Boston College softball catcher Gianna Boccagno grew up in Coral Springs, Florida, so her team’s eight-game swing through the Sunshine State has been a homecoming of sorts. She made sure to end it on a high note in Miami against Florida International on Thursday night, going 3-for-4 with a go-ahead and eventual game-winning home run in the top of the seventh inning of a 3-2 victory.
Boccagno, who was the starting catcher for Coral Springs Charter School from seventh to 12th grade, has enjoyed a prolific start to her BC (7-11) career. The 5-foot-9 backstop finished the Florida trip—which included a five-game Madeira Beach Tournament and three assorted games—with nine hits and four RBIs. Her final game was her best one, as her team-leading fifth home run of the year came after the Panthers (14-6) had erased a 2-0 deficit.
The Eagles won three of their last four games in Florida, which is important for momentum entering the tough Atlantic Coast Conference slate. BC managed to finish three games above .500 in conference play last season but currently sits in 10th in overall record and has a tough test right off the bat with a three-game series against North Carolina, who’s won three straight.
Still, the win over FIU will be something to build off of. The Panthers entered Thursday night’s matchup having won five straight after completing a clean sweep of the aforementioned Madeira Beach Tournament. They boasted a 10-3 record at home and finished third in the Conference USA standings last season.
Right off the bat, though, BC looked the part of the better team. Lexi Diemmanuele greeted Panthers starter Kendahl Dunford with a single up the middle, moved to third on a single from Ellie Mataya, and scored the game’s first run after a groundout from Emme Martinez. The Eagles tried to get another when Jenn Ergle grounded to the shortstop, but Mataya was caught in a pickle and eventually tagged out trying to go home.
Dunford ran into more trouble in the second, as Boccagno singled through the left side to put the leadoff hitter aboard for the second straight inning. Allyson Moore added a single, then BC used a pair of sacrifices to bring Boccagno in—Gianna Randazza laid down a bunt and Carlie Sanders had an RBI flyout to left field.
The Eagles would chase Dunford in the third after back-to-back singles with two outs, but her replacement, Allison Muraskin, got out of the bases-loaded jam and turned in a good relief outing. The sophomore, a former teammate of Boccagno’s in high school, toed a fine line and stranded five runners on base over the next three innings.
The missed opportunities would initially haunt BC, as starter Susannah Anderson threw a gem through four innings but then ran into trouble. It was ultimately two pitches she’d have loved to have back, as the freshman surrendered a pair of home runs in the fifth and sixth innings. First, after back-to-back strikeouts, FIU’s Jackie Schoff went deep to center field. Then, the next frame, with a slim one-run lead to protect, Anderson allowed Panthers shortstop Jessica Rivera to go deep to the same location.
Suddenly in a deadlocked game, Boccagno seized the opportunity to step up. Muraskin, who’d danced with trouble throughout her relief appearance, struck out Ergle and got Maddison Hamilton to foul out to start the final frame. Then, with two outs in a clutch situation, Boccagno gave her team the lead back. BC nearly had a chance to add a pair of insurance runs two batters later, when Randazza hit a blast to center field with a runner on second, but FIU’s Schoff robbed it at the wall.
The home run saving catch would eventually be rendered moot, though, as the Eagles’ combination of Anderson and reliever Camryn Dolby locked down the win. Anderson was pulled after letting two of the first three batters she faced reach via a single and a hit batsmen. But Dolby entered in the tough situation and did her job, getting a flyout and a groundout to strand the game-winning run on first base.
It was a resilient performance from BC, which has shaken off a 1-5 start to win six of its last 12 games. While .500 doesn’t necessarily seem impressive, the Eagles are playing good softball as of late, even if it’s been tricky for timely hitting and reliable pitching to line up. BC started 1-5 last year as well and ultimately registered a 31-win season, so those early struggles seem to be in the rear view mirror, especially in regard to the last four games—three of which have ended in the win column.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics