The Binghamton University baseball team is ready to take the diamond.
The Bearcats will take the field this weekend for the first time this season when they travel south to Richmond, Va. to face off against Virginia Commonwealth University in a three-game set. After a third-place finish last season and a sub-.500 overall win record of 21-28 (13-10 America East), the team is looking forward to rebounding and competing for a championship.
Despite having captured four of the last five regular season titles and possessing the highest league win percentage of any team since 2004 (64 percent), the team was projected to finish fourth out of six teams in the America East conference this year in the preseason coaches poll. The prediction marks the team’s lowest preseason ranking in seven years. Stony Brook University, University of Maine and University at Albany are projected to place ahead of Binghamton, respectively.
When asked how he felt about this year’s team, head coach Tim Sinicki said the offseason has been an overall success.
“The preparations have been very good,” Sinicki said. “I’m very pleased with the way the team has performed in the past month of practice. Defensively, I think we’re going to defend at a very high level. Our pitchers are very comfortable looking behind them and seeing who we have on defense. We have some of the league’s premier defenders, so I think a combination of pitching and defense is a great place to start.”
Although four All-Conference players graduated following the conclusion of last year’s season, the Bearcats retain an impressive roster — 17 letterwinners, three All-Conference selections and two unanimous all-rookie players from last year will all return this spring.
Starting pitcher Mike Augliera and first baseman Dave Ciocchi — both seniors and first-team All-Conference selections — top BU’s list of veterans.
Augliera has accumulated 170 strikeouts in his college career thus far, earning him the No. 21 ranking among active pitchers. Last season, Augliera posted a 1.41 ERA against America East teams.
Last year, Ciocchi boasted a batting average of .343 from the third spot in the lineup. The senior has been voted the league’s best first baseman the previous two seasons.
Binghamton welcomes 14 first-year players this season (12 freshmen), including seven new pitchers. Highlighting the team’s young roster are sophomore shortstop John Howell and sophomore outfielder Bill Bereszniewicz, both all-rookie selections in 2011. Other top newcomers include junior Jake Lambert, a right-handed pitcher who redshirted last season, and freshmen Jake Thomas (catcher) and Zach Blanden (outfielder).
Due to undergoing construction on Binghamton’s home field, the Bearcats will have to play all of its games away from campus this season. The team will split its 10 home games between Cornell University and NYSEG Stadium in Downtown Binghamton, home of the Binghamton Mets.
Sinicki referred to the situation as a “challenge,” but said that since Binghamton’s schedule typically opens with upwards of 30 consecutive road games, the construction is not an outstanding issue.
“It’s just one more obstacle that we’ll have to overcome this year and it’s fine,” Sinicki said. “We’ve set our guys’ minds the right way.”
The Bearcats are set to kick off the 2012 campaign at 3 p.m. today against VCU at The Diamond in Richmond, Va.