It took three seasons, but Jessica Dreswick and Allyson Frei are finally in sync—the Boston College softball pitchers are single-handedly carrying the Eagles inside the circle, week in and week out, posting the second-best earned run average in the ACC.
The talent has always been there, but the results are years in the making.
Back in 2015, Frei arrived on campus as one of the program’s most heralded recruits in recent history. A four-time All-NJAC selection and 2013 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year, the Branchville native received offers from just about every top-tier team in the nation. After committing to BC, Frei instantly became a starter. Not only that, but it was simply a matter of time before she was a program record holder. Adjusting quickly to the college ranks, Frei won nine of her first 11 decisions, logging seven complete games in the process—just a sign of what was to come. When all was said and done, she tallied 19 wins, the most in Eagles single-season history, leading the team in ERA and the ACC in strikeouts.
Dreswick—Frei’s classmate and friend—didn’t have quite the same success. Although she appeared in 23 games, the Montverde Academy alumnus only posted five wins, in large part due to the fact that opposing batters were hitting .266 off her. Without a doubt, Frei was the face of the program.
The distinction wasn’t as clear in year two, though. Frei by no means underwent a sophomore slump, but her numbers slightly dipped. Earning her way onto the NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region Second Team, she saw an increase in ERA, and, perhaps most notably, a decrease in innings pitched—not because she was getting worse, but because Dreswick was on the rise. Soon enough, the 6-foot hurler was Frei’s partner-in-crime.
Shaving 0.48 points off her earned run average, Dreswick practically doubled her appearances and nearly tripled her win total from her freshman campaign. She really turned heads on April 23, 2016 when she tossed a no-hitter—the first against an ACC opponent in program history—versus North Carolina State. Having started 24 games, it was apparent that Dreswick had proved her worth. Entering the 2017 season, the Eagles had one of the most promising pitching duos in the ACC.
But before BC even kicked off the regular season, Frei went down with an undisclosed season-ending injury. All of a sudden, the dynamic pairing was no more, and Dreswick had to the put the team on her back. She more than shouldered the weight, leading the Eagles to their second-consecutive 30-win season and highest win percentage since 2003. Starting a program-best 39 games, Dreswick threw 235 innings and 18 complete games, more than her first two years on the Heights combined, all while nursing a stress fracture in her right foot. Of the team’s 31 victories, she was responsible for 22—shattering Frei’s program record—at one point logging a 0.41 ERA and 15 strikeouts over a 14-inning span in early April, earning ACC Pitcher of the Week honors. By the end of the year, Frei was almost an afterthought.
Because of the injury, head coach Ashley Obrest gave Frei the opportunity to redshirt her junior season. The fourth-year pitcher accepted the offer and went back to work. With the one-two punch finally back to normal, the Eagles were primed for immediate success—well, at least that was the expectation.
BC scored just 15 runs over the course of the first six games of the 2018 season, leaving Dreswick and Frei stranded in the circle. Luckily for Obrest and Co., her pitchers have been wheeling and dealing since the start of February. And now that the Eagles are finally hitting, Dreswick and Frei are cementing themselves as the best pitching tandem in program history.
As far as BC records are concerned, the two upperclassmen rank inside the top 10 in ERA, opposing batting average, strikeouts, wins, completes games, innings pitched, and an assortment of other statistical categories. After this year, there’s a good chance Dreswick and Frei will either be at the top or very close to the leaders in just about every single one of those charts.
In fact, as of now, Dreswick has 16 more starts than any other Eagle to take the circle. Frei isn’t too far behind either—her 70 nods are just 11 shy of the second spot on the star-studded list. At this rate, Dreswick will end up passing Allison Gage for the most innings pitched in school history, and Frei will have cracked the top five with a full year remaining in her collegiate career. Above all else, Dreswick is within two victories of being crowned the program’s all-time wins leader. In the coming months, Frei will likely move into the fourth spot, putting herself in great position to break Dreswick’s potential record in 2019.
On paper, a healthy Dreswick-Frei combination was bound to pan out. But it wasn’t until the calendar turned to February that such suspicions were confirmed.
Dreswick picked up right where she left off a year ago, serving as the team’s primary workhorse. She’s already gobbled up 135 innings in the circle, starting 22 games. Her efficiency has been even more impressive. For the third-straight year, she has cut down her ERA, posting a career-low 2.44 mark. Time and time again, she’s made quick work of the side, logging 126 strikeouts in 28 appearances. Fanning batters has never been a problem for Dreswick—preventing runners from reaching base has. But this year, lineups are hitting just .213 against her. To put that in perspective, her opposing batting average has never been lower than .231. The Flemington, N.J. native has improved in nearly every facet of the game, even throwing the program’s first-ever perfect game on March 23 at Virginia.
As good as Dreswick has been, Frei, in many ways, has actually outpitched her classmate. Judging by her win-loss record, many would assume differently. But, in reality, her 6-7 mark is deceiving, considering that BC’s offense was virtually non-existent throughout the first month of the season. While she hasn’t accumulated the volume of innings that Dreswick has, Frei’s ERA is better than ever. Currently boasting a 1.87 earned run average—0.87 points lower than her previous career mark—the redshirt junior finds herself among the top pitchers in the ACC. Frei, who is renowned for her punchouts, has compiled 93 Ks in 97.1 innings this season. Undoubtedly, she’s regaining her mojo.
Individually, the two are some of the best BC has ever had. But, collectively, they are unrivaled. Dreswick and Frei have accounted for 232.1 of the Eagles’ total 233.1 innings pitched this season. Put otherwise, when a BC player takes the circle, there’s a 99.6-percent chance it’s Dreswick and Frei—they are quite literally the Eagles’ pitching staff. No other team in the conference comes close to matching that percentage: every single one of them has least one pitcher with 18 or more innings in the book this season.
Dreswick and Frei have held up their end of the bargain all year, but they’re just starting to reap the benefits. Despite giving up just six earned runs in her opening four games, Dreswick didn’t record her first win until she made her fifth appearance. Frei, on the other hand, had it even worse. Bad luck, defensive miscues, and lack of run support was the perfect recipe for a 2-7 start. No two-game set better exemplified the storm Frei had to weather than BC’s early-season tournament matchup with FIU. In back-to-back starts against the Panthers, she spun a total of 24.1 frames, striking out 18 batters, but her three earned runs turned out to be two too many for the once-putrid Eagles offense, and Frei dropped both games in extras.
Ever since the last week of March, though, BC has finally started to put two and two together. The same team that struggled to plate more than two runs on a regular basis throughout the first week of the season has eclipsed double digits four times in the past three weeks, averaging 7.7 runs per contest—4.41 more than it recorded over the course of the first 24 games of play. The scoring spurt has given Dreswick and Frei multi-run cushions in consecutive starts—a luxury that they hadn’t had all year. As a result, BC has been unstoppable, stringing together 10-straight victories—the program’s longest win streak since 1995.
The stretch goes to show how good Dreswick and Frei really are. With a productive offense, the wins are coming by the day. Who knows, if the Eagles had been hitting like this from the start, the duo could very well be in line for All-American honors. If BC keeps the ball rolling, there’s no telling that Dreswick and Frei won’t reach that milestone anyway.
The right-handers are on pace to finish with a combined 2.20 ERA, the lowest an Eagles pitching staff has recorded since 2001—and that’s when the team was still in the Big East, a traditionally weaker conference. With Dreswick and Frei in the circle, BC has the chance to beat any team in the country. It just comes down to whether or not the offense shows up to play.
For better or worse, neither Dreswick nor Frei’s collegiate career has been conventional. Still, the two friends are right where they want to be, throwing at a higher level than ever before and jousting for positioning in team and ACC rankings—perhaps a reminder that everything happens for a reason. Dreswick and Frei’s accomplishments, records, stats, and—most importantly—dependability make it clear that no matter how far the Eagles go in the ACC Tournament this year, the upperclassmen should be remembered as the best pitching duo to ever wear BC uniforms.
Featured Images by Julia Hopkins and Eric Espada / Heights Senior Staff and BC Athletics
Photos by Celine Lim and Eric Espada / Heights Staff and BC Athletics
Graphics by Andy Backstrom and Nicole Chan / Heights Editors