Party like it’s 2014.
For the first time in eight years, UB softball has a winning record through its first 20 games of the season — a stunning turnaround for a program that lost 15 of its first 20 games last year.
Led by junior pitcher Alexis Lucyshyn, senior catcher Olivia Kincanon and junior infielder Brianna Castro, the Bulls have their sights set on their first MAC Tournament berth since 2014.
Lucyshyn, in particular, has stood out for the Bulls. Last year’s first-team All-MAC selection has a .345 batting average, thanks to 20 hits, 17 runs batted-in and three home runs. The Calgary, Alberta native has also struck out 39 opponents while walking only eight batters in 60.2 innings pitched — an impressive combination that has turned her into one of the conference’s most productive two-way players.
Castro has also impressed at the plate, adding a .340 batting average in 53 at-bats. Castro, who primarily plays second base, has 18 hits, nine runs batted-in, one homerun and eight strikeouts so far. Kincanon has dutifully aided her pitching staff while putting up a .241 batting average courtesy of 13 hits and a team-high four home runs. But she is among the team’s leaders with 16 strikeouts.
The Bulls have once again relied on the long ball, but strikeouts continue to be their Achilles’ heel. The Bulls have struck out 154 times in 502 plate appearances; their opponents have struck out 78 times in 546 at showings at the plate against the Bulls.
But head coach Mike Ruechel says he isn’t worried about this trend and uses a “swing for the fences” mentality on offense.
“I could reduce strikeouts by half by telling them to just put the bat on the ball, but then they’re just easy outs. If I could get them to strike one out of three and it’s a double or a home run, we’re just more productive,” Ruechel said in an interview with The Spectrum earlier in the month. “The philosophy is not just to get people on, but to get people in. We feel that we can win games on four hits versus needing eight, nine hits.”
The Bulls are getting out-hit and out-scored this season, but have still enjoyed success.
Despite some shakiness at the plate, Buffalo has earned some impressive wins, none bigger than their triumph over Power 5 foe Penn State at the Panther Invitational in Miami, FL in their third game of the season. That marked their first win over a Power 5 team since 2014.
UB began conference play with a bang last weekend, defeating Ohio University by one run in back-to-back games (4-3 the first game, 3-2 the second), before falling in their third match, 10-2.
Buffalo clutched its largest victory over Toledo on Friday, overpowering them 13-3. Aided by Lucyshyn, Kincanon and sophomore infielder Rachel Steffan, the Bulls managed 11 hits and 13 RBI’s. The teams were scheduled to play a three-game road series, but the Saturday doubleheader was canceled due to poor weather.
UB will hit the turf against Canisius College on Tuesday for a cross-town showdown against their MEAC foe. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m., followed by the second game of the doubleheader, at 4 p.m.
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is studying communications with the hopes of being a sideline reporter. In her spare time, she can be found in the gym, watching football or vibing to Mac Miller. Kayla is on Twitter @kaylasterner.