To Boston College softball fans, it perhaps occurred to them that there was some danger in throwing Allyson Frei back into the circle to pitch against Notre Dame less than 24 hours after the Fighting Irish had tagged her for four runs in less than a full inning of work, leading Eagles head coach Ashley Obrest to yank her just two outs into the game.
Obrest wasn’t the least bit concerned about putting Frei right back into the spotlight Saturday afternoon.
“We didn’t really make a big deal of it yesterday because we know she’s a good pitcher, so we didn’t expect or think that she was going to come out and have the performance she did yesterday—pretty uncharacteristic of her but no need to press the panic button,” Obrest said. “I think every great pitcher has a bump in the road, and I think that was hers.
“It was nice to see her come back and respond today—I thought she did great.”
Frei pitched six-plus innings of six-hit baseball, surrendering just two earned runs on 94 pitches. She had occasional control struggles—she walked four batters and hit three—but still managed to record three strikeouts on her way to a 6-4 win over the Irish (29-17, 12-7 Atlantic Coast).
The other star of the show was Lexi DiEmmanuele, who logged three hits in four at-bats, scoring twice and driving in a run as well from the leadoff spot.
“She hasn’t been in the leadoff spot in a while either—it’s a change we had to make today because Emme [Martinez] is out sick so we kind of had to mix the lineup around a little bit,” Obrest said. “It worked out well. … I was glad we were able to put her in that spot today. I thought she did awesome.”
By no means was this a win that was in the bag from pitch number one, though. Frei had to work out of a bases loaded, two-out jam in the top of the first, getting the Irish’s Melissa Rochford to pop out to end the inning. After DiEmmanuele was caught stealing for the first of two times on the afternoon, Frei returned to the mound and promptly gave up a home run to deep left field off the bat of M.K. Bonamy to spot Notre Dame an early one run lead.
Frei then walked Madison Heide, before finally settling in. A grounder, Frei’s first strikeout, and a liner straight at left fielder Annie Murphy put an end to the inning. The Eagles’ ace faced just four batters in the third, surrendering one walk before heading back to the dugout with the score still 1-0 in the Irish’s favor.
That’s when BC’s bats came to life.
Katie Beriont started the game for Notre Dame, and she initially had little trouble working through the Eagles’ lineup. In the bottom of the third, though, she lost control of the game. Allyson Moore led off the inning with a walk, Olivia Markopoulos sacrificed to move Moore to second, and then DiEmmanuele came to the plate on a mission.
She laced a liner into the right center gap, and the ball one-hopped to the wall as Moore scampered home. DiEmmanuele’s speed didn’t let her down, as she raced over to third base, sliding in safe well before Abby Sweet’s throw arrived for the Irish, tying the game.
Up next, Chloe Sharabba squeezed a perfect bunt that scored DiEmmanuele, all while reaching base safely herself.
BC’s third run of the inning was a little more strange. Murphy came to the plate and nailed a liner right off Beriont—the ball ricocheted slowly to shortstop Katie Marino, but Sharabba rounded second to go to third when she shouldn’t have, ending up in a pickle. The senior played it perfectly, eventually sliding back into second safely, but Murphy was already there and had to try to run back to first—she never got there. But with two outs, C.C. Cook stepped to the plate and knocked a single to left that brought Sharabba home to give the Eagles and Frei a 3-1 lead heading into the fourth inning.
The edge was short-lived. Frei surrendered a single to Bonamy and struck out Heide, and then disaster struck. Notre Dame’s Alexis Bazos squared to bunt, dribbling the ball down the third base line. Carly Severini arrived quickly and tried to throw out Bonamy at second, but her delivery was just wide of Markopoulos’ glove and squirted past the center fielder DiEmmanuele, allowing Bonamy to score and Bazos to advance to third on the error. Frei then hit Sweet, who stole second uncontested, and the Irish’s Ali Wester hit a single into right field to bring Bazos home to tie the game up. Cait Brooks was up next and lined out to left, but the damage was done—the teams were tied at three.
That wouldn’t last long either: Beriont was promptly replaced by Brooks in the circle in the bottom of the fourth, and the junior promptly gave the lead right back to BC. She started off well, striking out Jordan Chimento, but surrendered back-to-back singles to Cami Sellers and Moore. Markopoulos sacrificed again to move the runners to second and third. With two outs, DiEmmanuele clinked the ball back to Brooks, but the pitcher botched the putout, allowing both runners to score and DiEmmanuele to speed into third base again. Sharabba walked, and Murphy ran out an infield single, pushing DiEmmanuele across for BC’s sixth run of the day.
This time, the Eagles’ lead lasted through the final out: The Irish threatened in the sixth, but Frei stranded two on base, and although Notre Dame chased the starter after Morgan Reed knocked a pitch in on her hands into the outfield for a single, Jessica Dreswick came through in relief. After hitting two batters and walking one to bring in a run, the senior forced Sweet to ground out to Severini with the bases loaded to send the Eagles faithful home happy.
The importance of this game in the long run comes down to Frei’s effectiveness: After her worst performance potentially of the season, it was vital to BC’s continued success that she bounce back as soon as possible. By no means was this her best performance of the year, but rebounding to pick up a victory so soon after having the plug pulled on her outing last than an inning in—against the same opponent no less—should restore her confidence. With two more ACC series to play, the Eagles need their ace at her best to improve their record down the stretch of the season.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor