The Binghamton baseball team salvaged a doubleheader sweep with a 7-6 win in Sunday’s series finale over Duke.
Cold weather and snow had relegated the Bearcats (1-2) to the West Gym for practices, so Saturday’s season-opening doubleheader in Durham, N.C., marked the first time Binghamton took the field. The competition — an Atlantic Coast Conference program touting professional prospects like Duke’s sophomore pitcher Michael Matuella — wouldn’t make the transition from hardwood to dirt any easier.
But despite the disadvantages, Binghamton stayed close even in the losses. Fourteen of Duke’s 18 total runs were plated within the last three innings of the games.
“I thought we battled on Saturday, but I think [Sunday] we just got a little more comfortable being outside, a little more comfortable in the box, and we came up with some timely hitting, which ultimately proved to be the difference,” BU head coach Tim Sinicki said.
Sophomore Jake Cryts allowed just two hits in his five scoreless innings on Sunday, allowing the Bearcats to build up a four-run lead before Duke (2-1) managed to string together three of its own on three hits in the seventh.
Too close for comfort, BU followed suit and added three runs, also on three hits, in the top of the eighth. Junior right fielder Zach Blanden hit a two-out, two-run single and senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz drove in one more with an infield single to round out BU’s seven runs.
Duke pieced together the same setup in the following frame: three runs, three hits. They would have added a fourth to knot up the score at seven, but a 7-5-2 putout at home kept the Bearcats ahead.
“I think they were determined to leave the weekend with a win over an ACC school,” Sinicki said. “The guys were very excited, they were happy for one another and kind of ready to put the finishing touches on it and drive back home with a win under their belt.”
Saturday’s opener saw action quickly. The Blue Devils spared no time in their first frame, scoring three on a triple by senior infielder Jordan Betts. Senior ace Jack Rogalla only surrendered two hits in the inning — and three in his five at the mound, with no additional runs — but the damage was done.
Binghamton couldn’t muster a response until the third inning when senior shortstop John Howell opened the frame with a triple and scored on a groundout.
But it was the eighth inning that saw the most action. Binghamton opened the frame with two runs, plated off a double from senior designated hitter Shaun McGraw. In the bottom half, Duke drove in three runs on two hits.
Betts went 3-for-3 with four RBIs while the rest of his team registered three hits in 28 at-bats.
The nightcap featured Matuella on the mound for Duke. During his five innings, he retired all 15 BU hitters and struck out nine. According to the professional scouts present, Matuella’s pitches consistently registered between 95 and 98 miles per hour.
“That’s pretty quick any time, but from coming out of the gym and onto the field for your first day of competition, it was a tough matchup for us,” Sinicki said.
During that time, junior starter Mike Urbanski surrendered just one run while striking out seven, allowing the Bearcats to easily catch up with a run in the sixth. But Duke answered with two of its own, and tacked on another pair in the eighth, ending the game, 5-1.
In the series, Howell led BU with a .571 batting average. Starters Rogalla, Urbanski and Cryts combined to post a 2.40 ERA.
“All three starters, even Jack Rogalla, even though he gave up three in the first inning there — and there were a couple of questionable ball-strike pitches in that inning that I think could have gotten us out of that inning without any runs on the board — but I think all three starters did extremely well,” Sinicki said. “What everyone has to realize is that for all these guys, it’s the first time that they’ve pitched this spring with their cleats on. It’s the first time they’ve been on an actual pitcher’s mound out on the field, and it’s not a terribly easy transition.”
Next up for the Bearcats is a four-game series at James Madison. The first game is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Eagle Field in Harrisonburg, Va.