The twenty-four games conference season has come to a close. The six teams that make up the America East Baseball Tournament are on their way to Binghamton, NY for four days of baseball that gets started on Wednesday afternoon. Bryant, Binghamton, NJIT, Maine, UMBC, and UMass Lowell will now compete for the league title and the automatic bid that goes with it to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. We can look ahead to a terrific four days of baseball that lies ahead. Let’s get started with a look back at the final weekend of play.
The Maine Black Bears (19-5) finished off league play with a sweep of Bryant over the weekend at Mahoney Diamond in Maine. The 19-5 record is the best mark of any team in the league since 2016. They capped off their season in grand style on Saturday afternoon. Down 8-6 to the Bulldogs in the bottom of the ninth, the Black Bears staged a comeback that is worthy of a #1 seed team. They would score five runs, capped off by a walk-off grand slam HR from Ryan Turenne to give Maine an 11-8 win and the sweep of the series. The Black Bears will begin play in the tournament on Thursday. Maine will do so with the best team batting average in the league at .295. They also lead the league in HRs with 75. They have the best slugging percentage at .489, as well as the best on-base percentage at .402. On the mound, the Black Bears have the second-best team ERA at 5.97 and are tied for the league lead in shutouts with three. Opponents have hit .262 against this staff, which is the lowest in the league.
For Bryant (12-12), the sweep at the hands of Maine means they slip to the four seed in the tournament and will meet the UMass Lowell River Hawks on Wednesday afternoon. The teams met during the regular season in Lowell and it did not go well for the Bulldogs. The River Hawks pounded the Bulldogs’ pitching staff scoring 42 runs in the three-game series. Pitching has been an on-and-off thing for Bryant this spring as they led the league in wild pitches with 67, and have hit 61 batters for second in the league. A combination you do want to hang your hat on. The Bulldogs can swing the bat. They are tied for the league lead in triples with 12, and are second in the league in doubles with 97 and home runs with 70. This is a bit of a free-swinging team as they lead the league in strikeouts with 458.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks (11-13) needed to win their series with Binghamton and then get some help from UAlbany to move up in the standings. Both things happened for the River Hawks. After losing the opening game on Thursday afternoon, the River Hawks went to work swinging hot bats against two of the Bearcats’ best pitchers in Gabe Driscoll and Ryan Bryggman. The River Hawks are tied with Bryant in triples with 12. Sophomore Jacob Humphrey has five of those triples to go along with 32 stolen bases which are third-best in the league and top-20 in the country. He has been caught only five times. UMass Lowell has stolen 83 bases this spring, second in the league. The problem for the River Hawks has been their defense and pitching. On defense, the River Hawks have made the most errors in the league at 71 and their pitching has hit the most batters at 84. They have allowed the most earned runs at 346 and the second most HR with 66.
The Bearcats (12-12) had a good news bad news weekend in Lowell. The good news is with the help of the Black Bears they finished in third place in the league based on results that took place over the weekend. The bad news would be how the River Hawks swing the bats against the pitching staff. Another concern could be the health of OF Tommy Reifler who was injured in Thursday afternoon’s game in Lowell and was held out of the rest of the series. Reifler finished the season as the top hitter in the league with a .377 batting average. His loss at the top of the Bearcats’ lineup would be a big blow for the defending champions. Gabe Driscoll, who did not pitch well in Lowell on Friday, leads the league in wins with seven. His only loss took place on Saturday. Ryan Bryggman, who has four wins himself, will also be looking to bounce back from a poor outing on Saturday. The Bearcats have three good starting pitchers when you add Thomas Babalis to the list. If there is one thing the Bearcats do well, it is catch the baseball. They are 22nd in the country in fielding percentage with a .979% with 34 errors in 47 games.
Things were going just swell for NJIT (11-13). They scored 26 runs in the first two games of their series with UAlbany. Then on Sunday, the offense was stopped dead in its tracks as they were shutout 8-0 by the Great Danes. The loss, coupled with the River Hawks taking two of three from the Bearcats, means the Highlanders will face the Bearcats in the second game on Wednesday at 5 PM. The teams met back on April 21-23 with the Highlanders taking two of three at home. This time they met at Binghamton. The Highlanders arrived at the tournament with the lowest batting average in the league at .240, They have the second-worst slugging percentage at .373, and the worst on-base percentage at .337. However, they possess the best team ERA in the league at 5.52. They are tied with the Bearcats for the least earned runs allowed at 267 and they have committed the most balks at 11. Aidan Kidd is second in the league and 19th in the country with 16 hit by pitches.
UMBC (16-8) played non-conference baseball last weekend. They swept a series from VMI and will begin play in the AE tournament on Thursday. They are tied with the Black Bears in hitting with a .295 team batting average. Their 109 doubles lead the league. They also lead the league in being hit by pitch with 77. They have 34 sac-flies which is also #1 in the conference. Their 70 errors are second worst in AE.
The final regular season awards look like this. The AE Player of the Week is Robert Gallagher of the River Hawks. In the series with Binghamton, Gallagher batted .667 with a .750 on-base percentage. He had 14 total bases, seven runs scored, and three stolen bases. In the Friday and Saturday wins, Gallagher went a combined seven for eight with two runs and a walk. On Saturday, he finished a HR short of a cycle. He leads the league in hit-by-pitch with 17. For his career at UMass Lowell, Gallagher has been plucked 50 times which ties him for the program’s all-time lead.
The AE Pitcher of the Week is UAlbany Owen Birkman. On Saturday, the junior went 8.1 IP allowing just four hits, striking out two, and walking four in the 8-0 shutout of the Highlanders. He allowed only one base runner to reach third base during his outing.
The AE Rookie of the Week is Maine’s Gianni Gambardella. He went four innings to get the save in the 3-1 victory of Bryant. He gave up four hits, one earned run, with no walks and six strikeouts. In his final three innings of that appearance, Gambardella allowed only two harmless singles and no runs.
Now it is on to the tournament to see who gets crowned America East Baseball Tournament Champions and gets to move on to the field of 64, and the Road to Omaha.
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