Softball clinches 4th in SUNYACs


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Kate Brownell and the Bengals’ offense finished the season with 293 hits and 197 runs, both good for fourth in the SUNYAC. They had a team batting average of .319, second in the SUNYAC.

Anthony Reyes, Associate Sports Editor

The Buffalo State softball team hit the road this weekend with their sights set on securing a SUNYAC playoff berth, and thanks to impressive hitting, they accomplished that goal.


The Bengals played two doubleheaders, dropping just one of the four games. The weekend was highlighted by two huge blowout wins against Fredonia by scores of 8-3 and 14-8. They split a doubleheader versus non-conference Ithaca, losing 4-3 in 12 innings and then winning 4-2. They finished the season fourth in the conference with an 18-15 record (11-7 SUNYAC).


The Bengals offense registered 293 hits and 197 runs this season, both good for fourth in the SUNYAC. The team batting average of .319 was second best in the conference. They padded those stats and went out with a bang over the weekend.


On Saturday, the Bengals combined for 29 hits and 22 runs in the two wins versus Fredonia. They got out to an early lead in game one, taking a 5-0 lead into the third inning, before adding three more runs in the fifth inning, making their lead 8-2. The Blue Devils were able to add one run in the bottom of the sixth inning, but that would be all they could muster.


Junior Stephanie Novo continued on her torrid pace and went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Senior Kate Brownell had a multi-hit game of her own and junior pitcher Alexis Haley helped her own cause with two RBIs.


In game two, the Bengals once again didn’t waste any time getting on the board, with two runs in the first inning, one in the second and three in the third. They headed to the fourth inning with a 6-2 lead. In the fourth, they blew it open, scoring seven runs to take a 13-2 lead. The Blue Devils answered back with two runs in the bottom of the inning and then three more runs in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn’t complete the comeback, losing 14-8.


Novo was the spark plug of the Bengal offense, going 3 for 5, including her eighth home run of the year, along with three more RBIs and two runs scored. Senior Kara Stein had two hits and two RBIs and junior Jean Stahl had three hits and three RBIs of her own. With the way Novo has produced, her name has entered the SUNYAC player of the year conversation.


“She’s been amazing,” head coach Marie Curran said of Novo. “Even when she’s had some down moments, she’s rebounded tremendously from them. She’s making adjustments. And being one of the best, if not the best, players in the conference, is difficult because everybody is marking you and everybody is going after you and the amount of RBIs she has for us and extra base hits, and stepping up for us game after game has been wonderful.”


The Bengals were able to jump out to early leads in each game, which helps to take pressure off the pitcher.


“I personally like being away,” Novo said. “Because if we can score in that first inning, I think everyone just gets a lot of confidence, and I think it helps our pitchers a lot, and then everyone feels better.”
The Bengals came right back after their SUNYAC berth to play Ithaca on Sunday. They lost a long, 12-inning affair in game one, but answered back in game two with a 4-2 win, which was personal for Coach Curran, as it was the first time she had ever beaten them.


The Bengals knew this would be a crucial weekend for them right from the start.


“I think we all were thinking we had to win,” Novo said. “But not as much putting a ton of pressure on ourselves, but more of just being focused and having fun, because we definitely play the best when we have fun.”


Although senior pitcher Maddie Coneys stressed the same beliefs as Novo, things were also a little more serious for her.


“Every year, you want to make it to the tournament,” Coneys said. “But as a senior, you realize, ‘wow this is it’, and want to win that much more and you want to make it that much further.”


Coneys pitched five innings over the weekend, giving up just five hits and zero runs. Sophomore Alison Novak threw 10 innings and only allowed eight hits and two earned runs. Haley was the workhorse of the staff though, pitching 17 2/3 innings, allowing 22 hits and nine earned runs.


It was a strange season for the Bengals with the weather wreaking havoc on most of their early games, but they battled through it.


“It’s been a lot of fun,” Curran said. “They over-exceeded what we thought, we knew we were going to be good, but I didn’t know we were going to be this good. We’ve got a lot of kids who are really doing a great job.


“It was interesting to see different people just continuing to grow and continuing to work, which is the important part, because I always think we can get better. If you ever feel like you’re perfect in our sport, you’re playing the wrong sport.”


The Bengals will hit the road and head to Cortland to begin the SUNYAC playoffs on Thursday.