To celebrate spring break, the Boston University softball team is going to Florida.
However, unlike any of their fellow college students who might be visiting the Sunshine State, the Terriers are not going for a leisurely week in the sun. Instead, they will enjoy fun and games of a different kind, as they keep busy with 13 games in two cities over the course of 10 days.
“It is a busy time, but we also don’t have school, so [the players] don’t have to go to class and study and things like that,” said BU coach Shawn Rychcik. “It’s pretty much just softball, so we can tack on the games a little bit during this break. That’s what we’re going for here.”
BU (3-3) will get started at the University of South Florida Under Armour Showcase in Tampa, Fla. on Friday when it takes on Long Island University and LaSalle University. Then it will move on to Central Connecticut State University and Robert Morris University on Saturday before wrapping up the weekend against Central Michigan University on Sunday.
That first game should be especially interesting because it is a chance at revenge for a Terriers team that suffered a 5-4 season-ending loss to LIU last spring in the NCAA Regional.
BU then gets a full day off before resuming play with a doubleheader against Colorado State University on March 15 and a single game versus Quinnipiac University on March 16 in Clearwater, Fla.
Rychcik said these three games are a result of strategic scheduling to take advantage of the athletes’ week off from school.
“It’s just extra games with teams that are doing the same thing,” Rychcik said. “They’re down there for the two tournaments, and they wanted to do something mid-week, so instead of playing games [in Boston] where it’s rainy and cold, we’ll play down there and get some different opponents.”
The Terriers will get St. Patrick’s Day off before returning to Tampa and starting another three-day tournament – the USF The Game Tournament – on March 18 with games against Kent State University and Florida A & M University. On March 19 the team will take on Texas Tech University and Winthrop University before finally ending the road trip with a game against Jacksonville University on March 20.
Texas Tech – along with LIU the first weekend – will be one of the tougher opponents on the trip, as it is 22-0 on the season and ranked 19th in the ESPN.com/USA Today coaches’ poll.
“Their strength of schedule is a little bit down right now, so I like to think we can give them a run,” Rychcik said.
For a Terrier squad that has played just six games so far this season, this road trip could be the most crucial 10-day stretch of the season. Not only will it allow the young team to get some much-needed experience, but also give it a chance to straighten out other problems.
“I think for the team in general, not just the freshmen, it gives us a chance to get in a rhythm, start playing and start competing every day,” Rychcik said.
“I think we’re going to hit the ball better, and hopefully our pitching continues to get better. Our conference is going to start in two weeks, and we have to be ready if we’re going to defend the championship.”
Rychcik also has the tough task of balancing his pitchers’ workloads in the week and a half stretch, which is the busiest of the season for the Terriers.
On the mound, the Terriers have freshman Holli Floetker – who was named the America East pitcher of the week on Monday – with a team-low 0.43 ERA, sophomores Erin Schuppert and Whitney Tuthill, and senior Kelley Engman.
“You want to win games, and you want to throw your better pitchers, but you can’t throw them every single game,” Rychcik said. “You also want to give people opportunities so they can be ready when they’re needed [later in the season.]”
Despite the hectic playing schedule, Rychcik’s expectations for the team during this trip and especially the two tournaments are clear.
“I’d like to win them both,” he said. “I think if we play really well, we can go the whole trip undefeated. I think we’re really talented and it’s time for that talent to start to come out.”