No matter what happens this afternoon against North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals (1:30 PM, NESN/ESPN3), Boston College softball has shattered expectations this season. Tabbed in the preseason coaches' poll to finish 8th and squeeze their way back in to the ACC tournament, the Eagles surprised everyone to finish in the top 4 and win 30 games over the course of the season.
Their 12-9 mark in ACC play this year represents a full 6-game improvement on last year, when they went 6-15; this year will be just the third time in 11 seasons since moving to the ACC that the Eagles will finish the season with an above .500 record overall, and the first time they've been above .500 in ACC play. This is BC's best season since 2004, when they won 33 games; in 2003, they made their most recent trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps more impressively, 5th-year head coach Ashley Obrest has assembled a squad that's risen through the ranks of the ACC despite being a fairly young team; BC has just three seniors, and almost all of their key contributors will be back next year to build off the platform built this season.
But given that BC is on the cusp of possibly making it back to the big dance, they won't be satisfied with their season to date; they'll want to make some noise in Raleigh. If they're going to do so, it's going to be on the arms of Jessica Dreswick and Allyson Frei, the two pitchers who have combined for almost all of BC's innings so far this year.
In college softball, teams tend to rely on one, maybe two pitchers to carry the load. It's been a split responsibility for BC between Dreswick and Frei, both sophomores from New Jersey.
Dreswick, who made headlines for tossing the first no-hitter in program history this year, has posted a 14-7 record in 42 appearances (23 starts). Her ERA is 2.42 and she's held opponents to a .241 batting average. She pitched twice against UNC this season, going 1-1. On April 9, she gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings, but she bounced back the next day to toss 5 shutout innings and earn a big victory.
Frei has been BC's strikeout machine, fanning 185 batters in 172.1 innings. She's 16-13 with a 2.84 ERA, and opponents have hit just .216 against her. She pitched in all 3 games against UNC, starting game 2 and picking up the loss despite pitching fairly well, giving up 4 runs in a complete game.
Thanks to Dreswick and Frei, BC has been one of the best pitching teams in the ACC - third in the conference with a 2.85 ERA. This is the Eagles' edge over UNC, whose team ERA is 4.27; the Tar Heels powered through in to tournament contention by being a high-scoring team, 5th in the ACC with 5.29 runs per game.
For BC's, the story's pretty simple: if Dreswick and Frei can overcome UNC's outstanding offense, BC will keep their pleasant surprise of a season alive for at least one more day - and pitch themselves in to strong contention for an NCAA tournament spot. We find out if they can do it this afternoon at 1:30 PM.