UMBC Softball Returns to the America East Championships; Retrievers take on No. 1 Stony Brook on Thursday

UMBC Softball Returns to the America East Championships; Retrievers take on No. 1 Stony Brook on Thursday

America East Championship Central

BALTIMORE – UMBC softball is set to make its return to the America East Championships for the first time since 2011 and the sixth time overall when it travels to Stony Brook, N.Y. for the three-day tournament. The fourth-seeded Retrievers open play against the host and top-seeded Seawolves on Thursday, May 8 at 1 p.m. at University Field.

The Retrievers captured the fourth seed in the tournament with an 8-9 conference record and owning the head-to-head tie-breaker over Maine, after taking two-of-three in the series in Orono in mid-April. UMBC concluded the regular-season with a 31-20 overall mark, its  tenth 30-win season in program history and first since 2009.

UMBC led the league in runs scored, runs batted in, hits, home runs and walks during the 2014 season, while also posting the most runs scored, hits and home runs since 2009 and the most extra-base hits and runs batted in since 2007The Retrievers were piloted offensively by the conference's hits, home runs and runs batted in leader, junior catcher Taylor Hall (Cosby, Va./Cosby). Hall posted UMBC single-season top-10 marks in eight categories, including the third-highest home run total (14), fourth-highest batting average (.405) and fifth-highest RBI total (51)Moreover, she ranks in the top-30 nationally in toughest to strikeout (29.4), slugging percentage (.777) and home runs (14).

Sophomore utility player Danielle O'Neill (Lothian, Md./Southern) joined Hall to become just the first Retriever duo since 2006 to each post 10-plus home runs. O'Neill, the lead-off batter, drew a Retrievers' single-season top-10 mark in walks with 33 and led the league in runs scored (43). Her .445 on-base percentage and .529 slugging percentage ranked second on the team. Despite missing time due to injury, senior first baseman Chelsea Bertoglio (Laguna Hills, Calif./Laguna Hills/Saddleback College) was second on the team in runs batted in (28) and posted 11 extra-base hits.

The Retrievers also relied on their youth throughout the season, with freshman Kaelin Jackson (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) and sophomore Bridget O'Malley (Brooklyn, Md./Seton Keough) playing vital roles in UMBC's infield. Jackson was tied for second on the team with 14 extra-base hits, including a team-best three triples, while shortstop O'Malley led the team in stolen bases (seven) and did not miss a start for the second-straight season.

In the circle, UMBC has looked to a rookie cast for a majority of its action and success during the 2014 campaign. The Retrievers were the only America East staff to post a perfect game and a no-hitter this season and allowed the least amount of walks for a UMBC staff since 1996. Freshman Kelly Lane (Albany, N.Y./Colonie Central) registered the program's first perfect game with a season-best 10 strikeouts in a 13-0 victory against UMES. Classmate Jessica Holte (Ashland, Va./Atlee) threw a no-hitter in the contest that clinched the Retrievers' playoff spot in a five-inning 10-0 victory against Hartford. Holte matched the program's highest win total for a freshman, posting an 18-9 overall record on the season and ranks second in the nation in walks allowed per seven innings (0.73). The rookie tossed the most innings in a single-season for a UMBC freshman pitcher in program history (181.1), while also ranking in the top-five in a single-season in starts (24), appearances (31), strikeouts (103) and complete games (22).

Stony Brook (32-16, 15-2 AEC) is the America East regular-season champion and is looking to defend its 2013 America East Tournament title. The Seawolves lead the league in opposing batting average (.230) and rank second in earned run average (2.69), behind a 1.96 ERA from Allison Cukrov. The junior led the America East in wins (21) and saves (three) and posted a team-best seven shutouts.

Offensively, Olivia Mintum led the team with a .310 batting average and 44 hits, while Bria Green drilled 13 home runs and 20 extra-base hits. Green and Shayla Giosia each tallied over 30 runs batted in for the season.