After winning a three-game series against the Stony Brook softball team on May 7 and 8, the UMBC Retrievers are the America East regular season champions. Stony Brook demolished UMBC 11-2 in game one and held a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning of game two, needing to retire one more batter for the title. A shocking two-out rally forced a decisive game three that the Seawolves lost 4-1.
A series win would have given Stony Brook its first regular season title since 2015 and home field advantage in the playoffs. However, head coach Megan T. Bryant is confident in her team’s ability to win on the road.
“Everybody wants to win the regular season title and host [the playoffs],” Bryant said in an interview with The Statesman. “But the reality is the tournament, no matter where it is, is a whole separate season and a time for everybody to reboot.”
UMBC junior pitcher Courtney Coppersmith threw all 14 innings of the Retriever’s two wins, totaling 17 strikeouts and allowing three runs. She finishes the season with an 0.71 ERA, the lowest mark in the America East since 2001 and sixth-best overall.
However, graduate pitcher Melissa Rahrich was unfazed by Coppersmith’s high-velocity throws. She hit her 164th career RBI with a solo home run in the first inning of game two, breaking Shayla Giosia’s program record from 2015. Rahrich finished the series with two home runs and six RBIs.
“I wasn’t expecting to [break the RBI record] today, just ‘cause I had a slow start to the season,” Rahrich said. “I knew I was close but i didn’t think I’d do it in one day. That record means a lot to me too. I’ve been striving all season, so it feels good to finally do it.”
Stony Brook began the season 9-1 in-conference, but dropped into a first-place tie with UMBC after being swept by Albany last weekend. As the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, their sights are now set on securing the program’s first championship since 2013 — the one accolade Rahrich has yet to earn.
“I think we’re getting a taste of what that championship is going to feel like and what it’s gonna take,” Rahrich said. “All these ball games are preparing us for that.”
The Seawolves tied their season-high with 11 runs in their game one mercy-rule victory, led by four RBIs from Rahrich on 2-for-3 hitting. They went through the entire batting order in a four-run first inning that featured RBIs from Rahrich, junior designated player Lindsey Osmer and freshman left fielder Julianna Sanzone.
“That’s great for momentum,” Bryant said of the team’s powerful start. “We came out throwing some punches and kept the pressure on. We were really productive offensively.”
Rahrich added a two-run homer in the second inning, and graduate third baseman Riley Craig hit a line drive single to score two runners and make it an 8-0 game. By the time UMBC third baseman Casey Turner hit a two-run home run in the fifth, the game was already out of reach.
Senior pitcher Dawn Bodrug threw nine strikeouts and held UMBC to two runs.
Rahrich got the ball in game two and nearly secured the regular season title single-handedly. Her record-breaking home run and sixth-inning RBI single were the only runs Stony Brook scored, and she came within one out of throwing a shutout.
However, a series of wild pitches and infield errors allowed UMBC freshman first baseman Ashley Della Guardia to score in the seventh inning. Two singles later, the Seawolves were behind 3-2 and the crowd at University Field was silenced.
Coppersmith then took control, graduate catcher Jordyn Nowakowski, Craig and Sanzone to end the game and set up a winner-take-all rematch on Saturday. The Seawolves got four hits off of Coppersmith, tying her season-high, but struck out 10 times.
“First game was pretty special,” Bryant said. “The second game the effort was there, the result just wasn’t. It’s a battle of the two top teams in the America East, you knew it was going to come down to the wire.”
Game three was a showdown between Coppersmith and Bodrug, far and away the conference’s best pitchers. They both struck out seven batters, but Coppersmith allowed two hits to Bodrug’s four to hand the Seawolves another defeat.
Unlike Friday, the Retrievers’ runs came gradually throughout the game. Singles in the second and sixth innings and a home run by designated player Madison Wilson in the fourth gave UMBC a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Graduate center fielder Jourdin Hering led off with a home run on the first pitch she saw, but Coppersmith retired the next three batters in only six pitches. She ended the game in similar fashion — Nowakowski drew a walk to give the Seawolves some hope, but Craig and Sanzone popped up for the final two outs of the regular season.