Rachel Tomei/Contributing Photographer Sophomore center fielder CJ Krowiak recorded three hits in Binghamton’s 13-5 victory over Albany on Saturday.

Last season, the Binghamton baseball team finished last in the America East (AE). Before the season even began this year, the Bearcats (25-22, 17-4 AE) were picked to finished fifth in the conference poll. On Saturday, though, BU continued its remarkable comeback season, taking two of three against Albany to clinch its first AE regular-season title since 2010.
The Bearcats, who started the season by losing 14 of their first 18 games, turned it around in time for conference play. BU went wire-to-wire in claiming the AE title, never trailing another team in the standings after beginning its conference slate with two straight sweeps of Maine and Albany (20-25, 8-12 AE).
Leading up to the series with the Great Danes, neither the players nor the staff talked much about earning the title, despite it being a season-long goal. Even after capturing the regular-season crown on Saturday, there was only a short-lived, subdued celebration. The Bearcats quickly shifted their focus to next weekend’s regular-season finale against Maine and the AE Tournament at the end of the month.
“The guys are smart enough to figure out what we had to do in order to clinch,” said BU head coach Tim Sinicki. “We tried to keep things business as usual and after they won game two on Saturday. We talked about it briefly; we congratulated each other, but now it’s on to the next phase of the season.”
On Saturday afternoon, Binghamton leaped to an early lead against the Great Danes in the first game of the teams’ opening doubleheader. Sophomore center fielder CJ Krowiak and senior second baseman Reed Gamache each scored a run in the first.
BU gave up three uncharacteristic runs in the second, one of which came thanks to a wild pitch by redshirt junior pitcher Jake Cryts, while another was the result of an error.
The Binghamton offense then erupted, scoring nine runs in the next four innings en route to a 13-5 victory. Krowiak and Gamache combined for six of the team’s runs. Cryts was credited with the win after allowing three earned runs in five innings of work.
In the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, however, the Bearcats were nearly forced to postpone their title celebrations. With a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, senior starting pitcher Mike Bunal hit a batter before walking another. Albany redshirt junior first baseman Matt Hinchy singled down the right-field line to load the bases. Bunal worked his way out of danger, inducing two consecutive groundouts to escape the inning with Binghamton still up, 3-2. BU held on for the next three innings to ensure the doubleheader sweep.
“Mike [Bunal] has the ability, because of his fastball and slider specifically, to get out of trouble,” Sinicki said. “He made some big pitches in those last two innings that really helped us secure that win.”
The third game of the series meant little for the conference standings. Despite taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, sophomore pitcher Dylan Stock, who had been called in to close the game for the Bearcats, allowed the tying run to score from third on a wild pitch. After intentionally walking redshirt junior right fielder Kyle Sacks, Stock allowed a walk-off sacrifice fly to right field.
Binghamton’s last-place performance in 2015 was more of the exception than the rule for the program, which won back-to-back AE Tournament championships in 2013 and 2014 and won four straight regular-season titles from 2007 to 2010.
“We accomplished one goal, which was to win the regular-season championship,” Sinicki said. “Now we’re moving on to preparations for the tournament. This group doesn’t get to far ahead of itself; they’ve done a good job of keeping a good balance all year long with their state of mind.”
The Bearcats have now won 14 of their last 18 games and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
“Our goal is to continue to play good baseball in the games this weekend against Maine,” Sinicki said. “We have to continue to play as good as we can play.”
Binghamton’s series against Maine is set to start with a doubleheader on Friday. First pitch is set for noon from the Baseball Complex in Vestal, New York.