After splitting a doubleheader against the University of Hartford on Sunday afternoon, the Boston University softball team claimed the series and sole possession of second place in the America East Conference with a rubber-match win Monday.
Today, the Terriers will look to bridge the gap between that series and the stretch run of the conference schedule with an out-of-conference tilt at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
No. 18 UMass is the first ranked team BU has faced this season. Thus, the matchup should serve as a tough mid-season examination of BU’s worth, not just a break from the conference schedule.
The Minutewomen are riding a 13-game winning streak. They haven’t lost since entering Atlantic 10 conference play. They haven’t even played a one-run ballgame. If BU can push UMass into a tight, late-inning game, the absence of a comfort zone could force UMass to make mistakes uncharacteristic of its season.
The college game yields those mistakes, but UMass’s track record proves it isn’t susceptible to them.
It’s more likely that BU’s stars will find themselves in an unfamiliar position, one that requires a different kind of focus for their talents to shine through against maximum deterrence.
The question is, Can the Terriers produce at the same rate outside of the America East? Recent accolades have shown they can produce inside the conference with no problem.
Senior left fielder Shayne Lotito broke three Boston University softball team records over the course of Sunday afternoon. On a day when Lotito went a combined 1-for-6 in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford, she took down both the single-season and career steals records, and set the career record for runs.
‘When you recruit a kid to bat at the top of the order, you can’t expect anything more than what we’ve gotten from Shayne,’ BU coach Shawn Rychcik said. ‘She’s just had a tremendous career ‘-‘- scoring runs, stealing bases, over 20 every year.’
Lotito’s feats came at pivotal points of each game. In the seventh inning of Game One, with one out, Lotito bunted her way on. She stole second, advanced to third on sophomore April Setterlund’s single and scored on a single by senior Melissa Dubay. Her run in the second game added valuable insurance in the middle innings of a tight game.
‘You have to be really good at getting on base to score so many runs,’ Rychcik said.
Lotito set the career runs record (133), the career stolen bases record (83) and the single-season steals record (25).
Jumping in on the accolades this week was freshman Emily Roesch, who won her third America East Rookie of the Week award.
‘She’s had a great freshman year with a lot of clutch, two-out hits,’ Rychcik said. ‘We have 23 double plays, and her infield play is a big part of it.’
Although she went 3-for-14 during the week, her contributions came at key junctures.
She hit a home run in a conference win over the University of Maine and scored a run against Harvard University.
But these offensive leaders, plus Setterlund and Dubay, will be tested by a UMass pitching staff that features two pitchers with ERAs lower than 2.00.
Senior Brandice Balschmiter, UMass’s ace, is 13-4 with a 1.18 ERA. She has struck out 128 batters in 106.1 innings. Even BU’s Cassidi Hardy doesn’t approach that ratio, and she is a defending America East Pitcher of the Week award winner.