Lowell, MA (WBNG Binghamton) Top-seeded Maine (37-21) scored twice in each of the first two innings and went on to a 6-1 win over second-seeded Binghamton (29-23) in the America East tournament Friday night at soggy LeLacheur Park. The win forced a one-game championship matchup between the two teams, slated for 3 p.m. Saturday with an NCAA berth in the balance. The Bearcats could have captured the title with a victory after starting out the tournament with back-to-back wins. Instead they will look for the program’s second title in five years as the teams play a de facto rubber game in their tournament series.
After plating 19 runs in its first two tournament games, BU’s offense was held in check, though the team hits (11-8 Maine) were closer than the final score would indicate.
Maine sent out America East Pitcher of the Year Tommy Lawrence on one day’s rest after his 100+ pitch, nine-inning complete game on Wednesday but it was BU’s normally-sound defense that struggled against the conditions Friday night. An error led to a pair of unearned runs in the first inning and several outfield miscues were equally costly as a strong wind and hard rain gave both teams fits.
The Bearcats put runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings but instead Maine capitalized early.
Maine put three straight balls in play in the first inning and cashed in with two infield singles and a bunt that Lynch threw away trying to get the force at third. The resulting error, BU’s first of the tournament, gave Maine a 1-0 lead. A two-strike RBI single just inside the bag at first brought in a second run and gave the Black Bears a 2-0 first-inning lead. The Black Bears kept up the pressure in the second, using a leadoff double, sacrifice and squeeze bunt to extend their lead to 3-0. A two-out RBI triple over the head of sophomore right fielder Zach Blanden made it 4-0.
With the infield showing puddles amid unrelenting rain, BU put two more runners on in the fifth as Schanz and Thomas reached on singles. After a strikeout, junior DH Shaun McGraw drew a walk, loading the bases with two out. But Lawrence got a groundout to end the threat as the Bearcats saw their left-on-base total swell to nine.
The game was halted moments later with one out in the bottom of the fifth after another routine pop-up dropped in for a weather-aided hit. After a 36-minute delay, Maine tacked on a sixth run on a two-out RBI double that sailed over the head of junior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz.
Binghamton got on the board with a run in the sixth but an inning-ending double play took the fizz out of a would-be rally. Junior shortstop John Howell singled, Pancerella walked and both runners moved up on a groundout. Blanden drove in Howell with a single through the left side. But after Lawrence was removed (119 pitches, 223 in 3 days), Maine got a comebacker and ensuing 1-6-3 double play.
Senior starter Jay Lynch gave a solid performance with 8.0 innings. He scattered 11 hits and four earned runs, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter. Lynch (6-5) returned to the hill after the rain delay and his 117-pitch outing kept BU’s bullpen intact for Saturdays finale.
Thomas went 2-for-3 and Schanz went 2-for-5 to pace the offense.
(Courtesy: BU Athletics)