Nobody said a three-game set against the University of Arkansas was going to be easy.
And for Binghamton University’s baseball team, which has struggled through the early portion of its schedule, it wasn’t.
The Razorbacks (14-2) — No. 4 in the nation — shut out visiting Binghamton (0-6) in Friday’s opener 4-0, then took both games of Saturday’s doubleheader by scores of 5-3 and 6-0.
The Bearcats, who flew more than 1,000 miles for the series, were shut out twice by the Razorbacks, but despite the losses, BU head coach Tim Sinicki remained optimistic about the team’s potential.
“We played much better this weekend than opening weekend,” Sinicki said, referring to Virginia Commonwealth University’s three-game sweep of Binghamton at the end of February. “We’re definitely seeing improvements.”
Friday’s 4-0 defeat marked a sour start, but ultimately served as a demonstration of the team’s growing defensive talent. The Bearcats hung tight with Arkansas for the majority of the game, with senior starting pitcher Mike Augliera allowing only two runs and four hits over six innings.
“The pitching was very good this weekend. Our starters did great,” Sinicki said. “Mike Augliera did a fantastic job.”
Back-to-back home runs in the seventh — both off senior reliever Chris Nagorski — ultimately pushed the game out of reach.
On Saturday, the Razorbacks again hit back-to-back home runs, this time in the bottom of the first after Binghamton scored to go ahead 1-0 in the top of the frame.
Binghamton chipped away at the Razorbacks’ 3-1 lead in the third, when freshman catcher Jake Thomas smacked an RBI double down the right field line to bring the Bearcats within one.
Thomas picked up another RBI on a groundout to short in the fifth, tying the game at three, but another two-run home run by Arkansas in the bottom of the inning gave the Razorbacks a 5-3 lead. Sophomore pitcher Jack Rogalla played in relief for the Bearcats and allowed no hits for the remainder of play, but the team came up with just one hit in the subsequent four innings and the final score was the same.
Starter junior Jay Lynch took the loss, his second of the year, after allowing 10 hits and five earned runs in 4.1 innings of play.
For Sinicki, his team’s ability to hang with Arkansas helped prove that Binghamton has the skills needed to compete at the elite level.
“When you can hold a team like that to a few runs, it’s really a testament to our team’s ability,” he said. “We only made two errors all weekend, and both were throwing errors. We played very, very well defensively.”
Saturday’s finale was less of a nail-biter. Binghamton was out-hit 8-4 by the Razorbacks en route to being shut out for the second time in as many days.
Over the three weekend games, the Bearcats totaled only 14 hits and three runs, and through the season so far, only four players have a batting average higher than .200. In addition, the Bearcats have had five hits or less in four of their six games. But Sinicki remains confident that the Bearcats’ offense will develop soon.
“The offense is a little behind the defense and pitching at the moment,” Sinicki said. “But we’re seeing improvements.”
The Bearcats are scheduled to head to the Big 5 Baseball Bash in Philadelphia on Friday where they are set to face St. Joseph’s University on Friday, Villanova University on Saturday and Temple University on Sunday.