Six days after putting the finishing touches on a 3-1 weekend with a win over Indiana University on March 14, the Boston University softball team will look to climb over .500 for the first time this season over a four-game stretch vs. Hofstra University and the University of Connecticut.
At first glance, Hofstra (10-3) appears to be the tougher of the two foes because its three losses have all come to nationally ranked teams, but the fact that Connecticut (9-13-1) is a strong Big East Conference team that has won four of its last five ensures that the Terriers (7-9) won’t be able to relax against either of them. The first game against Hofstra comes at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y.
“We’re going to get some scouting in and break them down and go right at them,” said BU coach Shawn Rychcik. “They can be beaten but they are a pretty decent team. We’re going to have to play [mistake-free], get some good defense, timely hitting and good pitching.”
Despite the Terriers’ injury woes (they are playing with a 12-person roster) they still boast the most potent offense in America East (.285 team BA). They also benefit from the bat of standout junior outfielder April Setterlund (.500), and the arm of senior hurler Cassidi Hardy (0.92 ERA and 20 strikeouts in her last three appearances).
“Last year, [Setterlund] hit close to .400 with a stress fracture in her leg. So, anything is possible with her,” Rychcik said. “She’s a phenomenal athlete. Right now I’m trying to stay out of her way and let her swing the bat.”
Setterlund will do just that in a marquee matchup opposite Colonial Athletic Conference Rookie and Pitcher of the Week Olivia Galati of Hofstra. Galati leads the Pride offensively with a .313 BA and defensively at 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA.
“I’m sure we’ll face her,” Rychcik said. “I’ve seen her play a lot of games during her recruitment. I’m familiar with her. We’ll see what we can do, come up with a game plan, and hopefully our bats will give us a chance to beat her.”
One needn’t look far to find an offensive and defensively minded player on the Terrier’s side as well. Freshman pitcher Taylor Cowan has been named the team’s starting first baseman due to injuries, and has produced in the lineup. She has produced key RBIs for the Terriers in low-scoring games and has retired all six batters she has faced this season.
“When [the bottom] part of your order is hitting, you’re going to get some more RBI opportunities and score more runs,” Rychcik said. “Everybody in the lineup is expected to perform. [Junior outfielder/catcher] Christina Valdes has been a real benefactor at right field as well. She’s been outstanding, tremendous and clutch at the plate, getting big hits that really changed the score. We’ve gotten good contributions throughout the order.”
Against Hofstra, a team that rarely allows more than a few runs per game, BU will have to minimize fielding mistakes that lead to runs. The Terrier’s fielding percentage (.931) is worst in AE, largely due to injuries that have forced players out of position.
BU has faced Connecticut, their other foe on the weekend, multiple times in past years.
“We’re a little bit familiar with [the Huskies],” Rychcik said. “They are playing better, and they’re a good Big East team. It’s going to be the same plan [as against Hofstra]. We have to play well. We have to play clean, and we have to take advantage of opportunities.”
As the season moves toward league play, the Terriers are bracing for more time with injured players.
“I don’t think I’ll have anybody [that is injured] back this weekend,” Rychcik said. “I’ve got two out for the year for sure [in junior infielder Melanie Delgado and freshman infielder Chelsea Kehr], and another one who, if everything goes right, will be back next week [in sophomore infielder Emily Roesch].”
Another BU player is looking at four to five more weeks of injury if good news comes back from an MRI in the coming days, Rychcik said, though he declined to give a name.
“This is who we are, and we really need to win,” Rychcik said. “There isn’t any help coming. It doesn’t really matter at this point because this is who we are. We’re going to do everything we can to win games. That [realization] was something that happened this [past] weekend [for the team], and we’re going to find a way to be successful.”