Coming off its fourth straight regular-season conference title, the Binghamton University baseball team opened up its season over the weekend, dropping three games in their four-game series in Lexington, Va. against Virginia Military Institute.
In the opening game of the series on Friday, senior outfielder Corey Taylor made quite the statement in his first at-bat of the season when he crushed a two-run home run with two outs in the first inning. Taylor, the America East Player of the Year in 2010, suffered a broken jaw when he was hit in the face with a fastball during last year’s America East tournament. Questions had begun to swell about how the star outfielder would bounce back, but Taylor’s home run on Friday put any doubt about his future far out of mind, and put his team up 2-0.
In the bottom of the first the Keydets shrunk BU’s lead with an unearned run when a throwing error by senior southpaw James Giulietti allowed a runner to advance to third base after reaching on a single. The runner was eventually driven in on an RBI groundout.
The Bearcats added to their lead in the third when senior right fielder Peter Bregartner singled with one out, advanced to third on a fielding error and then scored on senior catcher C.J. Lukaszewski’s foul ball pop-out to right later in the inning.
VMI took the lead in the fifth during a two-out rally that resulted in three more runs. VMI went on to win 5-3.
Junior Adam Lopez recorded the win for the Keydets, striking out nine batters in six innings and surrendering two earned runs on five hits. Keydet pitching held BU to just a single hit beyond the third inning.
The loss went to Giulietti, who gave up three earned runs on six hits over five innings. The lefty struck out two and walked none.
But the Bearcats took revenge in the second game of the series, the first part of a Saturday doubleheader.
BU pitching dominated this time around as junior Mike Augliera threw seven scoreless innings, extending a streak of 19 consecutive innings without giving up a run that reaches back to last spring. Augliera recorded six strikeouts and retired 20 of the 24 batters he faced in the outing.
At the plate, junior Dave Ciocchi was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle as he drove in three runs while going 4-of-5. His two-run triple in the third put the Bearcats on the board.
In the sixth inning Binghamton added on a run when Lukaszewski reached on a bunt single and senior left fielder Jeff Skelhorne-Gross knocked him in to put the Bearcats up 3-0.
BU saw some success off the bunt throughout the series and Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki said that small ball would factor into the team’s offense this season.
“I think especially early in the season, we’re gonna try to score runs whenever we can; if that means playing small ball we’re gonna try to do that, either through [bunting] or hit-and-run or base stealing, whatever,” Sinicki said. “I don’t think we have the type of team that can sit back and wait for three-run homers. That’s just not who we’re gonna be as a team this year.”
But the Bearcats proved they do have some pop in their bats when they rallied for another run in the eighth. Taylor smacked a two-run double down the left field line and came around to score later in the inning on a VMI fielding error.
BU took the game 7-1 and evened the series at 1-1.
In part two of the twin bill, both teams exhibited strong pitching, but a first inning blip by BU starting pitcher sophomore Jay Lynch would ultimately decide the game. Lynch surrendered two runs in the opening frame, and though he would settle down for the remainder of the game, giving up just three hits and no runs over the next five innings, it was already too late.
VMI pitching prevented the Bearcats from ever getting on the board. Junior Jeremy Brown tossed a three-hitter over six innings before junior pitcher Alan Watts closed out the seven-inning game with a hitless seventh, securing the 2-0 Keydet win.
Binghamton got off to a strong start in the final game of the series Sunday afternoon as freshman Jack Rogalla impressed in his collegiate debut, allowing only one run on four hits over six innings. He ended the day with three strikeouts and one walk.
“Jack Rogalla was outstanding on the mound [Sunday] for us; he showed tremendous composure and really competed for us at a high level,” Sinicki said of the rookie. “I think Jack has a bright future for us.”
But in the seventh inning, with the score tied at one, the Bearcat bullpen which came in to relieve Rogalla imploded, giving up four runs on five hits which put VMI ahead 5-1. The bullpen surrendered four more runs in the bottom of the eighth. The Bearcats were unable to fight back from the deficit as VMI took the game 9-2 and the series 3-1.
The top half of the BU lineup carried the offense in the four-game series, led by the No. 3 hitter Ciocchi, who hit an impressive .533 (8-of-15) on the weekend. The bottom half of the hitters for the Bearcats did not fare as well, however, going a combined 7-of-63 over the four-game stretch, striking out a total of 25 times and accounting for just two of the team’s 10 runs batted in.
The Bearcats are set to return to Virginia this weekend to take on Liberty University in a four-game series, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Friday. A doubleheader is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday and the final game of the series is slated for 1 p.m. on Sunday.