Stillwater, OK (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton rallied from a 4-0 hole and came within two outs of a stunning upset before 19th-ranked Nebraska scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to knock the Bearcats out of the NCAA Regional, 8-6, Saturday afternoon from Reynolds Stadium.
Less than a week after being on the winning side of a dramatic late-inning rally, BU suffered the flip-side when the Huskers sent nine men to the plate in their final at-bat and used a walk, flare single to shallow right and a squeeze bunt to score the decisive runs. Still showing no quit, BU brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth before Nebraska’s first baseman dug out a throw in the dirt to record the final out of the game.
In just his second start of the season, junior Greg Ostner (L, 3-2) pitched a noteworthy game, settling down after four early Nebraska runs to throw 8.1 strong innings. After the second inning, Ostner allowed just five hits the rest of the way, putting up five scoreless frames before the ninth.
Playing 12 hours after the team’s Friday night shutout loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State and playing without its leading RBI man and clean-up hitter (Jake Thomas), BU struggled out of the gate and the Big Ten runnerup Huskers scored three runs in the first and another in the second to jump ahead 4-0. But BU rallied with three runs in the fourth and after Nebraska got one back in the fifth, the Bearcats answered with three runs in the sixth to take a 6-5 lead. But after a fly out to open the ninth brought BU to within two outs of a huge victory, Nebraska instead ended BU’s championship season in heartbreaking fashion. Ostner allowed his only walk of the game and then a harmless opposite-field flare found turf between senior second baseman Daniel Nevares and junior right fielder Zach Blanden. With runners on first and third, junior Mike Bunal relieved Ostner and got a ground ball but the golfed shot bounced in front of the plate and caromed all the way over Nevares’ head at second for an RBI single to tie the game at 6-6. With runners on first and third, the Huskers then executed a perfect safety squeeze to take the lead 7-6. Another RBI single with two outs completed the scoring.
In the bottom of the ninth, Nevares produced an infield single to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of power hitter and senior first baseman Shaun McGraw. But Nebraska got a groundout to third to seal the win.
“Obviously, the end of the season is a difficult time, for not only me as a coach but for all the players,” 22nd-year head coach Tim Sinicki said. “I’m extremely proud of the way we competed today. We got down early and found a way to not only get back in it, but take a lead into the ninth inning. Programs like Nebraska and some of the bigger ones in the country have players that find ways to get things done, and that’s what happened in the end today. Not to be overshadowed is the run that this program has been on for the last nine or 10 days, beginning with the America East championship and the run we made there and coming in here. I thought the effort today was outstanding.”
In the three-run fourth inning, BU put together four hits, beginning with a leadoff single by senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz. Nevares followed with a double just inside the third base bag. McGraw stroked an RBI single to left to get BU on the board and sophomore third baseman Reed Gamache made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly to the corner in left. After a Nebraska pitching change and a four-pitch walk to freshman DH Brendan Skidmore, the Huskers foiled a squeeze bunt play with a putout at home. but freshman left fielder Darian Herncane, playing in place of the injured Thomas, dropped in an RBI double to right center, scoring Skidmore and cutting the Bearcats’ deficit to 4-3.
After Nebraska used a triple and sacrifice fly to push its lead to 5-3 in the fifth, BU countered with three runs to take the lead in the sixth. Gamache drew a leadoff walk - the third straight inning BU put its leadoff hitter on - and Skidmore singled through the left side. Senior shortstop John Howell put down a sacrifice fly and the Nebraska pitching fielded and attempted to throw out Gamache at third but his throw sailed into right field, plating BU’s fourth run. After a perfect sacrifice bunt by Herncane, freshman catcher Eddie Posavec tied the game with an RBI groundout. After a walk to Blanden and another Husker pitching change, Bereszniewicz greeted Nebraska’s fourth pitcher by lining a 1-1 pitch through the left side for a single, plating Skidmore with the go-ahead run.
Ostner, meanwhile, retired eight in a row. Nebraska threatened with a two-out double in the eighth inning but on Ostner’s 98th pitch of the game, he got a fly to right field to escape unscathed.
Bereszniewicz went 3-for-5 with an RBI and Nevares and Skidmore had two hits apiece.
Nebraska outhit BU 14-10 and each team committed an error.
It was the final game for BU’s four starting seniors (Howell, Nevares, McGraw, Bereszniewicz), who became the first players in program history to lead the program to back-to-back America East titles and the accompanying two NCAA Regional appearances. The championship season was especially remarkable given the injuries that decimated BU’s lineup. Three starting field position players (a 4th vs. Nebraska with Thomas’ injury) lost significant time with injuries and the pitching staff entered the NCAA Regional minus its ace (Jack Rogalla) and four other pitchers.
(Courtesy: Binghamton University Athletics)