Every sports team has one ultimate goal, according to Binghamton University baseball head coach Tim Sinicki. Everyone wants to win a championship.
And in that respect, the Bearcats’ 2012 season was a failure.
Binghamton reached the America East tournament as the No. 3 seed, but after beating University at Albany, the Bearcats fell to eventual champion Stony Brook University before being eliminated by the University of Maine.
But even though the Bearcats didn’t win the America East crown, Sinicki said they had a successful season if you “look at the big picture.”
Renovation of Varsity Field relegated Binghamton’s practices to the multipurpose soccer and lacrosse field and games to anywhere but its home field. The Bearcats played three games at the Binghamton Mets’ NYSEG Stadium, but all other games were at least an hour’s bus ride away.
Yet the Bearcats still finished with a respectable 23-26 overall record — 13-9 in America East play — good enough for a conference tournament berth.
“I dare any other program at this University to be put on the road for 47 out of 50 games, or whatever it ended up being, and still having their kids perform to the level they did [on the field] … and then still holding it together academically and doing a good job in the classroom,” Sinicki said.
Of course, winning does come easier when you have two MLB draft picks on your roster. The Boston Red Sox drafted senior pitcher Mike Augliera in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, making him the highest pick in school history, while the Oakland Athletics selected junior closer Lee Sosa in the 26th round.
Augliera fanned 83 opponents while walking just seven this year, giving him the nation’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“I think Mike Augliera turned himself into one of the top pitchers in the northeast this year, and getting drafted in the fifth round supports that,” Sinicki said. “I think Lee is more of a projectable guy. Mike has great pitchability right now, but Lee’s better days might be ahead of him.”
While having Augliera’s and Sosa’s talent bolstered the pitching staff, the Bearcats had just one everyday senior, Dave Ciocchi, leaving room in the lineup for several underclassmen. Redshirt freshman Brian Ruby led the team with a .371 batting average, and three other underclassmen had averages higher than .280.
But inconsistency tends to accompany youth, and the Bearcats were streaky this year. The team started the season 0-6 before winning six of its next seven. The Bearcats had two more losing streaks of four and five, but they also strung together winning streaks of four and five.
As frustrating as inconsistency can be, Sinicki said it’s all part of the growing process for his young players. He said freshmen are unaccustomed to playing nearly 50 games in a season, and more in-depth scouting reports require underclassmen to learn to adjust.
“The biggest positive is looking ahead; they’re back,” Sinicki said. “I think they learned a great deal this year, getting as much playing time as they did. I think they’ll be better prepared for next year.”
And better preparation should help mitigate the losses of Augliera, Sosa and Ciocchi, bringing the Bearcats one step closer to the NCAA tournament.
“A lot of people might evaluate our season based on wins or losses,” Sinicki said. “I think what our guys went through was pretty remarkable.”