Boston College softball has struggled to close out games all season and has blown leads in the final innings of its contests against North Carolina, UMass, and Clemson. On Tuesday at Harrington Athletics Village, however, the Eagles changed that narrative.
BC held a 3–1 lead until the top of the seventh inning when Connecticut’s Lexi Hastings blasted a two-out, two-run home run to tie the game. But this time, the Eagles (19–19, 2–10 Atlantic Coast) responded, and in the bottom of the seventh inning, Nicole Giery sent a screaming ground ball up the middle to score Alexis Dale for a walk-off single to defeat the Huskies (25–11,12–3 Big East) 4–3 and even the season series.
“I guess the silver lining for the home run that Abby gave up in the seventh is we were able to come back after adversity, you know?” BC head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “And be able to see that we can leave a team standing on the field.”
The Eagles struck first in the bottom of the first inning. UConn pitcher Payton Kinney walked leadoff batter Aleyah Terrell to start the inning, and Abigail Knight stepped up with one out and knocked one to shallow right, moving Terrell to third base. Giery then drove one in between third base and shortstop for an RBI single which sent Knight to third.
A Zoe Hines walk loaded the bases, but Kinney shut down any ideas the Eagles had, striking out Maddy Carpe to limit BC’s damage to just one run.
After a quick inning by BC starting pitcher Abby Dunning, the Eagles continued their offensive momentum into the bottom of the second inning. Erika Andal beat a throw to first base on a hit to the pitcher to start the inning. Kinney struck out the next batter but then UConn head coach Laura Valentino pulled her in favor of Meghan O’Neil. Andal subsequently stole second base and Terrell singled, allowing Andal to advance to third. Terrell then stole second and the stage was set for Knight.
With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Knight roped a single to left field which sent both runners home, and the Eagles extended their lead to 3–0.
“Abby Knight actually got player of the game for that because that was fantastic,” Kvilhaug said. “That is what we’ve been wanting for all season and to get that big hit, I think that is one of those key hits.”
UConn responded in the top of the third inning, as Dunning walked Mackenzie Mason and then conceded a triple to Hastings which gave the Huskies their first run of the contest.
Dunning made up for it, though, as she got out of a tough jam in the fourth inning. A walk and an error gave the Huskies a runner on second and third base with just one out, but Dunning drew a clutch groundout and struck out Taylor Zatyk which left two runners stranded on base.
“She fights, she battles, she grinds,” Kvilhaug said of Dunning. “And she did a good job of adjusting.”
Dunning finished with nine strikeouts and allowed three total hits while throwing her 11th complete game of the season.
Neither team scored again until the top of the seventh inning, when it appeared as though BC might blow the game, as it has in the past. Hastings wouldn’t let the Huskies go down easy, as on a full count pitch she launched a two-run home run over the center field wall, tying the game at 3–3. But Dunning managed to collect herself and struck out Grace Jenkins to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Hannah Slike led off with a line drive single to center field, and O’Neil walked Knight, which led to Hope Jenkins coming in to pitch.
Giery stepped up to the plate with no outs and a runner on first and second base and delivered the final blow with a single through the gap to earn the Eagles a 4–3 victory and move BC back to .500 on the season.