A local pipeline: BU softball loaded with former Section IV stars
This past summer Jessica Bump did something different.
The starting second baseman at Binghamton University, Bump once again joined the Diamond Dusters for a summer of softball.
Only this time she put away her bat and glove and joined the team as a coach.
"It was a lot of fun coaching them," Bump said. "I loved working with Bill (Hampton). It was a great experience. It was tough watching and not playing, but it was fun."
Once the this spring began Bump was back on the field, at her familiar spot at second base for BU, having a dominant season. She is currently second on the team with a .358 average, tied for the team lead with eight home runs, second on the team with 33 RBI and leading the team with 38 runs scored.
However, things are a lot different for Bump this year, now two of the players she coached over the summer Griffin McIver and Savonna Connolly, are her freshmen teammates with the Bearcats.
"It's been really fun. It helps a lot. It's hard going from high school to college. It was definitely a help," McIver said of knowing Bump before she joined Binghamton. "She definitely gave us a heads up on what to expect, so it wasn't such a shock for us."
"She is such a role model for me on the field," Connolly said of Bump. "It definitely helped having her here."
For Bump the time coaching this summer helped the junior as she has started to take on a bigger leadership role.
The one challenge at first was that Bump had played on the Dusters. She had been teammates with all the girls and now she was one of their coaches.
"It was hard for them at first I think, having to take orders from me," Bump said. "We are all friends, so it was tough at first, but it got better."
The three former Dusters players are joined by eight other Bearcats teammates who are from the state of New York. Bump is a Windsor graduate, McIver a Union-Endicott grad and Connolly is a Vestal grad. Along with those three Taylor Chaffee (Watkins Glen) and Shannon Kane and Mikayla King (Chenango Valley) are all former Section IV players.
"Bill (Hampton) has done a great job with the Dusters program," Binghamton University head coach Michelle Burrell said. "It helps to be able to stay local if we can."
Being able to bring in Section IV players has also meant some bigger crowds at Binghamton games and it also has meant drawing a little more interest locally from high school players.
"From their high school teams, their travel teams, their families there are a lot more fans in the stands for games," Burrell said. "We have a lot more interest now from local travel teams and high school teams."
One thing that has helped is that the Section IV players are not only playing for Binghamton, they are succeeding.
All three former Dusters players have had a strong season so far. Along with the big season that Bump is having, McIver and Connolly also have found success in their roles.
McIver is hitting .385 with a home run and six RBI in 13 at bats, while Connolly has two at bats with a hit and three RBIs and she has scored eight runs this year.
"They have been doing a great job," Burrell said. "Griffin gets in a lot of pinch hit situations and has done well. Savonna has done a great job as a base runner for us. Bump has done a fantastic job. She is the hardest worker and all that hard work is paying off right now."
For Bump it's been nice having a few of her former Dusters teammates now join her at Binghamton.
"It's nice to be able to play with girls I played with," she said.
One of the biggest challenges for the two freshmen is getting used to completely different roles.
In high school both McIver and Connolly were stars, players who were used to being on the field all the time.
Now, they are in a different role. Connolly is often coming off the bench to pinch run, while McIver is often entering in the game as a pinch hitter.
"It's definitely different," McIver said. "I have to make every at bat count and try and get a good one."
"It's different for me, I am just happy to contribute to this team any way I can. I have to keep my legs loose and run between innings."
This is a young Bearcats team and that has helped the transition for all the freshmen as they have others going through the same thing.
"It's easier we all work together really well," McIver said.
And the upperclassmen can already see how talented the newcomers are.
"The freshmen have done a great job already," Bump said.
And, the freshmen aren't the only new thing for Binghamton as they have settled into their new field this year.
"It's really fun to be able to play on this field," McIver said.