Softball: Bonnies prepare for Atlantic 10 Tournament

By Trystan Rushia @trystanrushia

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies softball team travels to Sortino Field at the University of Massachusetts for the start of the A-10 tournament on Wednesday, May 6.

This is the first time the Bonnies have made the tournament since 2009. A huge factor in the Bonnies making the tournament came was St. Joe’s cancelling the rest of their softball season due to a hazing probe.

“It was surreal. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I never heard of anything like that happening,” said coach Mike Threehouse.

“We’re happy to make the tournament. It feels good. It took a lot of stress and worry off us.”

The Bonnies go in with an A-10 record of 7-11 (.389 win percentage) to squeak by UMass’s 8-14 (.363 win percentage) record to secure the sixth seed and face the third-seeded Fordham Rams.

In the two-game regular season series, the Bonnies split with the Rams, with a 4-3 win and a 10-4 loss.

When it comes to tournament experience, Fordham, the reigning back-to-back A-10 champions, edges out the Bonnies. The current roster for the Bonnies has never experienced an A-10 tournament game.

“I’m the only guy with any A-10 Tournament experience, so it’s my job to prepare the girls,” said Threehouse. “We only have one practice before the tournament, so we must seize the moment.”

“Mental toughness is a key, especially in A-10 tournament games,” he continued. “Being at UMass with all of its tradition hanging all around you, you want to get at that same level. You’re either going to respond two ways: be intimidated by it or thrive by it. I’m hoping that our players look at it as an opportunity to thrive to be the best.”

Threehouse realizes that the girls must all step up in order to beat the Rams.

“Fordham is a good team,” he said. “They can hit, field and whatever else, but if we play our best softball, that gives us the best chance to win. If we try to rely on one girl, then it’s hard to win.”

The last stretch of the season, the Bonnies have looked red-hot, winning six of their last nine games.

“If we play like we have down the recent stretch, we have the opportunity to do something special,” said Threehouse.

The Rams have also been red-hot, ending their regular season on a seven game winning streak. Threehouse is looking to the pitching staff and scoring runs as key factors for the Bonnies to be victorious.

“The pitching staff has to be ready, especially for those tight situation moments,” he said. “And what it also comes down to is that if we have a situation to knock in a run or two, we must do it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Softball: Bonnies embark on big road trip

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

St. Bonaventure’s reward for sweeping Niagara in Tuesday’s doubleheader? An eight-game road trip.

The stretch contains a doubleheader Thursday afternoon at Marist, a three-game series in Rhode Island over the weekend, a game at Youngstown State on Tuesday and a doubleheader at Canisius on Wednesday.

The Bonnies, who are currently eighth in the Atlantic 10 standings with a 5-10 conference record (11-19 overall), are used to grueling road trips. They have played 11 away games and 12 neutral-site games this season, compared to just seven home games. By the end of the regular season, a staggering 76 percent of their games will have been played away from the friendly confines of St. Bonaventure University.

Logging bus miles comes with the territory when you play softball in Western New York.

“We are used to being on the road because our schedule is very demanding with the Western New York weather,” said junior shortstop Emily McDonough. “We try to prepare ourselves the same way for every game. We treat every game the same.”

Bona can prepare the same way, but away games present a clear challenge. The team has gone 2-9 in road games, 4-8 at neutral sites. These are improvements over last season, when they went 0-15 in road games and 3-11 neutrally, but there is still progress to be made.

“It’s always a different atmosphere than at Bona’s,” said sophomore outfielder Kelly Farrell. “But it’s nice to come in and try to upset a team at home.

“We just talk with each other and feed off each other’s energy the whole time to try and stay focused.”

The camaraderie the Bonnies have built while traveling together is something they try to use to their advantage. Trips to Hawaii and Myrtle Beach, S.C. strengthened the bonds and helped the ladies get on the same page as they navigate enemy territory.

“It’s a team sport, and if you’re unable to communicate or depend on your teammates you won’t do very well,” said Farrell. “It’s always good to know that someone has your back and if you make a mistake someone will pick you up. Plus it makes it fun to be able to play with all your friends.”

Playing in different cities and venues can be fun, but the demands of being a student-athlete don’t disappear when the team leaves campus; they intensify. Players are required to notify their professors when they are going to miss class and make up the work they missed. Failure to complete assignments may result in ineligibility.

Thirteen softball players made the most recent Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll list, tied with women’s swimming for the most on an SBU team. To make the list, student-athletes must carry a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.

Maintaining high grades can be challenging when you play 76 percent of your games away from campus. McDonough and Farrell credit good planning and communication for helping them get the job done.

“It’s tough but I usually try to get most of my work done before we leave school because it is personally difficult for me to study and write papers on the bus and in hotels,” said McDonough. “We always try to stay one step ahead with assignments and are constantly in contact with professors.”

“Our team has always had a high GPA so it puts a little bit of pressure on us, but it’s good pressure and motivates us,” said Farrell.

“It gets hard with all the traveling, but if you plan ahead of time you can get it done and coordinate with professors. Most are very flexible when we’re on the road. It takes a lot of time management and planning ahead.”

This time of year, the pressure of classes overlaps with the pressure of the looming Atlantic 10 Tournament. SBU has six conference games remaining and must win all six if they hope to be one of the six teams that make the tourney. Rhode Island is in the basement at 0-16 in the A-10, while St. Joe’s is one game ahead of Bonaventure at 6-8. A perfect end to the conference slate is certainly possible.

“Our chances are good,” said McDonough. “I’d say the biggest thing we need to focus on in these upcoming games is hitting and scoring runs because when our offense produces, the rest always follows.”

She’s certainly right about that. The Bonnies are 9-2 in games where they score five runs or more, and they have only allowed three runs a game over those 11 contests. When they haven’t been able to scrape across five runs, they have gone 2-17 and allowed slightly less than six runs a contest. When the bats are hot, as they were in the first two games against George Mason a couple weekends ago and against Niagara earlier this week, this is a formidable team. When the bats are cold, things have gone south.

“We really just need to stay focused on the process,” said Farrell. “We still have a chance to make the tournament but it will involve a lot of hard work and wins in these upcoming games we have.

“It’s a tight chance, but we have that chance, so hopefully we will succeed.”

 

Softball: Bonnies sweep Niagara in doubleheader

By Katie Faulkner @kfaulkner20

After a 9-1 win in game one, Emily McDonough and the Bonnies got their offense moving early again in their second game against Niagara on Tuesday afternoon.

McDonough continued her hot streak at the plate in the bottom of the first inning when she singled to left field. A Hailey Blencowe groundout, followed by a Grace Rooney single, would plate McDonough for the game’s first run.  Katie Sinclair then drove in Rooney before Emily Belfield would bring them both home on a homerun over the left field fence. The Bonnies led 4-0 through two innings.

In the top of the third, with the bases loaded, Briana Clark drove one to left field, bringing in Katelyn Gruarin to cut the Bonnies lead to 4-1. However, Emily Belfield would come up big again by bringing Rooney home for the center fielder’s third RBI of the day.

In the top of the fourth, Alexis Sloat would replace Kristin Hickling, who gave up two hits in three innings on the mound.  Victoria Bretz singled to center field and Jessica Chandler reached first on a fielder’s choice, but the purple eagles would not score. Niagara would get three quick outs in the bottom of the fourth to hold the Bonnies at 5-1.

With bases loaded in the top of the fifth, the Bonnies would bring in Carly Bilchak to relieve Sloat.  Brianna Clark would score on a wild pitch, but the purple eagles would leave runners on 2nd and 3rd.  The Bonnies would lead 5-2 entering the bottom of the fifth.

Katelyn Gruarin would earn a walk and steal second with two outs.  An RBI single by Deserae Maldanado would plate Gruarin and make it 5-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

The Purple Eagles would try to rally in the top of the seventh, but the Bonnies were able to hang onto their lead for the 5-3 victory to finish the 2-game sweep.

Junior Alexis Sloat would earn the win for the Bonnies and Carly Bilchak earned her first save of the season, allowing one run in 2.2 innings.

The 11-19 Bonnies will face Marist in a double header on Thursday.

Softball: Bonnies split doubleheader, win series against George Mason

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

You can’t win them all in college softball, and Bonnies head coach Mike Threehouse understands that taking two out of three is a positive outcome.

After an 11-3 win over George Mason on Saturday and an 8-7 victory in the first game of the doubleheader against the Patriots today, the skipper in his 19th year at the helm wasn’t too bothered by a 7-1 loss in game two.

“Obviously after you win the first two, you want to win that third one,” said Threehouse. “But the bottom line is (if) you win two out of three against anybody in the A-10, you had a good weekend.”

The 11 runs and 16 hits the team registered on Saturday were the most in a single game this season. The first game on Sunday was a lot less one-sided, with the teams battling all seven innings until the Bonnies won on a walk-off walk to take the 8-7 victory. Bona and George Mason each had 11 hits, with seven of the extra-base variety.

Unfortunately for the Bonnies, they used up most of their offensive pop in those first two games. They registered seven hits but left seven runners on base, including the third inning, when they had the bases loaded with only one out but failed to take advantage.

After a nightmarish top of the first, when SBU allowed six runs on five hits and an error, more firepower from the bats was sorely needed. However, the fatigue factor set in and Bona was not able to pull off the sweep.

George Mason pitcher Christina Gabrielle, who was pulled after one inning on Saturday after allowing seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and a walk, stymied the brown and white on Sunday. She earned the complete-game victory, allowing just one run on seven hits while striking out seven. The turnaround in her performance was a big reason the Patriots were able to avoid the sweep.

“Softball and baseball are those games where pitchers can come out and pitch well one day and not pitch (well) the next,” said Threehouse. “(Gabrielle) pitched well against us today instead of yesterday and we just couldn’t score the runs.”

Leaving seven runners on base, the equivalent of a missed opportunity each inning, was one of the issues Threehouse lamented on when discussing the loss.

“When you get to the seventh inning and it’s a 7-1 game, maybe it’s a 7-5 game (if you convert with runners on),” he said. “That’s what cost us.”

Grace Rooney, Desiree Gonzalez and Emily Belfield hit home runs during the series for the Bonnies. They have one homer each on the year.

Bonaventure will next take the field on Wednesday in another home doubleheader, this time against the Fordham Rams. The Rams, who are two-time defending A-10 champs, are currently fourth in the conference with a 7-4 conference record and a 21-16 mark overall.

“You’ve just got to be ready to play,” said Threehouse. “In the A-10, every game’s a big game. (The Rams) are a very good team, and we have an opportunity to beat them; that’s what we always look for.”