Softball

Syracuse’s offensive struggles continue in 4th straight loss

Zach Barlow | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse struggled in the batter's box on Tuesday and recorded just four hits against Binghamton. SU trailed for most of the game and lost 2-1.

VESTAL, N.Y. — Sammy Fernandez led off the sixth inning with a groundout to shortstop. As she ran through first base and into the outfield grass, she let out a sigh. Her head slumped. She began her slow stroll back to the dugout.

For Syracuse, the walk from the grass beyond first base into the dugout has become all too familiar. Six hits in 14 innings of a doubleheader on Saturday. One hit on Sunday afternoon. Four scattered hits on Tuesday night. In its last four games, Syracuse has managed just 11 hits and three runs.

In its last four games, Syracuse is winless.

“Offensively, it’s been up and down,” SU head coach Mike Bosch said. “We have not hit the ball. That’s why we have to play defense, because offensively, we’ve not put any runs up for three games.”

Syracuse’s (27-25, 9-14 Atlantic Coast) offensive woes continued in a 2-1 loss to the Bearcats (31-13, 12-3 America East) on Tuesday night at the Bearcats Softball Complex.

Backed by strong defense, a strong outing in relief from AnnaMarie Gatti held the Bearcats to just two runs. But until the seventh inning, no Syracuse batter had advanced beyond second base.

The Orange went down in order three times on Tuesday, including in the fourth inning. Andrea Bombace grounded out to third. Rachel Burkhardt grounded out to third. Hannah Dossett lined to shortstop. Three pitches. Three outs.

“They were throwing that first pitch strike,” SU assistant coach Kristyn Sandberg said. “We didn’t do enough with that first-pitch strike.”

After three consecutive groundouts in the sixth, the Bearcats seemed to have a command it would not give up. But what happened next seemed to mask any of its offensive shortcomings in the six innings prior.

In the top of the seventh, Burkhardt tied the score at one with a blast over the Holiday Inn Express & Suites sign in left-center field. Binghamton center fielder Jessica Rutherford trotted back a few steps before turning her back to the plate. She watched it soar over the fence.

Nestled beside a green portable fence past the outfield wall just 10 or 15 yards from Vestal Parkway East, the ball — the one that gave the Orange hope — rested there.

But that was all the offense SU produced.

What made the Bearcats starter Cara Martin so effective was her ability to pound the zone. She poured first pitch strikes with her drop ball. Then, when ahead in the count, she’d dazzle change ups that induced whiffs or weak grounders to the left side. Of SU’s 17 groundouts, 13 were to the left side of the infield. Martin walked none in her complete game effort.

“Her change-up was her go-to,” Bearcats head coach Michelle Burrell said. “(That’s) why we saw a lot of groundballs to left side of the field.”

In last weekend’s series against Boston College, Syracuse hitters got pitches inside with some zip. On Tuesday, it was drop balls and curveballs away. This, Sandberg said, made it hard for Syracuse batters to adjust.

“We kind of drove home to them not to get jammed on the inner half of the plate,” Sandberg said. “And you come out today and you get the pitcher who throws drop and curve on the outer half of the plate.’’

First it was fastballs on the inside. Then it was breaking balls on the outside. It’s been four games in which the Orange’s offense has remained anemic.

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