pitcher and Patriot League Pitcher of the Year Allison Boaz opened the tournament by striking out the side in the first inning to send the Raiders down 1-2-3. 

The Terrier’s rallied at the bottom of the second beginning with back-to-back singles by senior infielder AJ Huerta-Leipner and junior catcher Audrey Sellers. This set up junior infielder Caitlin Coker, who ripped a single back up the middle, scoring Huerta-Leipner for the 1-0 lead. 

“That’s a big momentum shift,” Waters said. “We gave them momentum early in the game and they were able to run with it.” 

The Raiders finally tied it up in the top of the fourth after an error by sophomore infielder Kayla Roncin gave the Raiders a leadoff runner. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second, before a single by sophomore infielder Kara Fusco brought the runner home and tied the game 1-1. Boaz was able to limit the damage, getting two quick outs to end the inning. 

“We just have to do a better job of making plays.” Waters said. “There was a walk that scored and there was an error that scored. We have to do our part on the defensive end.”

The Raiders broke the tie in the top of the sixth as Boaz walked two and gave up a base hit with the bases loaded. Colgate freshman catcher Quinn Livesay hit a sacrifice fly to center field, giving the Raiders a 2-1 lead. On that same play, however, the Terriers put out the runner at second to end the inning. 

“[Boaz is] also a very resilient pitcher and I’m proud of her for working through some jams,” Terrier senior left fielder Emily Gant said.

The Terriers, with their backs against the wall in the bottom of the seventh, refused to go quietly. A walk by Coker and a base hit by sophomore right fielder Lauren Keleher gave the Terriers runners on first and second. On a 2-2 count, Roncin dribbled a ball to second for what should have been a game-ending double play. However, an error by the shortstop kept the Terriers alive and scored the game-tying run. 

“Kayla didn’t necessarily get a good pitch.” Waters said. “She just fought like hell to get it up the middle.”

With runners still on first and second, Gant smacked a ball off of the second baseman’s glove, which rolled into center field. Terrier freshman pinch runner Tyesha Williams crossed home plate to seal the come-from-behind 3-2 victory and send the Terrier dugout into a celebration on the field. 

“We knew that it was now or never,” Gant said. “She got me on changeups the last at bat so I knew that I had to sit there and just wait. If my pitch came then take my pitch, but I also knew that it needed to be me. We needed to end it then and there.” 

Game 2: BU vs Lehigh

Behind a dominant one-hit, shutout performance by Allison Boaz, the Terriers defeated the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks (28-18-1, 15-3 PL) 1-0 to advance to the Patriot League Championship.

“What a performance,” Terriers head coach Ashley Waters said. “To throw a one-hitter against a really strong offensive team, you credit [Boaz] and you credit the defense for making the plays we needed to.” 

Boaz took the circle for the second day in a row for the Terriers and picked up where she left off, sending the Mountain Hawks down in order to start the game.

The Terriers finally broke through in the bottom of the third, scoring the game-winning run. Sellers led off the inning with a single into right field. With Sellers on third and two outs, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year Roncin blooped a single into left field to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.

In the remainder of the game, the Terriers couldn’t add any insurance runs. In the bottom of the fourth, the Terriers were unable to capitalize with the bases loaded, as Coker ended the rally with a ground out.

“This is a team, one through nine, that realistically should be putting up significant runs,” Waters said. “We shouldn’t be scratching and clawing trying to score.”

Boaz continued to dominate in the circle with a three-up, three-down fifth inning. In the top of the sixth inning, she flashed the leather with two putouts of her own, including a rocket ground ball back at her to end the inning.

“When Ali wasn’t pitching, she was playing first or she was in the outfield. So she grew up playing all three positions, so that has benefitted her in the circle,” Waters said. “She’s one of probably the best fielding pitchers in the country.”

Boaz returned in top of the seventh to close the door on the Mountain Hawks. Keleher crashed into the fence in foul territory, reaching her glove over for the first out. Boaz recorded two more groundouts to finish the complete game shutout and send the Terriers to their sixth-straight Patriot League Championship.

“I’ve been just staying confident and staying aggressive,” Boaz said. “Getting ahead early in the counts has been really working today and yesterday.” 

The Terriers will have a rematch with the Mountain Hawks tomorrow at noon with the Patriot League Championship on the line.

“Winning is contagious just as losing is contagious.” Waters said. “When these kids come here, they’re expecting to win a championship.”

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