Baseball hopes bats come alive against Mount St. Mary’s

Behind the same offense that powered it to the America East title last season, the Binghamton baseball team has now landed in the depths of the conference.

Franz Lino/Staff Photographer Senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz leads Binghamton’s offense with a .304 batting average, 74 points above the team’s overall clip.

Through 18 games this season, Binghamton (5-13, 1-4 AE) has accrued a team batting average of .230. Last year, the team finished with a collective mark of .266. But while the lineup certainly isn’t reproducing its 2013 efficiency, according to Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki, what’s even more concerning is BU’s ineptitude at situational hitting.

“I think the biggest thing for us that we did last year that we’re not doing this year is not so much the amount of offense, but the timely hitting,” Sinicki said. “It’s not like we were a .300 hitting team as a group. Our team batting average was modest. But at the same time, when we were getting those hits was what was so valuable to us.”

Binghamton, looking ahead to a non-conference series with Mount St. Mary’s this weekend, dropped two out of three last weekend to Hartford. After only plating four runs in the series, BU has now failed to score over three runs in its last seven games.

Compiling hits up and down the order has been the Bearcats’ sore spot all season, but when they do get runners on base, they haven’t fared much better. Poor decision-making on the base paths has prevented BU hitters from even a chance at capitalizing in timely situations, but Sinicki said that as the weather improves and the team gets more exposure to outdoor practice, everything should come together.

“It’s not easy sometimes to be cooped up in the gym. And you just can’t simulate some baseball type of situations that you really need to work on in terms of our ability to make good decisions on the bases,” Sinicki said. “Those are all things that you do in the fall, but at the same time, you need to revisit them in the springtime, just as refreshers, and unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to do that yet.”

A change in the weather can only help BU’s efficiency at the plate. Though the entire lineup has to be more productive with its at-bats, Sinicki says it starts with the middle of the order.

Junior right fielder Zach Blanden, senior second baseman Daniel Nevares and junior left fielder Jake Thomas, three of Binghamton’s biggest bats, are all hitting at least 30 points under their 2013 batting averages. Last season, BU had six position players finish above a .280 clip. This year, only Nevares and senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz are above that mark.

“The way our program is and the way we’ve always been, we’ve got to be pretty balanced one through nine in the lineup,” Sinicki said. “I think we have the ability to do that. But when your middle-of-the-order guys aren’t hitting the way you want them to, then what happens is the guys down in the order get more exposed, and it’s created a situation where it looks like the entire lineup is struggling.”

For all of BU’s shortcomings at the plate, it’s been producing on the mound. Last year’s championship team held opponents to a .262 batting average. But even with the graduation of its two most potent arms, Binghamton’s pitching staff is actually faring slightly better against opposing hitters, only allowing a .260 clip from the plate.

Against Hartford, BU’s trifecta of junior Jack Rogalla, sophomore Jake Cryts and junior Mike Urbanski baffled the Hawks, allowing only one earned run over 19 innings.

“They’re doing exactly what we ask them to do,” Sinicki said. “They’re keeping us in the ballgame, and giving us a chance to win at the end. They can’t do any more right now. And I’m very optimistic that they’ll continue to throw the baseball that way because they’re a talented group.”

So perhaps this non-conference matchup comes at exactly the right time for BU. With starting pitching holding down the fort, the sleeping Bearcat offense will have some free swings this weekend to try and startle itself from hibernation.

“I think it does come at a good time for us,” Sinicki said. “I think we’ll get a chance to play with the lineup a little bit this weekend. Whether it’s different players, whether it’s a different batting order, whatever the case may be, I think non-conference games give you a chance to do that.”

First pitch of Sunday’s doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. while Monday’s single game is set for 4 p.m. Both will be played at E.T. Straw Family Stadium in Emmitsburg, Md.