DURHAM, NC (WBNG BINGHAMTON) Binghamton baseball opened its 2014 season with a pair of defeats at ACC member Duke on Saturday. The Bearcats (0-2) lost 7-3 and 5-1, though they were within late-inning striking distance in each game, played at Duke’s chilly Jack Coombs Field.
In the opener, senior DH Shaun McGraw delivered a two-run double in the eighth inning to pull BU to within one, 4-3 and junior starter Jack Rogalla allowed just one hit over his final four scoreless innings before Duke plated three decisive runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull away.
After giving up a three-run triple in the first frame, Rogalla settled down and BU’s offense came within a hit or two of breaking through.
The Bearcats got a run back in the third when senior shortstop John Howell led off with a triple and later scored on a double-play groundout. Binghamton then put runners on base in four of the next five innings, but a caught stealing at third ended the fourth inning, a bases-loaded groundout ended the fifth and a strikeout call on a 3-2 pitch left two more stranded in the sixth.
Duke used an RBI double to push its lead to 4-1 before the Bearcats rallied with two out in the eighth. Junior left fielder Jake Thomas reached on an error and after walks to senior second baseman Daniel Nevares and junior first baseman Brian Ruby, McGraw ripped a two-run double down the left field line. But with the tying run at third and go-ahead run at second, Howell was punched out on a wide strike to end the threat. In their half of the eighth, the Blue Devils strung together back-to-back RBI singles - the second bringing home two runs - and a 1-2-3 BU ninth finished it in the 7-3 setback.
Rogalla scattered three runs on three hits over 5.0 innings. He struck out four and walked three. Nevares, who hit a school-record 19 doubles last season, registered his first two-bagger of 2014. Ruby reached base three times and Howell went 2-for-4. Junior reliever Mike Kaufman pitched the final three innings and gave up three hits and just one earned run. Kaufman struck out four and walked a pair.
Duke’s No. 6 hitter Jordan Betts went 3-for-3 with four RBI but BU pitchers held the rest of the Blue Devils’ lineup to a 3-for-28 showing.
Duke had a 6-5 edge in hits and the teams committed two errors apiece.
In the nightcap, highly-touted Duke starter Michael Matuella had a no-hitter going before departing after five innings. Matuella, who as a sophomore has already attracted MLB interest, retired all 15 BU hitters he faced, striking out nine.
But junior starter Mike Urbanski kept the hosts off the scoreboard for four of his five innings and BU scored a run in the sixth to tie the game at 1-1. Freshman Jextin Pugh led off with a walk and after classmate Eddie Posavec put down a sacrifice bunt, sophomore third baseman Reed Gamache stroked an RBI single to right field. The Bearcats’ first hit of the game plated pinch runner Darian Herncane to even the score. But in the bottom of the frame, Duke used a double-single-double-SF sequence to score two runs and the Blue Devils added two more runs on RBI singles in the seventh to close out the scoring.
In his first career start, Urbanski was sharp throughout, allowing just four hits and a run-scoring single. He struck out seven and walked three. Juniors Mike Meleski (1.1 IP) and Greg Ostner (1.2 scoreless IP) went the final three innings.
Junior right fielder Zach Blanden had BU’s other hit - a ninth-inning single.
Binghamton will send sophomore Jake Cryts to the mound for Sunday’s 1 p.m. finale.
(Courtesy: Binghamton University)