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Albany takes two from Binghamton softball to capture regular-season title

One pitch dashed the Binghamton softball team’s America East regular season title hopes, as Albany junior third baseman Lauren Alcorn belted a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth inning of Sunday’s series finale.

Kendall Loh/Assistant Photo Editor Freshman designated hitter Tiffany McIntosh belted two home runs off Albany junior Brittany MacFawn this weekend.

The shot erased Binghamton’s 1-0 lead and propelled the Great Danes (35-13, 15-2 America East) to a 2-1 victory at the Bearcats Sports Complex. With the win, Albany took the three-game series and edged the Bearcats (29-15, 14-4 AE) for the America East regular season championship and the conference tournament’s top seed.

Binghamton will carry the No. 2 seed into the event.

BU junior pitcher Demi Laney, who allowed just three runs in 14 innings this weekend, said she failed to execute her pitch to Alcorn.

“It was supposed to be a rise ball, but it just fell a little flat and she took advantage of it,” Laney said.

On the other side, Albany junior pitcher Brittany MacFawn executed to near perfection. She allowed just two hits en route to winning her 26th game of the year and completing her third game of the weekend.

MacFawn flawlessly changed speeds and locations to keep the Bearcats off balance. Six of her 10 strikeouts came on changeups.

“[Saturday, the changeup] wasn’t really working out very well, so they were getting a lot harder hits,” MacFawn said. “But when it’s working it keeps them honest, and it’s in the back of their mind every pitch that it could be coming so it’s beneficial.”

Binghamton junior second baseman Jessica Bump beat MacFawn on a fastball, however, clearing the left field fence in the fourth inning. The home run was Bump’s 10th of the season and ended MacFawn’s no-hit bid.

BU head coach Michelle Burrell said she didn’t want her hitters to approach their at-bats complacently even with Laney, the team’s ace, on the mound.

“We didn’t know if [one run] would be enough or not, but we wanted to get some insurance runs either way,” Burrell said.

But MacFawn set the Bearcats down in order in the fifth and sixth innings, and overcame a leadoff bunt single by freshman right fielder Sydney Harbaugh in the seventh.

Though Albany did not score until the sixth inning, the Great Danes had two opportunities to push runs across the plate. But Binghamton senior left fielder Jessica Phillips made two perfect throws home to gun down Albany runners in the third and fifth innings.

“We work on that constantly, so it just seemed kind of routine,” Phillips said. “When it’s successful it’s an amazing feeling.”

On Saturday, Binghamton and Albany split a doubleheader, with the Bearcats taking the first game, 3-1, and Albany winning the second, 3-2.

Freshman designated hitter Tiffany McIntosh belted a two-run homer in the first inning of the opener, and junior third baseman Mikala King, who flashed the leather in the field, added a solo shot in the fourth.

Laney surrendered a solo home run to Albany sophomore shortstop Alexa Toole in the sixth, but she buckled down to complete the game and earn her 15th win of the year.

With the victory, the Bearcats set a program record of nine straight wins. They had matched their previous mark of eight by topping St. Bonaventure on April 17 before falling in the nightcap of the doubleheader.

Since joining Division I prior to the 2002 season, Binghamton had never won more than 24 games. The series-opening victory was the Bearcats’ 29th of 2013.

In Saturday’s nightcap, Binghamton stayed within striking distance but couldn’t overcome a 3-0 deficit. A two-run home run by McIntosh in the fourth accounted for the Bearcats’ only runs of the game.

Though the No. 1 seed has traditionally hosted the conference tournament, the America East announced on Friday that the Bearcats Sports Complex will hold this year’s event, regardless of the weekend’s outcome.

“I think we wanted to earn [hosting rights], but we’re excited to be at home and hosting and are looking forward to next week,” Burrell said.

The Bearcats are slated to face No. 3 seed Hartford in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader, with Albany taking on No. 4 Stony Brook in the opener. The tournament features a double-elimination format.

Binghamton took two of three from the Hawks (21-32, 11-8 AE) on the weekend of April 19. Laney tossed 12 scoreless between the two wins, and Bump went 3-for-7 with two home runs.

First pitch of Binghamton’s tournament opener is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.