The Boston University softball team started off its postseason strong with a 4-3 win in extra innings over Bucknell University Thursday at the home field of top-seeded Lehigh University.
The Terriers (33-19, 13-5 Patriot League) faced the Bison (21-25, 10-8 Patriot League) in their last three games to conclude the season. In the first contest of the series, BU sophomore pitcher Melanie Russell recorded the eighth perfect game in school history. On the last game of the season, however, Bucknell snapped the Terriers’ season-high 13-game win streak.
Russell started Thursday’s matchup, going up against sophomore Amanda Fazio. Fazio came into the matchup leading the Bison in WHIP at a 1.08 mark. The Chatham, N.J., native also remains second on her squad with a 2.41 ERA.
Facing this top-tier pitcher, the Terriers’ offense started out slow to begin the game with no hits over the first two innings. Fortunately for BU, the Bison also struggled in generating offense against the conference leader in ERA, leaving a runner on base in the first two frames.
“Mel’s done a great job ever since the injury,” said BU coach Kathryn Gleason. “She wants the ball in these tough situations. She really bears down well and comes up big to strand runners.”
However, in the third inning, Bucknell began the scoring with a home run to left field from freshman Jacee Almond, her sixth on the season. Russell would settle down, and got out of the inning with just the one blemish.
The Terriers answered with a homer from freshman center fielder Moriah Connolly, her first career dinger. Senior right fielder Jaime Mask followed with a single up the middle, but she was eventually retired on a baserunning miscue.
“It was an inside-the-park home run for her,” Gleason said. “We always tell her that her biggest asset is her speed. Once I saw the ball hit fair down that line, I knew she was going to make it around.
“It was a huge momentum shift for us after they got one in the top of the inning. For us to get it back put us right back in the game.”
Both teams retired each other in fourth inning before Bucknell broke through in the fifth. The Bison had two runners on with one out for Patriot League batting champion junior Cydnee Sanders, who batted a whopping .464 coming into the Patriot League Tournament. Sanders sent a laser into left field, scoring both runners and giving the Bison a 3-1 lead.
BU went down quietly in the bottom half of the frame, but started a rally of their own in the sixth. Following a single from Connolly and a stolen base, the Terriers put their first runner in scoring position in the game. Freshman third baseman Brittany Younan took advantage of the opportunity by lining a ball into left field, which plated Connolly.
With the chance for more, senior shortstop Brittany Clendenny came up to the dish and scalded a double to center field, scoring Younan and tying the game up at three apiece.
“Brittany has been our go-to RBI person all season long,” Gleason said. “She gets those opportunities because the first two get on and that’s exactly what happened again today.”
The contest would continue until the bottom half of the eighth. BU got its first two batters on by means of a walk and a hit. After a groundout from Younan, both runners advanced into scoring position for Clendenny, who clubbed in the winning run.
“That last at-bat wasn’t her greatest for sure,” Gleason said. “She swung at a pitch in the dirt to start and then she took a tough strike. But she overcame it and really showed why she’s one of the best hitters in the conference.”
With the 4-3 victory, BU moves to the Patriot League Tournament semifinal game against the U.S. Military Academy, which beat top-seeded Lehigh (30-19, 15-3 Patriot League) 5-1 in a nine-inning battle.
“We’ll prepare as we’ve done every game,” Gleason said. “We’ll go out and play our game, like we’ve wanted to before every game this season.”