Softball, Sports

Beat at their own game

Eleven times this year, Boston University softball pitching has produced a win via the shutout. Wednesday, the No. 17/21 University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s pitching lineup turned the tables on the Terrier lineup, shutting out BU, 3-0.

BU drew an unfortunate fate in UMass senior ace pitcher Brandice Balschmiter. The preseason ESPN Second-Team All-American scattered three hits over seven innings, allowed only two walks and striking out 11 Terriers.

‘She beat [Arizona State University] when they were the top-ranked team in the country,’ BU coach Shawn Rychcik said. ‘She’s been invited to the national team tryout. We knew what we were going to get.’

The win pushed Balschmiter’s record to 18-4. She worked swiftly through the Terrier lineup, cutting down the middle of the order, which has propelled the team through the conference schedule. The entire ordeal took only an hour and 40 minutes.

The meat of the order, BU’s two, three and four hitters, went a combined 0-for-9. Also, sophomore catcher Caitlin Rentler and sophomore outfielder April Setterlund were out of the lineup with injuries. This factored into the Terriers’ lack of productivity.

But good control and effective game management from junior pitcher Megan Currier and sophomore pitcher Kelley Engman kept the Terriers in the game. Combined, the pair yielded only one walk. A lack of baserunners kept UMass from gaining a lot of momentum. Each Minutewoman run came by way of a solo homerun.

‘Home runs are rally-killers,’ Rychcik said. ‘They never put a string of baserunners aboard, so they never could really rally.’

After UMass scored its first solo blow in the second, the Terriers tried to put together a more sustainable mode of attack in the fourth.

Senior designated hitter Nora Militz and senior third baseman Brooke Hudson hit back-to-back one-out singles, but the offense stalled there. Balschmiter induced a foul-out from junior right fielder Rachel Moeller, and Militz was doubled up on the throw back into second.

‘You hope in a game like that, that the hits will all come at once and we can put something together,’ Rychcik said. ‘But the reality is that good pitchers will scatter them across the game.’

Balschmiter has made a hobby out of rewriting the UMass record book this season. On April 2, she tallied her 1,000th career strikeout. Tuesday against Providence College, she set the school’s career wins record in emphatic fashion, throwing a no-no in an 8-0 victory.

‘There’s the mentality that they think they are going to win when she’s on the mound,’ Rychcik said. ‘No other team has presented themselves like that to us.’

According to Rychcik, UMass is the best team BU has faced this season. But without Balschmiter, the two match up evenly. The offenses and defenses are essentially on par with each other.

‘I told the team, I’d like to play them in the middle of the conference schedule in a three-game series,’ Rychcik said. ‘I think we’d stand a chance at taking a game or two.’

At the same time, UMass has won 26 of the last 27 Atlantic 10 conference championships and has no difficulty sustaining success throughout the long college seasons.

‘UMass doesn’t have rebuilding years,’ Rychcik said. ‘They come back each year just as strong as the last. We’ve played them the past three seasons.’

The Terriers find a respite in their schedule Thursday against the College of the Holy Cross. Holy Cross has been nothing short of inconsistent. A nine-game home losing streak from March 28 to April 13 has proven that.

The Terriers will travel to Worcester for the pair, which will likely serve as an elixir for their ailing bats.

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