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America East Player of the Year candidate Jake Thomas will move from left field to right field for his senior season.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Baseball preview: Bearcats seek third straight conference title
February 12, 2015Tweet
The Binghamton University Bearcats, two-time reigning America East baseball champions, has some key holdovers from the title teams of 2013 and 2014 but will have new faces in key places, particularly on the mound.
Flashback: What the 2014 team achieved
• Won four consecutive elimination games to capture the program’s second straight America East championship and third in six years.
• Defeated Stony Brook 8-7 in 12 innings to end longest championship game in league history.
• Became the first team in the 25-year history of the America East to knock off the top seed in back-to-back tournament games to win the crown.
• Played at the NCAA Stillwater Regional, losing to seventh-ranked Oklahoma State and then 19th-ranked Nebraska in a game Binghamton led into the ninth inning.
• Ranked in the nation’s top-20 in fielding percentage for a second straight year (.973).
• Four position starters, including three all-conference selections (two all-region) and the team’s 2-3-5 hitters.
• The program’s four-year double-play tandem of John Howell (SS) and Daniel Nevares (2B).
• First team all-conference center fielder and MLB draft choice Bill Bereszniewicz (Dodgers, 28th round).
• Two of the team’s top three RBI producers (Nevares 35, Shawn McGraw, 30).
• Team’s top two starting pitchers in Jack Rogalla (graduated) and Jake Cryts (injuried – will miss 2015 season) who combined to throw 174 innings in 2014
Head coach Tim Sinicki says …
“Every spring, usually sometime in late April and early May you start to think about the guys leaving the program and wonder how you will ever replace them. For me, what gets me past that, is the confidence in the returning players and incoming players we’ve recruited, along with the belief that we as a coaching staff try our best to develop every one of their abilities to their fullest.”
• Five starting position players and seven pitchers.
• Tri-captains Greg Ostner (RHP), Jake Thomas (LF) and Zach Blanden (CF).
• Two-time first team all-conference outfielder Jake Thomas.
• Junior infielder Reed Gamache, who made 46 starts in 2014 and had five hits in title game.
• Senior pitcher Greg Ostner (2.81 ERA in 2014), one of heroes of the 2014 postseason.
• Sophomore C/DH Eddie Posavec, who caught 336 consecutive innings as freshman, recorded winning hit to win championship game.
Leading hitter Thomas back for final season
Senior outfielder Jake Thomas returns for his final collegiate season, having already claimed a pair of first-team all-conference honors. Thomas is a perennial Player of the Year candidate who was tabbed “hitter you least want to face” by opposing conference coaches in a College Baseball Insider preseason poll. Already the most walked player in school history, he is on pace to finish his career with 200-plus hits, 125-plus RBI and 115-plus runs, all of which would be among Binghamton’s top-10. After finishing third in the nation in on-base percentage as a sophomore (.517), Thomas rapped 15 extra-base hits and drove in 35 runs last season. He will move over from left to right field and bump up a spot and bat third in Binghamton’s lineup.
Coach Sinicki says …
“Jake’s been an impact guy from the first day he stepped foot on campus. A special player and person, I am hoping he has saved his best for his senior season. He is a tireless worker who expects nothing less than the best from himself.”
Ostner will anchor staff at No. 1
Buoyed by his outstanding postseason run as a starter, former reliever and senior tri-captain Greg Ostner will now settle into the No. 1 starter role for 2015. Ostner went 3-2 with a team-high four saves and a 2.81 ERA last spring. But in two postseason starts, Ostner showed his mettle by churning out 17.1 innings. The first was a complete-game six-hit shutout of Hartford in the first America East elimination game. He then took the ball for Binghamton’s NCAA game against No. 21 Nebraska and worked 8.1 solid frames. In his first three collegiate seasons, Ostner has a 2.80 ERA in 99.2 innings.
Depth at catcher
After Eddie Posavec had to carry the load for most of 2014, Sinicki will have three viable options at catcher in 2015. Posavec hit .315 in the regular season, the top rookie mark in the conference, and delivered the big hit of the postseason with his championship-clinching RBI single in the title game. He can also play the outfield. Senior Nick Pancerella is back after missing all but nine games of the 2014 campaign with an injury. He caught 33 games in 2013 and anchored a pitching staff that held down a 3.73 ERA en route to the team’s second America East crown. Promising newcomer Jason Agresti brings a strong frame and notable scholastic credentials (first team All-NYC) and he will push for the starting spot right away, either at catcher or DH.
Coach Sinicki says …
“Heading into the season I can honestly say I don’t know when we’ve been as healthy and deep at the catching position. All three guys are legitimate options for us behind the plate and possess unique skills sets that can help the team in out in many different ways.”
Infielders Schanz, Ruby back from injuries
Junior third baseman David Schanz and senior first baseman Brian Ruby are both back in form after injuries reduced their contributions in 2014. Ruby, a jack-of-all-trades infielder, was the team’s starting first baseman before an injury suffered on the pitching rubber on April 9 cost him the remaining 29 games of the season. Schanz started at third base but missed 24 games, including most of the postseason with a leg injury. Both are exceptional defensive infielders.
Pitching heroes of 2014 return
During the team’s improbable run through the consolation bracket of the 2014 America East Championship (4-1), five unheralded relief pitchers shined: Greg Ostner, Anthony Grillini, Nicholas Liegi, Casey Wenzel and Tsuyoshi Horibata. The quintet combined to allow just two earned runs in 29 innings. Ostner (0.00 ERA in 11.0 IP) and Grillini (0.00 ERA in 6.2 IP) were named to the All-Championship Team and unrecruited freshman walk-on Liegi held a 1.59 ERA in two appearances. Wenzel started the do-or-die title game and in his first collegiate start against a conference opponent, allowed just one run in 3.2 innings.
Hard-throwing Bunal will move from bullpen to starting rotation
Like Ostner, junior right-hander Mike Bunal will also make the move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Bunal threw 18.1 innings in 2014 and his arsenal has attracted the attention of MLB scouts. His longest relief outing was 3.2 innings against Stony Brook in early April, when he struck out four and allowed just one earned run.
Skidmore, Herncane look to build on solid postseasons
After playing in 26 and 20 games respectively as freshmen in 2014, sophomore infielder Brendan Skidmore and second-year outfielder Darian Herncane are expected to move into more prominent roles this spring. Skidmore had three hits in seven at-bats at the NCAA Regional from the DH spot and added four more hits before that at the America East tournament. He’s expected to get the starting nod at first base and can also play short. Herncane will move into the starting left field spot, where he delivered an RBI double against Nebraska at the NCAA Regional.
13 newcomers infuse roster; Rufo pushing for time at SS
Along with Agresti, freshman shortstop Paul Rufo and junior transfer pitcher Rob Hardy head a cast of 13 newcomers to the program in 2015. Rufo, a former all-state second baseman at Cedar Grove (N.J.), will begin his promising career at shortstop. Hardy, meanwhile, will likely occupy the No. 3 spot in the rotation after starring two years at Herkimer County CC and leading the 2014 team to a third-place national finish.
Bearcats may have traded star power for balance in 2015
The 2014 team had six all-conference players (two all-region) and one MLB draft pick. Entering the postseason tournament, however, 40 percent of the roster was out with injuries (12 players). The reserves stepped up and because of it, Binghamton enters 2015 with more balance as a healthy squad is 2-3 deep at each position.
Coach Sinicki says …
“Balance. I think that is the word that best describes this team. The lineup, the pitching staff ... we will need to get contributions from everyone if we want to reach our goals - and I think we are capable of doing that.”
Bearcats picked third in America East
With two straight postseason titles and three NCAA trips in the last six years, Binghamton remains one of the primary contenders in the seven-team America East. The Bearcats are the only team to garner a top-three conference tournament seed in each of the last eight years – a level of consistency that has defined Sinicki’s program during its Division I era.
Coach Sinicki says …
“Entering the 2015 season I feel like the program is in a great place and primed to make a run at a conference championship each and every year. This, of course, has to do with the fact that my staff and I have been so fortunate to work with countless outstanding student-athletes who have worked so hard to position the program this way.”