Softball, Sports

Softball looks to build on Patriot League Championship run

Senior outfielder Emma Wong will be an important member of this season’s offense. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/ DFP FILE PHOTO

The Boston University softball team is coming off a successful Patriot League campaign and is looking to get over that Championship hump once again.

The Terriers had won the Patriot League and secured an NCAA tournament berth in the 2016 season. They ended their 2017 season in defeat during the Patriot League Championship to Lehigh University.

BU head coach Ashley Waters has set high expectations, and for good reason.

Waters is entering her third season, after she delivered back-to-back Patriot League Championship series appearances.

“Our expectation when we get on the field is to win,” Waters said. “We want to have a great overall preseason record and to get some of our kids in a better spot for conference play, and then obviously win the Patriot League Championship.”

Last season, the Terriers struggled through their non-conference tournaments, but excelled in league play, as they did during the 2016 campaign.

Including the beginning of last year’s Patriot League tournament, BU won eight games in a row before falling to the Mountain Hawks in the best-of-three Patriot League Championship.

The Terriers actually held the advantage in the double-elimination tournament. After BU and Lehigh beat the United States Military Academy and the College of the Holy Cross, the Terriers beat the Mountain Hawks 14-7 to catapult themselves straight into the championship and put Lehigh into a must-win situation.

The Terriers trailed that game 4-3 entering the fifth, but a four-run inning followed by a seven-run sixth inning put Lehigh out of sight.

Senior outfielder Emma Wong had three hits and five RBIs while senior outfielder Jilee Schanda had four hits and three RBIs. Sophomore Kali Magane pitched 2.2 innings for the win.

The Mountain Hawks then narrowly edged Army to set up the rematch for the conference crown. Lehigh quieted the Terriers’ bats in its two wins, shutting BU out in the first game and only giving up three runs in the second matchup.

In the rotation, BU lost its ace from former pitcher Makinna Akers. Akers’ 2.08 ERA was almost a whole run lower than the next closest hurler, sophomore Kali Magane, who had an ERA of 3.03 last season.

Waters said she believes that in order to become a successful pitcher, you first need to accept your faults and mistakes.

“Understanding that [the pitchers] are going up against some really great teams and that they are going to have good days and bad days,” Waters said. “The best pitchers, they keep competing and keep throwing. They can’t get too much in their head preseason, just enjoy themselves and have fun.”

The Terriers will begin the season in sunny Boca Raton, Florida on the campus of Florida Atlantic University as BU will compete in the FAU Kick-Off Classic for the second year in a row.

The five other teams joining the Terriers and FAU are Northern Illinois University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Duke University and Bethune-Cookman University.

BU is scheduled to play five games, against every team but the FAU Owls.

The only rematch from last year will be against Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats won 5-1, though the Terriers out-hit them 11-6.

As far as this season goes, Ohio State is BU’s most dangerous opponent, according to the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index rankings. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 36 in RPI, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season after falling in the Big Ten Championship.

This season, the Terriers are going to have to replace two of last season’s top three average hitters in Moriah Connolly and Gabi Martinez.

Along with Connolly and Martinez, Rachel Levine also graduated, leaving three available positions in the starting lineup.

Waters did not go very deep in her bench last season, having only nine players reach 50 or more at-bats.

Waters said she is hoping that the return of senior infielder Brittany Younan, who received a medical redshirt after missing the season due to injury, can help the team’s offense.

“Getting Brittany Younan back is obviously a huge offensive catalyst for us,” Waters said. “We also have a freshman [pitcher], Maya Kipfmiller, who is really going to step in and fill that power role.”

The right side of the infield is where BU now has the biggest hole. Connolly and Martinez both played on that side, with Conolly playing shortstop and Martinez playing third base.

In addition to Akers on the pitching staff, Sydni Overly will not return to the rotation for the Terriers in 2018. The BU pitching staff will now consist of two sophomores and three freshmen.

Waters said she is excited for what the newcomers in the lineup can bring and the potential this unit has in the upcoming season.

“I think our offensive lineup will be pretty good one through nine,” Waters said. “We have a lot of returners … and we have some kids that really can turn it on. I just hope we can find more consistency throughout.”

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