After closing out their regular season on the road against UMass Lowell, the Binghamton baseball team headed back to Vestal, New York to host the America East (AE) Tournament as the No. 3 seed. After ousting No. 6 NJIT in an elimination game on Wednesday, the Bearcats were sent to the loser’s bracket of the AE tournament by No. 2 UMBC. However, the Bearcats proceeded to defeat No. 5 UMass Lowell in their next matchup and managed to get their revenge against UMBC, allowing them to advance to the championship game, where they fell short to No. 1 Maine, ultimately finishing their season as the AE tournament runner-up.

“​​[The] tournament didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but, you know, there’s not a lot of teams in the country [that] get a chance to play for championships and that’s what we did,” said Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki.

For its first game of the tournament, Binghamton (29-23, 12-12 AE) squared off against No. 6 NJIT (22-31, 11-13 AE) on Wednesday evening. The Highlanders wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, plating four runs during the top of the first inning. However, in the bottom of the inning, Binghamton responded by stringing together three RBI singles and a grand slam by freshman infielder Mike Stellrecht, which gave the Bearcats a 7-4 lead at the end of the first frame.

After a scoreless second, NJIT tagged on two more runs in the top of the third after hitting two solo homers, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to just one. However, an RBI single from junior outfielder Tommy Reifler in the fourth rebuilt the Bearcats’ lead to two runs. A two-inning scoring drought followed from both sides, but this was broken up after sophomore catcher Evin Sullivan hit a two-run home run in the seventh and a grand slam in the eighth inning, which gave Binghamton a 14-6 advantage. The Bearcats then managed to hold the Highlanders scoreless in the top of the ninth, as they ended NJIT’s season and advanced in the tournament with a 14-6 victory.

“The offense in the first inning really got us back into the ball game after a rough top of the first,” Sinicki said. “[Senior pitcher Thomas Babalis] was bound and determined to make sure that, you know, our season didn’t end on Wednesday, and he was lights out.”

Following their victory on Wednesday, the Bearcats moved into Thursday as they began the double-elimination portion of the tournament and matched up against UMBC (30-27, 16-8 AE). UMBC took control of the game early on, going up 7-0 by the end of the third inning. However, Binghamton eventually got on the board, courtesy of an RBI single from sophomore infielder Devan Bade in the fourth. Despite two more RBI singles off the bats of Bade and senior first baseman Kevin Gsell in the sixth and seventh, the Retrievers would maintain their lead for the remainder of the contest to secure a 7-3 win that sent the Bearcats to the losers’ bracket.

“We didn’t exactly play a very crisp game defensively,” Sinicki said. “Either we made a big error that led to a lead to, you know, a few unearned runs … to [UMBC’s] credit, they just played a better ball game than us. [UMBC] certainly took advantage of the mistakes that we made both defensively and a couple pitches we didn’t execute properly, and then offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going.”

In their second contest on Thursday, the Bearcats took on UMass Lowell (20-35, 11-13 AE) in their second elimination game of the tournament. The Riverhawks would strike first, bringing home three runs in the top of the first inning. Binghamton responded with a two-run bomb from junior outfielder Mike Gunning in the second which put the Bearcats within one run of the River Hawks. However, UMass Lowell expanded its lead in the third inning with two more runs to take a 5-2 advantage over the Bearcats

The River Hawks would maintain this lead until the seventh when Sullivan got Binghamton within one run with a two-run home run. Not long after, Bade hit an RBI double to tie up the contest at five. Binghamton would add on two more runs off a wild pitch and a walk to take its first lead of the day. Gsell then broke the game open, hitting a three-run home run to give the Bearcats a 10-5 lead going into the eighth. When things were all said and done, Binghamton earned a 10-5 victory to survive elimination and move on in the tournament.

“We got a great performance out of [graduate student pitcher Tommy Snyder] out of the bullpen,” Sinicki said. “He was able to keep [UMass Lowell] in check and give our offense a chance to get to their bullpen.”

On Friday, Binghamton matched up against UMBC for a second time, following UMBC’s loss to Maine the previous day. An RBI double from Gsell gave the Bearcats an early lead at the top of the first, before UMBC responded with a run of their own to tie the game up. The tally remained 1-1 until the top of the fifth, when Reifler scored off of a sacrifice fly from Gsell to give Binghamton a one-run lead. Then, a solo home run from senior infielder Zachary Taylor in the sixth grew the Bearcat’s lead to 3-1, and a home run by senior outfielder Cavan Tully, along with a fielder’s choice during the top of the seventh gave the Bearcats a four-run cushion. RBIs from Reifler and sophomore second baseman Nick Roselli in the eighth allowed Binghamton to secure a 7-1 win, along with a second consecutive AE championship appearance.

“The way that we were pitching gave the offense a lot of confidence,” Sinicki said. “Once we kind of got to starting pitching, I think we were able to take advantage of the pitching changes … then once you do that, it becomes a little bit contagious and confidence goes up and guys are feeding off of each other … I think that’s what we kind of proved to do in that ball game.”

In the championship game on Saturday, the Bearcats faced top-seeded Maine (32-19, 19-5 AE). Maine got out to an early lead in the first, taking a 1-0 advantage right out of the gates. The Black Bears would hold down the lead the rest of the way, plating a run in both the second and third, two runs in the fourth and another run in the seventh as they went up 6-0 by the end of the inning. While a solo home run from Gsell would put Binghamton on the board in the ninth, the Bearcats’ comeback fell short as Binghamton’s season came to an end with a 6-1 loss to Maine.

“I like the fact that we never quit,” Sinicki said. “It’s the type of team we’ve had all year long. We were even battling until the ninth inning. [Gsell] leads off with a home run in the ninth to try to breathe a little bit of life into us but, you know, they closed it out and quite honestly they were the best team in the conference all year long.”

With the season coming to an end, multiple Bearcats received AE honors. Reifler and junior pitcher Gabe Driscoll received first-team all-conference honors, as Reifler recorded the second-best batting average in the AE at .371. Meanwhile, freshman reliever Dan McAliney was named to the AE all-rookie squad. In addition, Gsell was Binghamton’s sole stat leader, leading the AE with 72 hits on the season. With several key players graduating, Sinicki indicated a strong shift toward the young core next season.

“I think the biggest loss is going to be from on the pitching staff,” Sinicki said. “The guys that we’re losing really pitch a lot of important things for us. Now it’s time to hand the ball, you know, over to some guys who will be a little less experienced, but talented nonetheless.”