It was déjà vu all over again for Boston College softball by the end of the 2018 season. The Eagles were plucked from the ACC Tournament by Notre Dame for the third time in five years, this time upset by a disappointing five runs to the lower seed.
It’s now been over 11 years since BC upset North Carolina State—the last time the team won a conference tournament game. Calling the pitches behind the plate in that game was none other than now-head coach Ashley Obrest. Although the Eagles have been waiting for too long to end up on the other side of tournament knockouts, there’s now no denying that Obrest has turned this team around.
With a win over Georgia Tech in BC’s final regular season game, the seventh-year coach has now posted three-straight 30-win seasons, an unprecedented act as far as the program is concerned. To put things in perspective, when Obrest took the head coaching job back in 2012, the Eagles were coming off a lackluster 15-31 season.
Today—thanks to a number of memorable moments over the course of the season—the future is much brighter.
BC is coming off a season in which five of its players received All-ACC honors—none more important than then-senior pitcher Jessica Dreswick. The BC all-time wins leader was absolutely lights out on the mound this year, striking out 184 batters en route to a team-low .214 opposing batting average.
The New Jersey native exercised her dominance in the circle on multiple occasions, notably hitting double-digit strikeout totals in games against Texas State, Central Connecticut, then-No. 18 Ole Miss, and UConn—all BC victories.
On top of that, Dreswick shocked the conference in a March 23 run-rule contest against Virginia where she threw the first perfect game in program history.
Dreswick won’t be leaving the Eagles’ pitching staff without an answer going forward, though. Returning for her redshirt-senior season in 2019 is another New Jersey-bred starter in Allyson Frei—whose 2.53 earned run average was just a 10th of a point higher than Dreswick’s this past season. The duo combined for a whopping 53 games started during the 2018 season, striking out 325 batters along the way.
Best Moment: The Streak
It’d be difficult to recap the Eagles’ season without bringing to light the 13-consecutive games, spanning the months of March and April, that resulted in the longest winning streak in program history.
Beginning with Dreswick’s perfect game over the Cavaliers and ending with a complete game shutout performance from Frei in a win versus then-No. 13 Florida State—a team that finished with a 21-3 record in conference play—the Eagles shocked both the softball world and perhaps even themselves.
Entering that first game against Virginia, BC looked nothing like the team it would soon become. The 9-15 Eagles were coming off a dreadful ACC weekend series, in which they were swept by Duke. With a home debut in the new Harrington Athletics Village less than a month away, BC needed to give fans a reason to fill the stands.
After cleaning out conference foes in Virginia, Syracuse, and North Carolina State, as well as New England rivals Boston University and Providence, the Eagles bested UMass, Connecticut, and the Seminoles at Brighton Field. The three non-conference wins also capped a remarkable 8-0 run against non-ACC teams to finish the season.
In most cases, winning streaks in softball—just as in baseball—are often chalked up as a great deal of luck rather than skill. Not in BC’s case. During the 13-game stretch, the team outscored its opponents, 85-22, and while many of its ACC wins were against the cellar-dwellers of the conference, BC’s ability to carry momentum from that first game against FSU proved that the Eagles truly did have what it takes to compete with the best in the country.
Worst moment: Losses in Louisville
BC was still riding high even after their magical run had come to an end. After stealing two wins away from powerful Notre Dame, BC headed south to Kentucky to face Louisville, a team desperately looking up at the Eagles in the conference standings.
The Eagles held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first game of the series, but a three-run home run from Megan Hensley quickly changed the direction of the game. The next day, again with BC holding a 2-1 lead, Hensley struck with a two-run RBI single in the fifth inning—giving the Cardinals a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
With two wins by a combined three runs, it seemed the tide was due to turn in Game Three. It didn’t. Louisville used runs in all but the third inning to run away with an 8-0 run-rule victory, sending Frei home with her 11th loss of the season.
A chance to make a name for itself in ACC competition turned into the end of the line for the Eagles. BC would go on to lose another series to Georgia Tech—its last three-game set before a postseason defeat at the hands of the Irish.
Dreswick’s departure will certainly have an effect on BC next season. The 6-foot-2 righty accounted for 58 percent of all innings by Eagles pitchers and finished with 18 wins. Still, Frei will be there to pick up the pieces.
As for hitting, the Eagles have a lot more to make up. Seniors Jordan Chimento, Annie Murphy, and Chloe Sharabba will all be gone next year. The three were tops on the team in on base percentage, and the latter two were the only players on the team to maintain a .300-plus batting average.
Sharabba’s six deep shots also led the team. Her offensive power will be replaced by Cami Sellers, as the two combined for over half of BC’s home runs (11-of-20). Sellers is part of a very strong freshman class for BC, as fellow freshmen starters Emme Martinez and C.C. Cook are No. 1 and 2 in batting average among returning players.
With so much talent lost this offseason, Obrest’s coaching abilities will be put to the test next spring. Even then, however, an influx of young talent means there is still hope for years to come.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor