The Binghamton baseball team coupled two last-inning comeback wins with two close losses this weekend, splitting its series with the Virginia Military Institute at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
“Anytime you go on the road this time of year and compete against teams who are outside playing and practicing on a regular basis, if you come away from that splitting a series, I think you’ve done a great job as a program,” Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki said. “I really think that we’re progressing well through the first few weekends, and I was real pleased with the way we competed this past weekend.”
The highlight of the series came on Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader when the Bearcats (4-4), trailing 6-1 and down to their last out, scored 10 runs to beat VMI 11-6. BU sent 15 hitters to the plate in the final inning.
Sophomore reliever Mike Kaufman struck out the side to end the game, giving redshirt sophomore Jed Lemen, who pitched a scoreless eighth, the win. Junior starter Jack Rogalla surrendered five earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work.
During the weekend, BU’s starting pitchers tossed 22 innings and limited the Keydets (5-8) to seven earned runs.
“They all threw well, including Rogalla,” Sinicki said.
The head coach said defensive errors disrupted Rogalla’s rhythm, which resulted in his first three runs.
“But I thought he threw the ball well,” Sinicki said. “All four guys did a good job as starters and kept us around in terms of giving our offense a chance to score some runs.”
VMI got its revenge in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. After the Bearcats scored a run in each of the second, fifth and sixth innings to give themselves a 3-0 lead, the Keydets put together a pair of three-run rallies in the sixth and seventh innings to knock off BU 6-4.
Binghamton junior Mike Meleski threw five scoreless innings but didn’t factor in the decision.
Sinicki said he thinks his team’s offense needs to find consistency.
“I think we’re doing a decent job,” he said. “I just think we need to continue to see live pitching in order to get our timing and things like that. We’ll continue to work at it and continue to be more consistent as the season goes on.”
In the opening game of the series on Friday, VMI broke an eighth-inning tie with a solo shot that would be the deciding run in the Keydets 3-2 victory. The Bearcats left nine men on base in the loss as senior starter Jake Lambert put forth a quality start, holding VMI to two runs on four singles while striking out six.
Binghamton bounced back the next day with a 12-inning victory, topping the Keydets 9-7 after junior John Howell and sophomore right fielder Zach Blanden came around to score on an errant throw and an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Jake Thomas, respectively.
Senior Jay Lynch allowed only three hits over six scoreless innings and struck out three batters without surrendering a walk. While he left with a 4-0 lead, Lynch didn’t get a decision.
Thomas continued his torrid start, going 7-for-13 for a .538 batting average over the weekend. He also drove in seven runs.
“Jake’s really one of the pure hitters in the conference,” Sinicki said. “We knew that coming into his freshman year, when we recruited him, that he was going to be the focal point of our offense for four years. He had a good year last year, but he continues to mature as a hitter and he’s really taking advantage of mistakes pitchers are making.”
For his efforts, Thomas won America East Player of the Week. Lynch and freshman pitcher/designated hitter Jake Cryts helped the Bearcats sweep the weekly awards, taking Pitcher of the Week and Rookie of the Week, respectively.
Binghamton is scheduled to head south again next weekend to face off against North Carolina A&T for another four-game series.
“I just want to go down and want us to play good baseball, plain and simple,” Sinicki said. “I want us to try and get better in all areas as we prepare for league play.”
The first game of the series is set to start at 3 p.m. on Friday at War Memorial Stadium. A doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. the following day, while the first pitch of the series finale is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.