By Alexander Haynes
The harsh wind was blowing sharply to left field, the air was a sharp 35 degrees, yet, softball was ready to be played. The frustration of the oddly cold February game set the tone as the Boston College Eagles finished their Texas road trip right as the Texas State Bobcats ended their homestand. The 2-2 Bobcats were looking to capture momentum before a long month away from San Marcos, but the winless Eagles flew higher and stole a 4-3 thriller. Momentum went both ways, but too little was too late as a lack of early cohesion carried over from defense to set the tone for the Bobcats lineup.
Playing Boston College was a juxtaposition of pitching and defense, made clear in the first inning. Randi Rupp’s methodical posture on the mound was contrasted with the Eagles Jessica Dreswick approaching the plate with an accelerated windup. The same contrast could be said of the batting lineup; Boston College began aggressive and ended aggressive while the Bobcats looked to make every bat become an eternal journey of impatience.
The first inning began with poignant frustration for the Bobcats. Bailee Carter’s opening error may have led to chaotic results, but Rupp ushered damage control. A beautifully orchestrated changeup painting the corner of home plate lead to three strikeouts in a row to close the first inning.
The second was largely a continuation of the first inning. Whether the cold and bitter wind was getting to the Bobcats, but their play in the infield was disastrous. The Eagles noticed and began with a bunt attempt by Lexi DiEmmanuele, which succeeded after Hailey MacKay bobbled a reception at first base. A wild throw from catcher Kourtney Pock to second base on a steal prevention left the stadium breathless, but the Bobcats escaped without damage on the scoreboard.
Batting was going no better. MacKay was able to get on base and then steal second after a wild pitch, but Dreswick was leading the batters with precision. Their noble patience was holding up until the temptation for an aggressive swing resulted in a bitter strikeout.
Learning from the middle of games, even when not scoring is an underlying premise to success – the Eagles epitomized that in the third. Although they were not able to score on the disarray of the second inning, Chloe Sharabba had an excellent read on Rupp and knocked a two run, homerun to deep left center. Their eagle eye for the ball continued in the top of the fourth when Emme Martinez lead off with a single homerun. Fortunately for the Bobcats, silence followed the other Eagle batters. Rupp’s ability to recover provided endless encouragement for the Bobcats on the afternoon.
Finally, in the fourth, the Bobcats began to string together a series of opportune plays. MacKay took Dreswick for a five-pitch battle, then doubled on a wind-assisted shot deep left. Tara Oltmann sent MacKay to third on a sacrifice hit, revitalizing hope. With two outs, Ariel Ortiz dropped a ball into shallow center, scoring MacKay. Yes, it may have taken three batters to score MacKay, but the team effort was emblematic of lineup endurance.
Rupp consistently took advantage of the Eagles aggressive stance, preventing another deep hit from becoming a concern and setting the stage for a sixth inning rally. The Bobcats came into the sixth inning with pinch hitter ArieAnn Bell leading off and aptly ringing the bell of the Eagles to commence the desired enthralling rally by doubling to left. The energy in the environment picked up, and the lineup was focused on how to best help their teammate. Brianna Sannem and MacKay followed with their own singles, Mackay’s being a frustrating 10-pitch journey ending in a derisive RBI. Oltmann advanced Sannem to third, allowing Ortiz to score her with a sacrifice fly.
The sixth inning ended in a 3-3 tie, but it felt only a matter of time before the Eagles aggressive approach punctured a wound in Rupp, who was going for her fourth complete game. Sharabba set the tone by taking seven pitches from Rupp before walking to first. Throwing errors and bunts advanced Sharabba to the proverbial third base, no out disaster – a tale of a game overly embellished by a chilling lack of focus. A bunt by Jordan Chimento granted Sharabba a trip home, and the would be winning run. A half inning later, and the Bobcats lineup came with a string of randomness that lead to nothing.
Rupp finished her fourth complete game of the season, standing at 2-2. Although the surrounding defense left much needed room for improvement, they combined to do damage control. The three runs which scored before inning seven were home runs off the right ball. This was a game fundamentally notated by three pitches.
The Bobcats batting was consistently a pitch behind. Despite never truly swinging early in the lineup, Dreswick did an excellent job luring the lineup into late swings as the Bobcats struck out on 11 of their 25 at bats. Their was semblance of the team-oriented approach that can make the Bobcats dangerous in the sixth, but besides that everything was too random and out of order to create scoring opportunities.
After the game, head coach Ricci Woodard emphasized the need to play pitch to pitch.
“This becomes the defensive side of the game and them heart,” said Coach Woodard. “You know, I have had a lot better teams show up to practice every day than I have had shown up to a game yet, so now we have to figure out how to play the game one pitch at a time and just play.”
When asked about resiliency, Woodard commented the team has shown good points, but ultimately needs to be resilient from inning one on their trip to Arizona this Friday.
“They have proved to be resilient, so when they go out and compete they are a pretty good ball club. So, I have got to figure out how to get that ball club to do that Friday inning number one, just go out and compete.”
Featured image courtesy of Texas State Athletics.