Graduate pitcher Melissa Rahrich in a game against UMBC on May 7. Rahrich became Stony Brook’s all-time hit leader on May 14 against Albany in the America East playoffs. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook softball team advanced to the title game of the 2021 America East Softball Championship, falling just short of a ring to a familiar foe. The third-seeded Seawolves lost two games against No. 1 seed UMBC, who took home its second consecutive title — both against Stony Brook. The Seawolves also won two games against Albany in the double-elimination tournament but had no answer for the best pitcher in the conference.

UMBC junior Courtney Coppersmith, the America East Pitcher of the Year, allowed one run in three playoff starts. She threw a 1-0 shutout in Saturday’s decisive game, securing the victory even though Stony Brook senior Dawn Bodrug pitched a one-hitter.

Despite the loss, the Seawolves reached a number of personal milestones during the tournament. The final hit of graduate pitcher Melissa Rahrich’s career was her 246th, breaking Kristen Brust’s 2005 program record. Rahrich retires as the most decorated player in team history: a two-time America East Player of the Year and the program’s RBI leader. 

Bodrug ended the season with 245 strikeouts, the third-best in Stony Brook history.

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The Seawolves began the tournament with a 10-5 win against Albany, exacting revenge for a series sweep during the regular season. An eight-run first inning led the way and Bodrug struck out eight Great Danes to hold on for the win.

“I think that we really came out and made a statement as a team and showed a little bit of what we can do,” Rahrich said in a postgame press release. “At the plate it felt great today, and starting out by putting us on the board in the first inning was an amazing feeling.”

Rahrich opened the scoring with a two-run homer to plate graduate center fielder Jourdin Hering, firing up the Seawolves’ dugout. The next seven batters all reached base, a streak that included RBI singles from graduate third baseman Riley Craig, freshman left fielder Julianna Sanzone and Hering. When freshman designated player Kyra McFarland’s sacrifice fly gave Stony Brook an 8-0 lead, the Seawolves were already starting their second trip through the order.

The win set up a game with UMBC on Friday morning, a 4-1 loss that put a damper on Stony Brook’s title hopes. Rahrich struggled to contain the Retrievers’ offense in the final pitching start of her career, allowing nine hits and striking out two.

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The Seawolves notched four hits, an impressive number against Coppersmith, but walked away with only a second-inning RBI single from Craig to show for it. UMBC senior left fielder Sierra Pierce responded with a two-run double in the bottom of the second that gave the Retrievers a 3-1 lead they did not relinquish.

Albany defeated UMass Lowell immediately after the game, leading to another matchup with Stony Brook that afternoon. The 6-1 victory was a showcase of Stony Brook’s freshman talent, starting with McFarland’s second-inning RBI single and punctuated by Sanzone’s three-run homer in the fourth inning.

Bodrug returned to form and struck out twelve batters, catching most of them looking on rising fastballs. She surrendered a first-inning run to Great Danes senior first baseman Maranda Jimenez, who has had Bodrug’s number all season, but allowed only six additional baserunners. Albany had not been held under two runs in nearly a month.

Rahrich’s record-breaking single came in the fifth inning.

Stony Brook took the field for the final time on Saturday against UMBC for a showdown between Coppersmith and Bodrug. Because they already lost once to the Retrievers, Stony Brook would have needed to win twice in a row to win the championship.

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But Coppersmith’s dominance made that fact irrelevant. She drew fly balls from almost every Seawolves batter, only allowing multiple baserunners in the fifth inning because of an error that let Sanzone reach. Just McFarland and sophomore right fielder Shauna Nuss were able to get hits.

Bodrug turned in one of the best performances of her outstanding season, preserving a no-hitter bid and a scoreless tie until the sixth inning. However, UMBC senior center fielder Julia Keffler drew a full-count walk and quickly stole second base, allowing her to score on Pierce’s single — the only hit Bodrug surrendered. Pierce finished the tournament with four RBIs and was awarded Most Outstanding Player.

A Saznone walk put the tying run on base with one out remaining in the seventh inning, but Coppersmith drew a soft groundout from Nuss to end the season.

The Seawolves’ core group of graduate players — Rahrich, Hering, Craig, catcher Jordyn Nowakowski and outfielder Alina Lance  — retire without a championship to their names but as one of the most accomplished groups of athletes the program has seen. All but Lance played their entire careers at Stony Brook, and the five women led the team to 112 wins over the past five seasons.

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