Rachel Tomei/Contributing Photographer Sophomore pitcher Sarah Miller was named to the 2016 America East Softball All-Championship Team.

It’s said that the only thing more difficult than getting to the top is staying there, which proved true for the Binghamton softball team on Saturday morning. It fell to Albany, 6-4, in the fourth round of the America East (AE) Championship Tournament. The loss eliminated the Bearcats (34-15, 14-3 AE) and slashed their hopes of repeating their 2015 AE Championship.
After clinching the regular-season title for the first time in program history last weekend, Binghamton carried the top seed into the playoffs, earning a first-round bye before defeating Stony Brook, 7-6, on Thursday thanks to a thrilling walk-off home run by sophomore outfielder Jessica Rutherford.
Despite leaving runners on base early in the game, BU rallied in both the sixth and seventh innings to tie the score at six. Rutherford’s homer, her fifth of the year, sent the Bearcats to a third-round matchup against Maine.
On Friday, BU was stifled by Maine (28-19, 12-5 AE) junior pitcher Erin Bogdanovich, who allowed only one earned run to the Bearcats in 14 innings during the regular season. Bogdanovich tossed a four-hit shutout to lead the Black Bears to a 3-0 win.
After their defeat on Friday, the Bearcats faced the Great Danes (34-18, 11-5 AE) in a fourth-round elimination game. Albany jumped on the board quickly, scoring four runs, three of which were unearned, off of three uncharacteristic BU errors.
The Bearcats responded in the top of the second, plating three to close the gap to just one. Albany, however, scored two more in the bottom of the frame to extend its lead to 6-3. Still behind in the top of the fourth, Binghamton attempted a comeback, as sophomore third baseman Kate Richard delivered a sacrifice fly, driving in junior outfielder Bridget Hunt.
This score proved to be the last for Bearcats, as their powerful offense, which ranks fifth in Division I in batting average, was held to just four hits all game. Binghamton’s top three offensive threats — Rutherford, senior catcher Taylor Chaffee and senior designated player Griffin McIver — combined to go just 1-for-7 on the day, the lone hit between them a single to left by Chaffee.
BU played without senior outfielder Sydney Harbaugh all week, who was out of the lineup with a respiratory infection. Harbaugh had served as a spark plug at the top of Binghamton’s lineup all season, hitting at a .368 clip and breaking the program’s record for hits in a single season.
“It was hard not having [Harbaugh] here,” said BU head coach Michelle Burrell. “We were kind of okay with her not playing, but she’s obviously meant so much to this program — as all of our kids do — so we missed having her there, whether it’s on the field or just in the dugout.”
After the Great Danes held on for the win against Binghamton, they were routed by Maine in the title game, 14-1. Bogdanovich was the victor once again, holding Albany to just four hits in the mercy-rule victory. She was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after allowing just two earned runs in 13 ⅓ innings across three games. The Black Bears’ championship was their first since 2004.
Binghamton sophomore pitcher Sarah Miller and Rutherford were named to the All-Championship team.
BU’s loss signifies the end of an impressive season, in which the Bearcats won a program-record 34 games.
“I think this was a great season,” Burrell said. “We had a lot of fun; I think we learned a lot. Our goal was to get back to where we were last year and be better, so I think right now there’s just a little disappointment.”