Lowell, MA (WBNG BINGHAMTON) Freshman catcher Eddie Posavec delivered a bases-loaded RBI single to deep left field with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning to give Binghamton a dramatic 8-7 walk-off win over top-seeded Stony Brook in the America East championship game at LeLacheur Park.
By capturing the program’s second straight conference title and third in the last six years, the Bearcats (25-25) advance to the NCAA tournament and will await their regional assignment when the 64-team draw is announced at noon on Monday on ESPNU.
Posavec’s hit ended the longest title game in the 25-year baseball history of the America East. The win capped a gutsy showing by an injury-depleted BU team that became just the second team in conference history to win four straight elimination games and the first to do so by knocking off the tournament top seed in back-to-back games. After dropping its opener to No. 2 seed Hartford, the No. 3 Bearcats rattled off elimination-game wins over No. 4 Maine (6-3) and Hartford (8-0) before edging Stony Brook twice with late-inning heroics. Binghamton forced a winner-take-all game with a 4-3 win Saturday night and then exploded for a season-high 21 hits in Sunday’s final.
Junior Anthony Grillini (W, 3-0) was brilliant over the final 5.2 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out five.
“This team has an incredible resiliency,” head coach Tim Sinicki said. “We have a veteran group mixed in with some talented young players that has shown the ability to stay focus all year through some highs and lows. They’ve always found a way to get the job done and all the credit goes to that group of kids out there on the field today for battling back from the losers’ bracket and finding a way to win.”
After stranding 21 runners in the first 11 innings, including the potential winning run on second base in the ninth, 10th and 11th frames, BU broke through in the bottom of the 12th. Senior Shaun McGraw led off with a single to center. McGraw was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder from sophomore third baseman Reed Gamache. Freshman DH Brendan Skidmore singled to center and senior shortstop John Howell walked to load the bases for Posavec, who drilled a 1-0 pitch over the head of a drawn-in Seawolves outfield to plate Gamache with the championship-clinching run.
McGraw went 4-for-6 and earned Most Outstanding Player honors after hitting .450 (9-for-20) with five RBI in the five games. He had a .520 on-base percentage and belted the tournament’s only home run in the win over Maine. Grillini, who also tossed a scoreless inning against Hartford, also earned all-tournament honors with his 0.00 ERA. Joining the pair were junior pitcher Greg Ostner, who fired a complete-game shutout against Hartford and didn’t allow a run in two appearances spanning 11.0 innings, and Posavec, who hit .400 in the series (8-for-20) with four RBI, including the clincher.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 4-1 lead with three runs in the bottom of the second inning - courtesy of successive two-out RBI singles by junior right fielder Zach Blanden, senior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz and senior second baseman Daniel Nevares. But Stony Brook chipped away with single runs in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to tie it at 4-4. The Seawolves then scored three runs in the top of the seventh to jump ahead 7-4. But BU stayed firm with a run in the seventh and two runs to tie it at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth.
On Sunday, Gamache went 5-for-6 with the big hit being a two-out, two-run single up the middle to tie the game in the eighth. Blanden went 3-for-5 with an RBI and also started an inning-ending double play in the top of the 11th that erased a Stony Brook threat. With a go-ahead runner on second, Blanden charged and caught a hard liner and fired back to Howell at the bag to double off the Seawolves’ baserunner. Bereszniewicz also had three hits and an RBI and stole his 23rd base of the season, breaking the Binghamton single-season record. Posavec and Skidmore had two hits apiece.
Seven different players registered RBIs, including junior left fielder Jake Thomas and Howell and groundouts in the first and seventh innings, respectively.
Freshman Casey Wenzel continued BU’s run of clutch pitching performances with a solid 3.2 innings to start the game. Making his first collegiate start against a conference opponent, Wenzel allowed just three hits and an earned run. Junior Mike Bunal entered with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth and got a big strikeout to end the frame. Just two days after his win over Maine, sophomore Jake Cryts gutted out 2.1 innings in his first relief appearance of the season before giving way to Grillini.
(Courtesy: Binghamton University)