With a win and a loss in the AE tourney, baseball’s season isn’t over yet

Dropped to the America East tournament’s first elimination game after being routed by Hartford on Thursday, the Binghamton baseball team will live to play another day.

The Bearcats (22-25) dismantled Maine, 6-3, on Friday afternoon, following up on the fourth seed’s 4-1 loss to Stony Brook the day before. Due to the double-elimination style of the tournament, Maine’s season is officially over. But Binghamton marches on, pitted to face the loser of the winners’ game that directly followed on Friday. That was Hartford (31-22).

The prospect of taking on Hartford again is not inherently barring for BU: the team’s bane – junior pitcher Sean Newcomb – will not necessarily be manning the mound for another appearance. And in the games Newcomb hasn’t thrown, BU and Hartford split the bill this season.

After its loss to the Hawks, Binghamton capitalized on its opportunity for redemption, but it didn’t start off promisingly. The Bearcats ended in stride, but began in a stumble – the Black Bears (24-29) pumped junior starter Jake Cryts for two runs off three hits in the first inning.

Maine’s early triumph served as a wake-up call to the Bearcats, who answered with one run in the bottom of the inning. Senior first baseman Shaun McGraw earned one of his two RBIs here, making him both the start and the end of BU’s offensive output: his second, a one-run homer, wrapped up scoring in the bottom of the eighth to firmly secure BU’s lead.

Freshman catcher Eddie Posavec served as another key factor in BU’s offense, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Junior right fielder Zach Blanden rounded out scoring with an additional two RBIs. The three spread their runs throughout a productive five innings, though 12 were left on base through the game.

The victory may allay the disappointment BU suffered – largely at the hands of Newcomb – the night before. With the game postponed to nearly 9 p.m. due to torrid rain, Binghamton couldn’t catch a break. For the third time this season, Newcomb was mercilessly stingy with BU’s lineup. Through seven innings of work, the projected first-round draft pick struck out a career-high 14 batters. He allowed just two hits, and though Binghamton’s lone run was plated under his tenure, it was unearned.

“I’m never really looking for a strike out, it just kind of comes,” Newcomb said after the game. “You just throw it in play, get an easy out.”

Behind Newcomb, Hartford saw a quiet day in the field. Regularly registering fast balls over 90 mph, Newcomb flew by Binghamton. Even after Hartford’s ace was replaced by sophomore Sam McKay, BU’s bats only mustered one more hit through two innings. In the game, the team collaborated for a .097 batting average.

Binghamton, on the other hand, made full use of its defense to aid its pitching staff, which rotated through four pitchers in eight innings. The Hawks recorded 11 hits, eight over junior ace Jack Rogalla, who pitched four innings and allowed all six of the Hawks’ runs before classmate Greg Ostner stepped in for two. Ostner scattered two hits and struck out five in his time.

The game’s first real scoring opportunity arrived in the bottom of the third. Through four base hits, Hartford pushed as many runs through, all beginning with a walk. Directly following, a hit that just evaded senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz turned into a double and placed runners on second and third. Next swing, Posavec managed to postpone scoring for another play, forcing an out at home. A string of left-field singles exposed a gap in the field, and Hartford jumped up to a four-run lead.

Binghamton pulled together its best offense of the night directly in response. The top of the fourth may have only seen one run from the underdogs, but in the dwindling moments, BU had a chance to even the board.

Bereszniewicz opened the inning with a bunt to reach first before reaffirming his position as the conference leader in stolen bases (21) when he distracted Newcomb and took second. Thrown, perhaps, Newcomb walked two, Hartford suffered another error, and Binghamton strolled to its first run. Bases loaded with two outs, the team looked to the next in the lineup to produce. But Newcomb was back on track – another strike out, and three were left on base.

Through the remainder of the game, BU left another three on base but didn’t quite recreate its earlier potential. Hartford added an additional run in its half of the fourth and fifth innings to bring its total to six.

The victory advanced Hartford to play Stony Brook (35-16) in the winners’ game. The Seawolves, who took the AE crown in the 2011-12 season and continued all the way to the College World Series that year, collected their second win of the tournament over the Hawks, 10-6. That grants SBU an automatic seat in the title game, while Hartford and Binghamton will contest for other slot.

First pitch for the Binghamton-Hartford game is slated for 2 p.m. at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. The AE title game follows directly after, tentatively at 6 p.m.