The future of the Binghamton baseball program got a lot brighter on Tuesday afternoon when Binghamton University officials announced that a $60 million donation will fund the construction of a brand-new baseball complex. The athletics department asserts that the facility will rival that of any Division I program, and the baseball program hopes it will spur recruitment and propel the program to new heights. Despite the promise the future holds, however, the focus of the baseball team is trained on the present, as the 2020 season is about to get underway and the team’s immediate aspirations are lofty.
“It’s an awesome gift, but every year we have the same goal going into the year, and that’s to win the America East [AE] Championship,” said senior catcher TJ Wegmann. “So this donation is awesome, but it doesn’t really change our goal. Our goal is still to go out there every day and give everything we have and, hopefully, be champions at the end of the year.”
The team believes it has a solid chance at winning a conference championship this season, and the rest of the AE seems to think so as well. The Bearcats were picked first in the AE preseason coaches’ poll with four first-place votes. Stony Brook was ranked second and Hartford was ranked third.
Seven of the Bearcats’ nine position starters from last year are returning for this season, leaving the lineup largely intact. The team’s top three players in batting average from 2019, junior outfielder Shane Marshall, redshirt senior infielder Alex Baratta and redshirt senior outfielder Daniel Franchi, will all return to the lineup, and will likely take the top three spots in the batting order.
It’s the pitching staff that underwent the most change in the offseason, with two of the team’s weekend starters from last season no longer with the program. Right-hander Ben Anderson was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 13th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, while right-hander Nick Gallagher, ’19, was lost to graduation. Only sophomore left-hander Thomas Babalis, who was unanimously named AE Rookie of the Year last season, remains with the team.
According to Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki, Babalis will likely pitch the first games of three-game series during the season, while sophomore pitcher Jack Collins will be moved from his bullpen role last season into the starting rotation, where he will likely start the second games of three-game series. The last weekend starting spot, according to Sinicki, is still up for grabs.
“Right now we have a really good battle going on for the third spot,” Sinicki said. “We have three guys who have been very impressive so far in the workouts, and I think whichever way we go, I’m really happy with the way they’re performing, and I think it’s gonna be okay. The other two guys that don’t get that nod, they’ll be ready to go if things change, and if things kind of stay as we hope, they’ll just work out of the bullpen and be really effective arms for us when we need them.”
Because of the construction of the new baseball complex, the team will be splitting its home games between NYSEG Stadium in Downtown Binghamton and Hoy Field in Ithaca, New York, where Cornell plays its home games. Despite the disadvantage that comes without having a true home stadium, the team remains ever-focused on its goal of winning a championship.
“Our expectations, regardless of what anybody outside says, are the same, and they’re very high, and I think it’s a true testament to the type of kids we have in our program,” Sinicki said. “They’re looking to win championships during the recruiting process and once they get to campus, they want to try to fulfill those expectations.”
The Bearcats will not play a home game until late March, starting their season as they usually do with a slate of games in the South. The team will begin with a three-game series at Wofford, which begins on Friday, Feb. 14. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. from Russell C. King Field in Spartanburg, South Carolina.