As it usually does, the Binghamton baseball team opened up its season with a swing through the South. This year, the Bearcats began their 2020 campaign with a three-game series at Wofford, who was the runner-up of the Southern Conference last season. Though BU played more competitively as the series progressed, it failed to secure a win, dropping all three games in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
“Of course we’re disappointed we didn’t come away with a win,” said Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki, per bubearcats.com. “But I do think we played better every time we took the field. Games against high-level NCAA tournament-type competition early in the season will only make us better in the long run.”
Each game of the series was more competitive than the last. In the season opener on Friday, the Bearcats (0-3) scored the opening run of the game when redshirt senior outfielder Daniel Franchi was brought home on an RBI double to left by redshirt senior infielder Alex Baratta. However, that would be the only run of the game for Binghamton, which managed only five total hits in the game.
Wofford (3-0), meanwhile, had no offensive issues, piling on 15 runs in the contest. The reigning America East Rookie of the Year, sophomore pitcher Thomas Babalis, got the start for BU and struggled. Babalis pitched 2.1 innings and allowed six earned runs on six hits and three walks, compared to only two strikeouts. The Terriers took the lead in the bottom of the second on a single by senior infielder Brett Rodriguez that brought home two runs, and held the lead for the remainder of the day. Wofford scored all 15 of its runs in a four-inning span.
Though the Bearcats’ pitching and defense largely failed to contain the Wofford bats, BU did have a bright spot in its relief pitching, which was one of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season. Freshman pitcher Douglas Goodwin pitched the final three innings of Friday’s contest in relief, allowing no runs on just one hit and no walks.
On Saturday, the Bearcats lost in a closer game than Friday’s contest, but still trailed by a large margin throughout and only narrowed the gap in the closing innings. Sophomore right-hander Jack Collins gave up six runs on seven hits in his start, causing BU to be down 9-2 entering the eighth.
Binghamton closed the gap by three runs in the subsequent two innings, with senior infielder Justin Drpich hitting a two-RBI double in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth, but BU still fell well short. Drpich went 4-for-5 from the plate, and Baratta and sophomore first baseman Kevin Gsell notched two hits each.
Sunday’s contest was by far the tightest of the weekend, with Wofford needing a walkoff hit to edge past the Bearcats. After a RBI single by Gsell gave the Bearcats the lead in the top of the first, Wofford scored four runs in the bottom of that frame, all charged to the starter, junior right-hander Josh Kopcza. After that, however, the Terriers did not score again for the next seven innings, as the Binghamton bullpen shut them down. Sophomore right-hander Ryan Bryggman entered the game in the bottom of the fourth and did not allow a single hit in four innings pitched. Following Bryggman’s strong outing, freshman reliever Dylan Gearhart made his collegiate debut in the bottom of the eighth and got the three outs necessary to keep Wofford from adding to its run total, aided by a diving play by Gsell to prevent a would-be RBI single.
As this was happening, BU inched back into the game, with senior catcher TJ Wegmann carrying the team on his back and getting key hits when the team needed them. In the top of the fifth, Wegmann crushed a two-run homer to right, bringing the Bearcats within one, and in the top of the sixth he hit an RBI single to even up the score. All of this led to a tie game entering the ninth.
After BU failed to score in the top of the ninth inning, Gearhart returned to the mound and got the first two batters out. However, junior catcher Lawson Hill managed to hit a single, giving the Terriers a lifeline in the inning. Wofford freshman infielder Trey Yunger replaced Hill as a pinch runner, a move that would immediately pay dividends for Wofford, as a pickoff throw by Gearhart went awry, allowing Yunger to go from first to third. The next batter, junior outfielder Colin Davis, hit a long fly ball to left that landed for the walkoff base hit, giving Wofford a 5-4 victory.
The Bearcats will seek their first victory of the season in their next series, a three-game slate at Florida Atlantic. First pitch in the first game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21 from the FAU Baseball Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida.