The Boston University softball team, last year’s America East Conference champion, has all the tools necessary for another strong season this year.
The Terriers (2-3) are not off to a perfect start, but they have already seen strong performances from players who will be crucial to the team’s success throughout the season. Freshman pitcher Whitney Tuthill threw the first no-hitter by a BU rookie since 2007 on Feb. 27 to beat the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 2-0.
Her classmate, freshman pitcher Taylor Cowan, was the other main contributor to that victory with her first career home run in the fifth inning to give the Terriers the winning run.
“We’ve got some people playing out of position right now, which shows you what kind of athletes they are,” said BU coach Shawn Rychcik of the freshmen members of the team. Freshman Jayme Mask, who is listed as a catcher or an outfielder, started at shortstop and batted leadoff this weekend.
“We’re going to need them to contribute, and I think they already have in the first weekend,” Rychcik said.
Outside of the team’s gifted young core, Rychcik said he expects to see strong offensive output from the upperclassmen who have proven themselves in the past.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty good offense this year throughout the lineup,” Rychcik said. “Based on past seasons, I think we’ll look to April Setterlund, Rachel Hebert and Caitlin Rentler, who are off to a good start.”
Last year, Setterlund, a junior outfielder and one of the team’s three captains, led the Terriers with a .651 slugging percentage and a .452 on-base percentage. Senior infielder Hebert, another captain, maintained a seven-game hit streak and can also provide some power.
Rentler is the Terriers’ senior go-to catcher and had 27 hits, including five home runs and 10 doubles, for BU last year. Through five games this season, she has two home runs and six RBIs.
As for the pitching staff, Tuthill proved this weekend that she can be a reliable part of a group that also includes senior Cassidi Hardy, who won 27 games for BU last year, and senior Megan Currier, who finished with a 2.51 ERA through 19 starts in 2009.
“I think they’ll all get opportunities,” Rychcik said of the pitchers. “Cassidi returns as a 27-game winner, so there’s a lot of experience there, and we had a freshman throw a no-hitter to start the season, so I think they’ll all be getting a lot of chances.”
The Terriers will spend the next two weekends in Clearwater, Fla. competing in the USF Under Armour Invitational and the USF Under Armour Showcase. They will not play their first game in Boston until March 27, when they take on the College of the Holy Cross. By that point, the non-conference part of their season will be nearly complete &- conference play begins against Stony Brook University on April 3, and from that point forward BU will face familiar opponents until the AE playoffs start on May 13.
Rychcik said he agreed with the preseason conference coaches’ poll that projects BU will finish second in AE, and that the University at Albany and Stony Brook will be BU’s main competition within the conference. He also said, however, that he likes the Terriers’ chances to repeat as conference champions this season.
“I think we’ve got a good mix,” Rychcik said. “We’re a real strong offensive team, we’ve added depth to our pitching, we’ve got an injured player that’s going to come back and make us defensively stronger, and we’ve got experience as well as some hungry freshmen. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody, and because of our experience, maybe a little better chance.”