The Binghamton University baseball team continued its sluggish start to the season, losing two of three games during the club’s third consecutive weekend away from home.
BU (3-7) fell to Central Connecticut State University 8-7 on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. before travelling to Arlington, Va. for a doubleheader on Sunday. The Bearcats lost to George Washington University 13-8 in the opener of the twin bill before grabbing a 7-6 win in a second meeting with CCSU. In what was originally scheduled to be a four-game trip, last week’s late rainstorm kept the Bearcats off the diamond on Friday, forcing the cancellation of what would have been the team’s first game against GW.
In Saturday’s meeting with the Blue Devils, Binghamton’s offense lit up the scoreboard for 11 hits, including a solo home run by senior Jeff Skelhorne-Gross to give BU a 3-0 lead in the third inning. The Bearcat lineup continued to prey on CCSU’s pitching staff, posting four runs over the remaining six innings to take a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Junior Alex Adami entered the game to preserve the lead, but after Central Connecticut’s leadoff hitter reached base on an error, the club tagged the righty for three hits while forcing two walks. After a passed ball cut the Bearcat lead to one, freshman J.P. Sportman singled, driving in two to cap a five-run inning that gave the Blue Devils an 8-7 walk-off victory.
Adami surrendered all five runs, but only two were earned. Though the junior seemed to be struggling, Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki made the decision to leave him on the mound.
“We’re auditioning guys for the role of closer right now,” Sinicki said. “Early in the season when these games don’t mean quite as much as they will later on, sometimes you have to let guys try and work their way out of situations and see if they can handle that type of pressure and that type of environment.”
In three appearances this season, Adami’s earned run average stands at 16.62. In only 4.1 innings of work, he has been tagged for 11 hits.
Binghamton starter James Giulietti earned a no-decision in Saturday’s game, pitching 5.2 innings and surrendering only two runs. Though he surrendered eight hits, Giulietti had his most successful outing of the year, departing in the sixth inning with a 3-2 lead. Through three starts, Giulietti’s ERA stands at a modest 5.74, and the 2010 America East Co-Pitcher of the Year has yet to earn a win.
“I didn’t think he had his best stuff,” Sinicki said of his ace. “But what makes James a successful pitcher at this level is his ability to compete. He showed the uncanny ability to get out of trouble. He made some big pitches when he needed to and got some ground balls when he needed to, and I think that’s the mark of a good, experienced pitcher.”
In Sunday’s opener against the Colonials, the Bearcat offense struck early again, tagging George Washington senior Bobby Lucas Jr. for three runs in the first inning. After seniors Peter Bregartner and C.J. Lukaszewski drew consecutive walks, junior Dave Ciocchi belted a three-run home run to give the club a 3-0 lead.
But George Washington retaliated quickly, matching Binghamton’s three runs in the bottom of the frame. GW scored a total of 13 unanswered runs over the next seven innings, knocking Binghamton junior starter Mike Augliera out of the game in the fifth after he surrendered eight earned runs. The Bearcats would attempt to climb back, scoring five runs in the top of the eighth in an inning highlighted by senior Corey Taylor’s three-run home run, but the team’s efforts came up short as BU fell 13-8.
The second half of the doubleheader was Binghamton’s most successful outing of the weekend, as the Bearcats earned a 7-6 victory in their second meeting with Central Connecticut State.
Binghamton, which served as the home team at the neutral location, took a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Skelhorne-Gross led off the inning with a solo home run to tie the game, but two quick outs saw BU turn to two freshmen to give them the lead. Shortstop John Howell doubled, then scored on a single by Daniel Nevares to put the club ahead.
“We’re getting some contributions from all over right now, and some of the freshmen are starting to swing the bat really well,” Sinicki said. “John Howell and Daniel Nevares have given us a spark. It’s all about trying to find the right combination; we’ve got to see who can perform and what the right combination is going to be for us.”
After going ahead, Binghamton put another ninth inning lead in the hands of its fragile bullpen. After Adami surrendered five runs in Saturday’s outing, the Bearcats turned to sophomore Lee Sosa, who came through in the clutch. After walking the leadoff batter, Sosa got junior Mitch Wells to ground into a double play, then struck out the final batter to save BU’s 7-6 victory.
“When you look to try to define roles, you’re trying to find how the guys that are going to work out of the bullpen, what’s going to be the best role for them,” Sinicki said. “We feel like with Lee, the way he throws from the side, it gives hitters a little different look. We feel like if he’s able to handle that role he might be another option for us.”
Though Sosa’s performance was a ray of hope from an inconsistent bullpen, the 19th-year head coach is still working to define the best roles for his players.
“Three weeks in, we’re not ready to say who our closer is,” he said. “I think we’re still trying to find out what our identity is as a team.”
Through three weeks, Ciocchi and Taylor have continued to anchor a powerful Bearcat lineup. In 10 games, Ciocchi leads the team with 18 hits, three home runs and 12 runs batted in. His .971 slugging percentage, which leads the America East, stands more than .400 points higher than the club’s runner-up.
Taylor ranks second behind Ciocchi in both hits and RBI, and his two home runs tie Skelhorne-Gross for second on the team. Taylor, the 2010 America East Player of the Year, has 12 hits and 10 RBI while batting for a .315 average.
But while Ciocchi and Taylor have gotten much of the attention, Binghamton’s newcomers have continued to contribute. In a test for a new lineup, Sinicki had Nevares bat leadoff in the latter game of Sunday’s double-header. The decision, which ultimately led to Nevares getting the game-winning hit, paid dividends for a club still adjusting after a lengthy offseason.
Binghamton is set to travel to Texas and New Mexico next week for a nine-game trip. The Bearcats are scheduled to kick off the week with a doubleheader against Dallas Baptist University next Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.