Sports, Spring, Softball

Eagles Escape Jams But Fail to Plate Their Own Runners in Loss to University of South Florida

With no outs in the bottom of the second inning of Boston College softball’s matchup against South Florida, BC’s starting pitcher, Abby Dunning, was looking to get a much needed out after issuing two lead-off walks. 

USF’s leadoff hitter, Olivia Elliott, made contact with Dunning’s 2-2 pitch and hit a fly ball that began slicing out of fair territory. BC’s left fielder, Zoe Hines, began her route toward the ball, speeding towards the left field foul line and crashing into the third base line fence. 

Hines managed to hold onto the ball and throw it back to the infield to record BC’s first out of the inning. Dunning then proceeded to strike out the next batter and then induce a fly ball out to leave the inning unscathed. 

“I mean I’ve had the pleasure of watching her for the past two years make spectacular plays like that,” BC head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “I mean, she was on ESPN. She made ESPN top 10 Sports Center last year on another play she made, so that’s Zoey, like she’s 100% effort all the time and she’s just spectacular.”

But despite escaping multiple jams with runners on base, like the one in the second inning, BC (5–2) fell to the Bulls (6–2) 3–1 in a game where 16 runners were stranded on base between both squads. USF accounted for 12 of the 16 runners left on base, as BC continuously escaped innings without letting the Bulls run up the score.

“Defensive preparation is really what it’s about, Kvilhaug said. “Putting people on base definitely adds pressure to you know, to the defense, but we’ve worked on that, we’ve worked on that very, very hard. So, I think that’s… that’s really what it comes down to is just defensive preparation and then ice veins for Abby to take the bull by the horns and find the zone quickly.”

Trailing by one run in the top of the sixth inning, BC had the bases loaded with one out and its 5-hole hitter up to bat.

Makenna Segal stepped into the batter’s box with an opportunity to change the tide of the game. Segal put the ball in play on the third pitch she saw, but it was grounded right to Bulls’ Alanah Rivera at third base. Rivera delivered a strike to home plate to earn the force out and keep the Eagles from knotting the score at 2–2.

Still, the Eagles had an opportunity to plate the tying or go ahead run with Zoe Hines stepping into the batter’s box. Hines watched the first pitch sail away from her and past the reach of the catcher. Jules Shields broke for home plate but had no option but to turn around after the ball bounced off of the netting and right into the hands of Bulls’ catcher Josie Foreman. 

Foreman made quick work of this opportune bounce, throwing to third to get the returning runner. In just moments, the bat had been taken out of Hines’ hands and BC’s promising opportunity with runners in scoring position had been quickly wiped away. 

Having runners on base was a common occurrence for Dunning—she allowed eight walks on Thursday. The Bulls had the bases loaded in the first inning before Dunning had recorded an out, and the first run surrendered by Dunning came in that inning as a result of a bases-loaded walk. 

“I mean she struggled a little bit with the zone,” Kvilhaug said. “I thought She squeezed a smidge, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she lost the zone a bit. But I just think that, you know, she battled through the adversity and um you know, I mean, that’s just what Abby Dunning does.”

In contrast to stretches of walks, Dunning struck out four of six batters between the end of the bottom of the third inning and the bottom of the fourth. This flip of the script kept BC in the game for its entirety. 

“I said to her, I said ‘Hey, Abby, you know, I may go to Pap[pion] that next inning,’ she kinda looked at me like don’t take me out,” Kvilhaug said. “She wants to fight. She’s a fighter. And that’s who you want and that’s what you want your ace to be in the circle is a bulldog and she’s gritty and she’s doing a great job for us thus far.”

Earlier on Thursday, BC faced University of Illinois-Chicago, ultimately holding on to win 5–4 in an 11 inning game. Halie Pappion started the game after throwing a no-hitter five days prior. 

The Eagles extended their one-run lead when they scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning, but the Flames countered with three runs of their own to make it a 4–3 game. The Flames knotted the game at 4–4 in the bottom of the sixth after Dunning was called on to pitch. After a seemingly unbreakable tie ensued, BC finally scored on a sacrifice fly and shut down the Flames in the bottom of the 11th.

February 16, 2024