Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 8:41:47 AM

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Bearcats Baseball to play for America East Title

LOWELL, Mass.After waiting more than 15 hours, Binghamton baseball (29-22) closed out top-seeded Maine (35-21) 10-2 to advance to the America East championship game. The Bearcats, 2-0 in the double-elimination tournament, need one more win to earn the programs second-ever conference title and accompanying NCAA berth. Binghamton will face the winner of the Maine-Stony Brook elimination game at 8 p.m. Friday night. If BU is beaten, the if necessary game would be played on Saturday.

The Bearcats led 8-2 when Thursday nights game was suspended due to rain just before midnight. The two teams returned to the field Friday at 2 p.m. and BU reliever Greg Ostner finished what Jack Rogalla (W, 5-4) had started 15 hours earlier. Ostner, a sophomore, stranded two Maine runners in the top of the eighth and the Bearcats tacked on their final two runs in the bottom of the frame on four hits. Ostner used a double-play grounder to end the game.

Spanning the two days, BU collected 16 hits and scored the final 10 runs of the game against a Black Bears team that had only surrendered double-digit runs twice in its previous 55 games. Meanwhile, Binghamtons pitching has allowed just two runs in 18 innings of tournament play (1.00 ERA).

On Thursday night, after the start time was delayed until 9 p.m. when an hour rain delay slowed the opening game, the teams played through some misty rain in the middle innings before it got heavier in the sixth. The game was halted at 11:12 p.m. with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and a BU runner on second. It was called 33 minutes later.

The suspension was the worst case scenario for the Bearcats, who were six outs away from closing out the win but scored three runs in the seventh and were still batting in support of Rogalla, who had put up six straight scoreless frames. Rogalla, who had already topped the 100-pitch mark, will likely be finished for the tournament. Binghamton collected 12 hits at the plate, including three in the seventh before the game was halted.

Binghamton snapped a 2-2 tie with three runs in the bottom of the fourth - all after two were out. Sophomore catcher Nick Pancerella laced a single to center and junior center fielder Bill Bereszniewicz was issued a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second. Sophomore right fielder Zach Blanden then drilled an 0-1 pitch to the wall in left center, scoring both runners. Freshman third baseman David Schanz followed with a grounder to short that the Maine shortstop charged but couldnt field cleanly and the error brought around Blanden from second and made it 5-2.

The Bearcats tacked on three more runs - all with clutch two-out hitting. Junior DH Shaun McGraw led off with a single and after a walk to junior first baseman Brian Ruby, junior shortstop John Howell moved them up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch made it 6-2 and B&B combo of Bereszniewicz and Blanden struck again with run-scoring hits. Bereszniewicz lashed an RBI single through the left side to push BUs lead to 7-2 and Blanden followed with an RBI double into the right field corner.

Through the first seven innings, the Bearcats hit 7-of-14 with two outs.

Maine jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a one-out two-run homer over the right field wall.

The Bearcats cut their margin in half in the second inning. Ruby led off with a single into right field. After a strikeout and groundout moved Ruby to second, Bereszniewicz drilled a hard shot just past the Black Bears second baseman and Ruby came around to score on the RBI single.

One inning later, BU tied it with two hits. Schanz opened with a single to center and went to third on a single by sophomore left fielder Jake Thomas, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Junior second baseman Daniel Nevares then pushed a two-strike grounder to the right side, enabling Schanz to score and even the score at 2-2.

Schanz made a stellar play to end the top of the fourth. After Maine used a dribbler to the pitcher to put a runner on first with one out, Schanz gobbled up a sizzling drive to his left and started a 5-4-3 double play.

Maine loaded the bases in the top of the fifth on two singles and a walk, but Rogalla got leading hitter Troy Black to pop out to short to strand three. Earlier in the inning, Schanz charged a bunt and made a nice play to get the second out. One inning later as a steady rain began to fall, Rogalla gave up a one-out double to the wall but got a shallow fly to center and a strikeout to escape damage.

Rogalla stranded another runner in the seventh, thanks in part to a pair of defensive gems. Howell ranged up the middle to snare a hard grounder and throw out the Maine hitter to open the inning. After a walk, Schanz stopped threw out the runner at second from his knees for the second out. And then after Rogalla thought he had the inning-ending fly out, a balk was called and the runner was advanced to second. But on his 100th pitch of the game, Rogalla got the groundout as Schanz fielded a well-hit grounder and made the accurate throw across the diamond.

With the suspension, Rogallas line was complete. He allowed six hits and two runs, struck out five and walked two. He retired Maine in order in the second and third innings, and got a double play to get out of the fourth unscathed. Rogalla scattered two hits in the fifth and one more in the sixth.

Blanden went 2-for-5 with three RBI, Schanz and Thomas had three hits apiece and Bereszniewicz went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. McGraw and Ruby also had two hits apiece.

NOTES
The team that starts 2-0 has won the last 11 America East titles The only other time BU started 2-0 was the 2009 championship, which the top-seeded Bearcats won at Union-Endicott High School Only twice since 2002 has the emerging team from the losers bracket forced an if necessary final game and each time the winners bracket team has prevailed Senior RHP Jay Lynch will start the 8 p.m. championship game.

(Courtesy Binghamton Athletics)

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