Kingston, RI (WBNG Binghamton) Senior ace and tournament MVP Jake Lambert fired eight shutout innings and Binghamton (30-23) defeated Maine (37-22) 4-0 in the deciding game of the America East Championship at Bill Beck Field on the campus of University of Rhode Island. The Bearcats won their second conference title in five years and will advance to the NCAA tournament, which begins on Friday. The NCAA will release its 64-team bracket Monday at noon on ESPNU and the team will gather to watch the announcement in the Events Center.
Lambert, working on three days rest after his two-hit shutout in the tournament opener on Wednesday, was brilliant, logging 120 pitches and scattering five hits before turning it over to BU’s bullpen, which sidestepped a dicey ninth to preserve the win. Lambert (7-2) struck out seven and walked one and was an easy choice for MVP honors after pitching 17 scoreless innings in two starts.
The Black Bears brought the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth before sophomore reliever Mike Urbanski got a huge swinging strikeout and a line-out to center to close it. It was Urbanski’s second save of the season.
Binghamton scored one run in the first, third, sixth and ninth innings and outhit Maine 11-6.
For the second straight game, Maine rolled out an all-conference starter on just one day’s rest and BU jumped out of the gate with a run in the top of the first frame. Leadoff hitter Zach Blanden worked a 3-2 walk and went to second on a one-out groundout. With two outs, junior second baseman Daniel Nevares pulled a single through the left side and after Maine’s shortstop grabbed it, Blanden caught him by surprise as he rounded third and charged toward home and the throw to the plate was up the first base line.
In the third inning, BU struck again with a run on two hits and a walk. Freshman third baseman David Schanz drilled a one-out stand-up double into the left field corner and sophomore left fielder Jake Thomas was walked, putting runners on first and second. Nevares flied out to center but with two out, McGraw laced the first pitch he saw through the left side scoring a sliding Schanz with BU’s second run.
The Bearcats put runners on base in every inning and came within a hit or two of blowing it open early.
In the sixth, BU took advantage of back-to-back hit batters to open the frame. In an an apparent sacrifice situation and with Maine infielders charging, Pancerella slashed an RBI single through the right side scoring Ruby to make it 3-0. The Bearcats had runners on second and third with one out but couldn’t do further damage.
Lambert retired the side on strikeouts in the first, working around an infield single. He then retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings and sent down 10 straight before Maine led off the bottom of the fifth with a soft single through the right side. A great stab by Schanz at third started a 5-4-3 double play to get BU out of the fifth and then Lambert stranded a runner at second in the bottom of the frame with his seventh strikeout of the game.
Schanz did it again in the seventh, smothering a short-hop and starting another 5-4-3 twin killing. Earlier in the inning, Nevares charged a slow roller and made a great glove-flip to get the leadoff hitter.
Binghamton added a final run in the ninth inning for more breathing room. With two outs, Thomas doubled over the bag at third and Nevares delivered an RBI single just over the glove of the Maine second baseman.
Schanz and Nevares joined Lambert and McGraw on the all-championship team. McGraw (2-for-5, RBI) had a team-high eight hits in the tournament and Schanz (7 hits) and Nevares (2 RBI) played outstanding defense.
Binghamton’s defense, which entered the tournament with the highest fielding percentage, committed just one error in four tournament games - and that was from the pitcher’s spot.
The win allowed BU to reach the 30-win mark for third time in last five years ... the odd weather continued on Sunday with high winds (25+ MPH) mixing with alternating sideways rain and sunshine. The scene was similar to the quirky circumstance in 2009 when weather delays, excess water (rain and sprinklers) and late nights came to define BU’s first conference title… The tournament began in Lowell on Wednesday and featured a suspended game, another soaked game that easily could’ve been suspended and a canceled game. Binghamton and Maine made the 90-minute drive from Lowell to Kingston, R.I. to find both a suitable field and better weather forecast. They barely got the latter requirement as this game had to be halted - albeit briefly - after the driving rain made it difficult to see in the early innings.