With most of Binghamton’s athletics teams finished for the 2018-19 spring season, only one team sport remains in action. The Binghamton baseball team (23-22, 12-9 America East) is set to host and participate in the 2019 America East Baseball Championship this week at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.
“I think we’re fairly confident coming off a pretty good weekend up in Maine,” said BU head coach Tim Sinicki. “We did some good things really in every phase of the game, so I think our guys are feeling pretty good. They were loose on the way home, they were excited on the bus ride coming back, we had a good workout today. I think there’s a lot of confidence as well as a lot of energy heading into the tournament.”
The AE Championship is a four-day, double-elimination tournament, with three matchups on the first three days and a two-game championship series this Saturday. The final day will feature one undefeated team that only has to win one game to claim the title, and a team from the losers’ bracket that will have to win both. The top two seeds, No. 1 Stony Brook and No. 2 Albany, get a bye to day two, and the winners of the first two games on day one will advance to meet them.
This season marks the first time Binghamton University has hosted the AE Championship since 2010. The Bearcats won their first-ever conference title in the 2009 tournament, which they also hosted, but were upset on the second day in 2010.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase not only our program, but the conference as a whole,” Sinicki said. “People are going to come out from the community and campus and get a chance to see what kind of baseball is played in the America East, so I think it’s also an opportunity for us to showcase our university.”
Hosting the tournament also gives Binghamton the chance to show off its home grounds. With renovations to BU’s baseball facilities completed in recent years, including the installation of new seats, a turf field and a jumbotron, many believe that the University one of nicest baseball fields in the conference.
“I hope they all come in and every kid that walks through these gates looks at their buddy and says ‘I wish we had this at our place,’ because I think it is the premier facility in the America East conference,” Sinicki said. “We’re all proud of it and we hope that it proves to be a real home-field advantage for us.”
The Bearcats enter the bracket seeded third and will face off against No. 6 Hartford in their tournament opener. The Hawks (20-32, 11-13 AE) are the defending conference champions, having won their first baseball title in school history in 2018. However, the team has had a challenging season. Binghamton won all three of its regular season matchups against the Hawks, outscoring Hartford 19-3 across a weekend series last month.
“I’m sure our guys are fairly confident, but at the same time they [Hartford] were picked preseason to win the whole conference,” Sinicki said. “They’re the defending the champions, so I know they have enough talent to come in and get hot for a few days and play good baseball. They’re well coached, they have talented kids.”
While Hartford won last year’s tournament, Binghamton is making its return to postseason play after a one year hiatus. Despite earning the top seed in the 2016 and 2017 tournaments, the Bearcats struggled last season, finishing in last place and missing the playoffs.
On the mound in game one will be the ace of the Bearcats’ pitching staff, junior Ben Anderson. Anderson finished the regular season with the third lowest ERA in the conference and an 8-4 record. He recorded 104 strikeouts on the season, becoming one of only seven players in AE history to reach the 100 strikeout mark. All six others to reach that milestone eventually played in the major leagues. Anderson is expected to be selected in the upcoming 2019 Major League Baseball Draft and begin his professional baseball career at the end of the season.
“If Ben goes out and does what he’s done all year long…[that] basically give us a chance to win a ball game,” Sinicki said. “He doesn’t have to go out and throw a no-hitter, he doesn’t have to go out and throw a shutout. He just has to go out there and compete and give us a chance to win a game in the end.”
With a win in their opening game, the Bearcats will advance to day two to face No. 2 Albany. With a loss, they will immediately follow up their first game with an elimination matchup against the loser of the first game between No. 4 UMass Lowell and No. 5 Maine. All games on the first three days will be streamed on America East TV, and the championship will be broadcast on ESPN+.
The tournament will begin on Wednesday, May 23, and the championship will be held on Saturday, May 25. First pitch in Binghamton’s tournament opener against Hartford is set for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.