This week, the Binghamton baseball team traveled to Orono, Maine to compete in the America East (AE) tournament. The Bearcats got a dominant win against NJIT on Thursday before defeating UMass Lowell twice to earn their fifth AE conference title.
“Winning never gets old,” Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki said. “I’m so proud of the kids for what they were able to do this year. We started out conference play 1-7 and somehow they turned it around … And pretty much played nearly flawless baseball for the past three days. It’s a special season. It’s a real tribute to the kids we have in this program.”
After earning itself a bye on Wednesday, second-seeded BU (22-28, 15-15 AE) matched up against third-seeded NJIT (26-27, 15-15 AE) on Thursday. Binghamton got out to a hot start on offense, plating eight runs in the first three innings before the Highlanders scored in the fourth. Junior pitcher Thomas Babalis got the start on the mound and pitched six innings. The Bearcat gave up eight hits but only allowed four runs, striking out nine batters in the process. Binghamton built upon its commanding lead in the fifth inning, scoring six runs to extend it to 14-1.
NJIT attempted to make a comeback in the sixth inning, but was unable to overcome the deficit, falling 20-5 to BU. Freshman outfielder Logan Haskell, freshman catcher Evin Sullivan and sophomore catcher Kevin Reilly combined for 13 RBIs. The Bearcats accumulated 22 total hits as a team, setting a new postseason program record. Binghamton also set a new record for runs scored in a postseason game.
“I think sometimes [offense] is contagious,” Sinicki said. “We got a couple of guys in the lineup that have been pretty consistent all year and I think once they got their hits, it really helped the level of confidence with some of the other guys, and next thing you knew hits kept on coming.”
BU took on fourth-seeded UMass Lowell (28-30, 15-15 AE) on Friday for its second game of the tournament. This contest was closer as the teams matched their scoring outputs until the sixth. After UMass Lowell tied the game up in the top of the seventh inning at five runs apiece, Binghamton looked to respond. In the bottom of the seventh, senior infielder Jake Evans slapped a single into right-center bringing in the go-ahead run. Next, graduate student outfielder Garrett Matheny pinch-hit and dropped a sacrifice bunt to plate another run, giving BU a 7-5 advantage. The River Hawks were unable to respond as the Bearcats scored an insurance run in the eighth to take an 8-5 victory.
“Being able to score like we did, it put pressure on the other team,” Sinicki said. “Really helped us out … It’s easier to pitch that way. Obviously when you can settle in knowing that the offense is putting up numbers and you can just do your thing.”
In the final game of the tournament, Binghamton faced UMass Lowell once again with a chance to secure the conference title. Junior pitcher Ryan Bryggman started on the mound as he threw for seven innings, giving up only one run and striking out seven. The Bearcats gave a sufficient amount of run support after breaking the game open in the fourth inning. Sophomore infielder Andrew Tan ripped a double down the left field line bringing in two runs. Junior outfielder Colin Mason followed that up with a sacrifice fly to plate another run, allowing Binghamton to take a 4-1 lead.
Sullivan drove home the insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-RBI single to extend the lead to 7-1. Sophomore pitcher Justin Rosner entered the game in the top of the eighth inning to close out the game. The sophomore gave up zero runs in two innings pitched and struck out three batters to secure the conference title for BU.
“We asked our starting pitchers to give us a chance to win a ballgame,” Sinicki said. “Go out there for as long and as hard as you can, and try to keep us in a position to win … That’s what we did this weekend. Every starter that left the game, we had the lead. The guys that came in to pitch after them kept us right there.”
Several Bearcats received all-tournament honors including Evans who was selected as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The senior extended his hit streak to a program record 23 games and went 6-for-10 with four RBIs in the tournament. Additionally, Sullivan, Tan and Bryggman were all chosen for the all-tournament team for their performances.
“[Evans] was outstanding,” Sinicki said. “He came up with some clutch hits for us … Based on his offense and defense, I think he really earned and deserved that most outstanding player of the tournament.”
Binghamton will now move on to compete in the NCAA Regionals next weekend. Coach Sinicki expressed that the team needs to play fundamental baseball — which helped them reach this achievement.
“It’s a fun team to be around,” Sinicki said. “We as coaches enjoy them and they enjoy each other, and we get a chance to play more baseball … We’ll try to continue to play good, solid, fundamental baseball which is how we got to this point to begin with.”
BU is scheduled to play its first regional game on Friday, June 3 against Stanford. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. (EST) in Stanford, California.