ORONO, Maine — After her first three appearances of the season during the spring trip to Florida, University of Maine softball pitcher Erin Bogdanovich sported a 11.54 earned run average. She had been nicked for 19 hits in just 6⅔ innings.
But, in the words of The Monkees song, “That was then, this is now.”
For the junior left-hander from South Portland, “now” has been exceptional. In her last four starts, all against America East teams, Bogdanovich is 4-0 with a miniscule 0.77 ERA.
Last weekend, she notched two wins and allowed one run over 14 innings against defending AE champion Binghamton, which was picked to win the league title in the preseason coaches poll.
Bogdanovich allowed five hits in the two games, struck out nine and walked one.
“When you walk just one in 14 innings, it makes it easy to pitch,” said UMaine head coach Mike Coutts.
She shut out the Bearcats 3-0 on Saturday and notched a 2-1 triumph on Sunday.
Binghamton had entered the series hitting .347 and averaging 7.5 runs per game with 85 extra-base hits in 30 games.
Bogdanovich surrendered only one extra-base hit in the two games.
She also owns a 6-2 victory over Stony Brook, the league’s regular-season titlist a year ago, and a 6-0 triumph over UMass Lowell.
In the four recent starts, she has given up 14 hits in 27 innings with 17 strikeouts and five walks.
“She’s good. She is one of the better pitchers in our conference,” said Binghamton sophomore ace Sarah Miller.
“I’ve just been hitting my spots,” said Bogdanovich. “In Florida, not all of my pitches were working. I wasn’t as confident in myself.”
The development of her knuckle changeup has been instrumental in her success. The offspeed pitch not only gets hitters off balance, it makes her other pitches more effective. She also throws a lively sinking fastball, a drop and a riseball.
Bogdanovich threw her knuckle changeup at South Portland High School, where she was a two-time all-state selection, but she ditched it before resurrecting it last year.
“It has been a work-in-progress,” said Bogdanovich, a former standout 400-meter runner and soccer captain at South Portland. “I tried a bunch of different types of changeups, but I always fall back to this one.
“It really changes the vision of the ball. It changes the speed so even if it isn’t a strike, [it sets up the next pitch],” she said.
UMaine pitching coach and former head coach Lynn Coutts said Bogdanovich has always had her knuckle changeup but lost confidence in it.
“It took about a week in Florida [to re-establish it]. We tweaked a few little things on her stride,” said Coutts. “Her knuckle change floats. You can see it coming, but you can’t hit it.”
“It’s tricky,” said Binghamton slugger Lisa Cadogan.
Miller added that Bogdanovich’s riseball is effective “because there aren’t many pitchers who throw riseballs in our conference.”
“She’s in a real good place right now,” said Lynn Coutts, who added that Bogdanovich “loves to compete.”
“I’m never going to give up,” said Bogdanovich.
“She has a real good mound presence,” Mike Coutts said. “We talk a lot about [concentrating on] one pitch at a time. She has her confidence.”
“I really focus on the present moment and that has helped me all-around. I’ve also become a better person,” said Bogdanovich, who transferred to UMaine from Stetson (Florida) and had the opportunity to play with her older sister Alexis, the America East Pitcher of the Year last season.
She said she used to “get a little down and negative on myself, not my team, but now I’m confident.”
UMaine catcher Janelle Bouchard said Bogdanovich’s fastball has a natural break to it.
“It looks like a drop, but it’s a fastball. Hitters have a hard time hitting it, and when they do, it’s usually a ground ball,” said Bouchard.
Bogdanovich (5-4) induced 12 ground-ball outs on Sunday. She has allowed just one homer in 69⅓ innings and has lowered her ERA to 3.84.
“I throw my fastball like my drop ball. They work hand in hand,” said Bogdanovich.
Bouchard said Bogdanovich has “grown so much since Florida.”
“Her mound presence is so much better. She has been throwing her changeups for strikes and she hadn’t always been able to do that. It has been really good, and her fastball and drop have worked really well,” she added.
Bogdanovich feels her velocity and location have improved and credited her teammates for a lot of her success.
“Everybody has improved. We all pick each other up,” said Bogdanovich. “We all pull together.”
She admitted she didn’t anticipate having the success she has had but said it feels good.
UMaine (17-15, 6-2 AE) hosts Saint Joseph’s College of Standish 4 p.m. Wednesday before traveling to Albany for a crucial three-game conference set on Saturday and Sunday.