Marucci’s 10th college round-up of the 2019 season highlights UMBC softball’s journey to a conference title. The Retrievers were chosen to finish last in the league’s preseason poll and on Saturday hoisted the 2019 America East Conference Tournament championship.
“It just goes to show you what an amazing group of women that we have,” UMBC head softball coach Chris Kuhlmeyer said. “The job that they did this year to believe in what we were doing and compete with a lot of great teams – we had so many close games with the top-three teams in our conference we knew that we could make a run and win this thing. They bought into that, believed it and showed up and played the best ball of the year this past weekend.”
The squad had to endure several down points throughout the season, including two one-run losses at Stony Brook and a seven-game span from April 19-28 that resulted in just one victory.
“That was a little bit of a tough stretch,” Kuhlmeyer said. “During that time we lost several one-run ballgames to the three top teams in our conference. Those one-run games gave the team confidence. I just kept telling them that we’re not that far away.”
UMBC responded by claiming a series against Hartford and behind back-to-back no-hitters from freshman Courtney Coppersmith, the Retrievers won its next four games en route to being crowned champions. UMBC bested Hartford 3-0, downed No. 1 seed UMass Lowell 5-0 and got its revenge on the Seawolves by beating them twice, 5-2 and 4-0, capped by a complete-game shutout from Coppersmith. Consequently, Coppersmith was named the AE Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player, allowing just two runs and striking out 33 in 28 innings pitched.
“Courtney is a relentless competitor and she’s fearless on the mound,” Kuhlmeyer said. “She just loves to have the ball and be in the circle. She’s a very humble and unassuming kid and loves UMBC and this team. I’m looking forward to what she can do over the next several years and seeing her continue to develop as a pitcher.”
The Retrievers were selected to play in the Norman regional, where they will square off with No. 1 overall seed Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. CST Friday on ESPN2. The matchup will feature one of the top pitchers in the country – Coppersmith – and Sooners All-American third baseman Sydney Romero, one of the best hitters in Division I.
“Oklahoma is a great squad. They’ve won 39 games in a row for a reason,” Kuhlmeyer said. “They’re well-coached – Coach (Patty) Gasso is a legend and a Hall of Famer so her teams are always well-prepared and well-coached. We just have to go out there and keep doing what we’ve been doing – stay loose, have fun and be goofy. We may play our best ball of the year and it may not be enough, but it’s a great opportunity for us to roll the ball out there and see what happens.”