Almost two-thirds of the way through its America East slate, the Binghamton baseball team is still immersed in its non-conference schedule. With an average of two non-conference games per week, the strategic scheduling grants the Bearcats (14-19, 6-8 AE) the ability to keep their bats sharp between conference series and allows them to enter the weekends rust-free.
The scheduling not only allows the Bearcats to remain on their toes between weekends. It also grants them extra room to experiment with lineups. With that in mind, the team has a three-hour limit on how far it will travel — the idea isn’t to tire the players out, but to keep them fresh.
“Baseball is such a game of repetition that you can’t go a full week in between weekend series without playing,” BU head coach Tim Sinicki said. “Practicing is great, but the guys need to see live pitching and play the game. All those mid-week games, what they do is basically leave an opportunity to experiment with some lineups, move guys around a little bit, get some guys who don’t pitch a whole lot on the weekends a chance to pitch some innings for us. Basically we use those not only as an opportunity to win games, but to prepare for the weekends.”
Some of the main beneficiaries of these games aren’t those who carry that experience into the weekend, however: For the bullpen, they provide some of the only opportunities to take the mound against a rival team. Due to the efficacy of its starters, much of the pitching staff doesn’t get serious time over the weekend to show the coaches what they could accomplish.
“In the past and this year, we’ve seen really good pitching on the weekends, so sometimes we don’t go through a lot of pitchers,” Sinicki explained. “So those mid-week games are the other guys’ opportunities to kind of just show the coaching staff where they are with their abilities and how they’ve been developing and an opportunity to pitch for the team.”
Playing against another team not only allows those pitchers to prove their aptitude. It also might influence the rotation in conference games.
“Some guys who pitch mid-week and pitch very well, sometimes we get them out of the bullpen a little bit earlier on the weekends, so it has proven to be a little bit of a benefit for those guys,” Sinicki said.
More immediately, with its two games this week, Binghamton was able to preserve the effectiveness of its offense that surged against Maine last weekend. Outhitting Cornell 17-10 en route to an 8-6 victory on Tuesday, the Bearcats continued their hot streak with a 7-2 victory over St. Bonaventure the next day. Junior left fielder Jake Thomas also prolonged his potency when he went 4-for-5 with two RBIs against St. Bonaventure.
This consistency couldn’t come at a better time: Set to host AE-leader Hartford this weekend, the Bearcats will need to keep their bats streaking if they want to remain in postseason contention.
But even through its recent offensive success, the team’s Achilles heel — timely hitting — is still an exposed pressure point. Despite routing Cornell (15-20), the Bearcats left a season-high 15 men on base.
“That just goes back to the timely hitting thing. It’s good to get guys on base, but at a certain point, you have to get them in as well,” Sinicki said. “We did a decent job with that on that day, but we left 15 guys on base and you have to cash in on some of those opportunities.”
First pitch against Hartford is set for noon Saturday at Varsity Field.