2019 Season in Review: Softball

After losing the pitching duo of Allyson Frei and Jessica Dreswick, as well as key hitters Chloe Sharabba and Annie Murphy, it was expected that Boston College softball would undergo a bit of a rebuild in 2019—especially on the mound. Indeed, with an entirely new starting rotation and plenty of youth in the lineup, the Eagles weren’t able to match their 30-win season from a year ago. BC won just one conference series all season long and finished the season 18-35, which led to the resignation of long-time Eagles head coach Ashley Obrest.

Best Moment: Walk-Off ACC Wins

BC didn’t find much success in conference play this season, finishing just 4-20 in the ACC, but when the Eagles did win, they did so in the late innings. It first happened against Syracuse, in the opening game of a weekend series. After falling behind, 3-0, in the second inning, BC rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the frame, thanks to an two-run single from Lexi DiEmmanuele and a sacrifice fly from Ellie Mataya. Neither team would score again until the Eagles finally broke through in the seventh inning. Gianna Randazza led off the frame with a walk before DiEmmanuele put two runners on with a line drive single into left field. Then, Emme Martinez, who provided clutch hits for BC all season long, stepped up to the plate and laced a game-winning base hit through the right side of the infield, giving the Eagles their first conference win of the season in dramatic fashion.

One week later, against N.C. State, BC repeated the feat. This time, the Eagles trailed, 3-1, entering the final frame before coming all the way back to secure a 4-3 victory. The rally started when Martinez sent a Devin Wallace pitch back up the middle for BC’s first hit of the contest. Gianna Boccagno followed suit with a single into left to put two runners on, and then Jenna Ergle walked to load the bases. Allyson Moore made the most of the opportunity, driving in two runs and tying the game with a base hit, and Maddison Hamilton completed the comeback with an RBI fielder’s choice.

Worst Moment: Getting Shutout Three Times by Florida State

In 2018, the Eagles beat the Seminoles, 1-0, for the first time since 2008, in large part because of a masterful pitching performance from Frei. This year, however, it was FSU’s pitching staff that shut down BC’s bats. In Tallahassee, the Eagles were held scoreless not once, but three times by the then-No. 1 Seminoles. On Friday, Meghan King pitched a complete game shutout, while FSU struck for three runs in the first two innings, en route to a 5-0 win. Saturday, the story was the same. Makinzy Herzog got the start in the circle for the Seminoles and pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in the process. Meanwhile, FSU was once again hot in the early going, tagging BC starter Susannah Anderson for four runs in the first inning. The Seminoles would add to their lead with three runs in the fifth inning and locked up a series win with a 7-0 victory.

Then on Sunday, FSU capped the weekend shutout with a five-hit complete game performance from Kathryn Sandercock. The Eagles managed just five hits and only put multiple runners on base twice. BC had its share of offensive struggles in 2019, but the weekend series against the Seminoles was certainly a low point.

MVP: Lexi DiEmmanuele

In her final campaign with BC, DiEmmanuele was undoubtedly the Eagles’ best player. Early in the season, in a game against Central Michigan, the senior broke the program record for career stolen bases and continued to be a force on the base paths for the rest of the season. She finished the year with 22 steals to lead BC, ending her career with 103 total stolen bases. DiEmmanuele was also the Eagles’ best hitter, raking a team-best .352 from the plate, recording 63 hits, and scoring a team-high 27 runs in the process. DiEmmanuele also was an excellent center fielder for BC, committing just three errors for an Eagles team that often struggled fielding the ball, registering a fielding percentage of .956. When all was said and done, the senior was named to the All-ACC Second Team.

Most Improved Player: Allyson Moore

Moore endured a miserable 2018, starting 34 games but batting just .171. In 2019, though, the senior improved mightily at the plate, nearly doubling her hit total while boasting a solid .352 slugging percentage. She ended the year with eight doubles and tied for second on the team with 18 runs batted in, a year after notching just 10 RBIs. In the field, the senior played a versatile role, swapping between catcher and first base and doing her part to guide an inexperienced pitching staff through the tough ACC.

Rookie of the Year: Ellie Mataya

On a team loaded with freshmen, Mataya was the most consistent first-year Eagles player. She played all 50 games, starting 49 contests in the outfield, and led all BC freshmen with a .264 batting average. Mataya also logged 18 RBIs, tying Moore for second-most on the team, and 12 multi-hit games, also second-best for the Eagles. On the base paths, she used her speed effectively, stealing nine bases on 11 attempts. All told, next season Mataya will likely be tasked with replacing DiEmmanuele in center field, and hitting leadoff. If her freshman year campaign accurately represents her potential, BC will have one of its offensive cornerstones for 2020.     

Season Storylines:

1) Youthful Pitching Staff

BC’s starting pitching rotation was its strength in 2018, but with the graduation of Dreswick and the transfer of Frei to Virginia, the Eagles were forced to rely on the freshman duo of Camryn Dolby and Anderson for the bulk of their weekend starts in 2019. As expected, both had their moments, as well as their fair share of struggles. Anderson finished the season with 174 innings pitched—top on the team—and a 3.94 ERA, also lowest on the team, and had some sparkling starts. Against East Carolina in February, the freshman went the distance, pitching a complete game, four-hit shutout. Two weeks later, Anderson—who finished the season 6-19—repeated the feat, throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing just three hits in a win against Penn. She also threw a career-high eight frames against Connecticut, allowing four runs on nine hits in another victory.

Dolby posted a record of 10-10 for BC and struck out 116 batters to lead the team. In the Eagles’ walk-off win over Syracuse, she pitched five stellar innings of relief, allowing just one hit and no runs, picking up her first-ever ACC win. Then, in April against Fairfield, she threw BC’s fourth shutout of the season, giving up just a lone hit in a complete game effort. Those performances—from both Dolby and Anderson—certainly flash potential in upcoming seasons.

2) Obrest’s Resignation

2019 also saw Obrest’s tenure come to an end. The BC alum and Eagles head coach—who resigned with a record of 200-219, and 66-113 in the ACC—led the program for eight years and did lead the Eagles to five winning seasons, but also lacked any sort of postseason success during her stay. BC didn’t win a single game in the ACC Tournament under Obrest and failed to make the NCAA Tournament during her time in Chestnut Hill. Whoever is tasked with replacing Obrest will aim to end that postseason drought.

3) Inconsistency at the Plate

The Eagles were inconsistent at best at the plate in 2019. They finished the season with a team batting average of .249, third-lowest in the ACC, and had just two hitters—Martinez and DiEmmanuele—that batted over .300. BC was also shut out 13 times after being held scoreless just six times in 2018, and the Eagles didn’t just struggle to hit against conference competition. They were blanked by Holy Cross, a team BC hadn’t lost to since 1996, and Providence—which lost in the first round of the Big East Tournament and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Those offensive struggles will certainly have to vanish next season if the Eagles are going to improve on their 18-35 record.

What’s Next?

BC loses both DiEmmanuele and Moore, its top two hitters, but will still have bats like Martinez—who hit .321 this season—as well as power in Gianna Boccagno, to rebuild its offense. The Eagles’ pitching rotation of Anderson and Dolby will likely improve with a season of ACC experience under their belt. There remains uncertainty regarding who will be coaching BC—there’s still been no announcement as to who will replace Obrest—but the Eagles theoretically have the talent to rebound and reach the 30-win mark again. Struggle at the plate again, though, and 2020 could look eerily similar to 2019.

Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / Heights Staff

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About Peter Kim 164 Articles
Peter Kim is the assistant sports editor of The Heights. He’s from Seattle, will die happy if the Mariners make the playoffs once in his lifetime, and still refuses to watch any of Super Bowl XLIV. Follow him on twitter @PeterKim_4