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The Mass Media

Softball registers on radar with redemption season on deck

There’s no soft launch on Columbia Point this year because softball is taking the field by storm in 2024. According to Beacons Athletics, UMass Boston Softball set their 2023 season ablaze with a rocketing 15–4 start, but after a while, they developed a problem, plummeting down to Earth not long after being on track for the moon. Destabilizing their stellar run by dropping 17 of their final 22 matches, the team finished below .500 at 20–21 [1], and now, 10 months removed from their high-speed implosion, they have their sights set on repeating greatness; this time around, there’s no signs of pumping the brakes to help others play catch-up. 

Going into 2024, the Beacons have the tangibles needed to release the burdens of last year. Courtesy of Beacons Athletics’ projected roster for the upcoming season, the biggest takeaway is that, with a complementary mix of first and second years and an abundance of upper-class undergraduates, the team will have key contributors across the board, many of whom were thorns lodged into their opponents’ sides last year and did a lot of damage for UMass Boston on both sides of the ball. For others who may not have had the opportunity to call their shot last year, they’re stepping up to the plate ready to feast on what’s being thrown their way.

When glancing over Beacons Athletics’ stat sheet, some players come to mind when reflecting on past success, including sophomore infielder Lauren Miner and junior outfielder Amauri English. Both players led the team in home runs last season with four four-baggers, not to mention they slotted themselves into the top two in runs batted in—English drove home 32 and Miner scored 27 [2]. Miner was also a speedster between the bases, swiping eight bags on nine attempts to take third place in that category—Sofie Richmond and Sydney Sanden were the only two her senior, finishing with 16 and nine stolen bases on the year, respectively. 

On top of her prowess at the plate, Miner managed to lead the team in triples with five, and ironically enough, all of the aforementioned players finished as the top four hitters for the squad [2]. Miner’s value, alongside that of her fellow lean, mean, hitting machines, is evermore crucial this year; they put together a terrific 2023 campaign and need to continue their bountiful stretch at the plate in order to help the Beacons flourish. 

Then again, something Miner must limit—something the entire team must keep at a minimum, for that matter—are errors. Where Miner and her comrades excelled in hitting, they lacked in fielding; she had a team-high 25 defensive breakdowns in her double-edged sword of a year, and the team collectively didn’t do much better. The Beacons amassed 89 errors last spring, 18 more than the cumulative of their respective opponents [2]. Some of their sloppiest games saw them commit upwards of four errors—it happened on seven different occasions. Their season high in the eyesore statistic came against Vermont State University Castleton April 25, where they emitted seven blunders. Defensive metrics proved to be on the wrong side of history for the program, which is why improving in the field was a must after last season’s combustion.

Of course, there’s still a lot of positives that came from last year’s tragic tale. Offensively, the Beacons outplayed their challengers in nearly every statistical category, the most captivating stat being how many more bombs they hit than their opposition, that being because it tells two different stories. The Beacons hit 11 home runs in 2023, contrary to letting up just a single trip around the bases when throwing howitzers across home plate. 

Their success in preventing the long ball lied in the arm of their superb ace, that being, Bri Melchionda and her iron arm. Melchionda established herself as the team’s top pitcher early on with an absurd 8–0 record to begin the year—her first loss came in game two of a doubleheader against the University of Southern Maine April 8, per Beacons Athletics. [3] Luckily for her, she never threw a pitch bad enough to be raked over the outfield fence. Overall, she finished her impressive season at 12–4, having her hand in 60 percent of the Beacons’ wins. 

Melchionda’s otherworldly 1.42 earned run average puts her in high regard as a top thrower in the Little East Conference, and seeing that number posted with her 136 strikeouts and 25 earned runs would make anybody realize just how bonkers her year was. This year, her magic on the mound will hopefully rub off on other pitchers and streamline the Beacons away from burnout and toward triumph. 

Backtracking to the Beacons’ offensive play, one of their few glaring issues revolve around their over reliability on power hitting. As a result of their motive to swing for the fences, their average takes a massive toll, and strikeouts become more apparent, not to mention the absence of extra base hits. LEC opponents edged the Beacons in batting average .268 to .242, while overall, UMass Boston had less doubles and triples than their combatants; they also struck out more and drew less walks. Their dependability on the “bloop and a blast” tactic may be biting them in the long run, but with better discipline at the dish, the Beacons could shake off the rust in no time. 

With 2023 now behind them, softball hopes to turn a new leaf and continue sprouting with each passing day. The road in the show may be tedious, tiring and tumultuous, but the team knows they can handle the work that’s cut out for them. The commitment to taking trial and error in stride during the offseason can pay off hugely down the line, and if everything stays fair for the Beacons, they may walk off the field with an ultimate redemption story come season’s end. 

  1. 2023 Softball Schedule – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)
  2. 2023 Softball Cumulative Statistics – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)
  3. Tale of Two Games Earns Softball LEC Split With Southern Maine – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

About the Contributor
Nick Collins, Sports Editor