After striking out Stony Brook’s final two batters in the America East (AE) Championship game on Saturday, Binghamton baseball senior pitcher Rob Hardy pumped his right fist, threw his glove into the air and ended up at the bottom of a dog pile of Bearcats that spilled from the dugout. BU’s 6-3 victory over the Seawolves (27-27, 13-9 AE) came after the Bearcats (30-23, 19-5 AE) went unbeaten in the conference tournament and marks the third time Binghamton has taken the AE crown in four years.
While Hardy’s performance on the mound — four strikeouts and two unearned runs in four innings — sealed the Bearcats’ win and their advancement to the NCAA tournament, it was sophomore pitcher Nick Wegmann who set the tone early on.
Wegmann joined the starting rotation only a few weeks ago and going into the championship game he had just one win to his name.
In his best start since joining the rotation, Wegmann strung together five innings of one-run baseball. He stopped the Seawolves, who had defeated Hartford the day before on a walk-off single, from carrying any momentum into their matchup with Binghamton. Wegmann allowed just two hits and one walk to lead the Bearcats to victory.
“For [Wegmann] to come out and perform the way he did is really way beyond expectations,” said BU head coach Tim Sinicki.
Stony Brook senior pitcher Chad Lee, who pitched seven scoreless innings in game one, started the matchup on only two days of rest. He lasted four innings after throwing 168 pitches over the course of three days.
With the Seawolves’ starting pitcher out and the game tied at one, Binghamton’s bats came alive in the fifth. In BU’s first at-bat of the inning, sophomore center fielder CJ Krowiak punched a hit past the second baseman to right, before senior second baseman Reed Gamache followed up with a double to right. Junior first baseman Brendan Skidmore drove them both home with a two-run single.
Junior Eddie Posavec scored Skidmore from second after he advanced off of a wild pitch.
“That felt good; almost as good as that win,” Sinicki said after being doused with water from a Powerade cooler. “It has been a good group that has been really enjoyable for the entire spring season.”
Binghamton was undefeated in the double-elimination tournament heading into the final round. But down, 6-0, in the bottom of the ninth in Friday’s semi-final matchup against Hartford, the Bearcats seemed destined for the losers’ bracket.
The Bearcats, however, refused to deviate from their pattern of success this season, recording an unprecedented nine-run ninth inning to come out on top, 9-6. The rally was capped by a walk-off grand slam by sophomore catcher Jason Agresti, who was named the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player after going 3-for-4 in the title game.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything special, I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” Agresti said. “We’ll definitely enjoy this while we have it and we’ll enjoy it for the next couple of days and then we have got to play.”
In their tournament opener, the Bearcats jumped to an early lead and never looked back, defeating Albany, 6-3. Senior pitcher Mike Bunal struck out nine batters in eight scoreless innings before Hardy allowed three runs, two of which were unearned, in the ninth.
“The quality of baseball was really good, very dramatic,” Sinicki said. “There were a lot of big performances, not only on our team but across the board. I think people need to understand that the America East is a very good mid-major baseball conference and it keeps getting better.”
Binghamton is scheduled to face Texas A&M on Friday night in the College Station Regional. Also competing in the regional are Wake Forest and Minnesota. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. from Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas.