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America East Baseball News & Notes: It’s Tourney Time

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When the college baseball season began back in mid-February, no one knew how the ups and downs of the season would play out. In the America East Conference, the seven teams that make up the league had one goal in mind. Make the postseason. Six of the seven have and the one who did not just happen to be last year’s regular season and tournament champion, the Maine Black Bears. Injuries really ruined any sort of a defense of those titles for the Black Bears.

So instead of Maine, it’s the Bryant College Bulldogs that head to Binghamton University as the #1 seed in the tournament. The Bulldogs have been the best team in the league for most, if not all, of the conference season. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with the second-best team batting average of .276, and the second-best team ERA of 5.35. At 33-17 overall and 17-7 in the league, Bryant right now looks like the favorite to win the tournament and advance to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Bryant will begin their chase of the league title on Thursday morning. For Bryant College, this is their first AE title in any sport.

The other team that has a first-round bye is UMBC (25-23, 14-10). Over this past weekend, UMBC got the chance to face Bryant before what could be a championship match on Saturday. Pitching is the calling card of this team. They lead the league in team ERA at 5.01 while leading the league in shutouts with four. They boast possibly the best starting pitcher in the league in junior Luke Johnson. The righty had another fine baseball season for UMBC and is a strong candidate for a second Pitcher of the Year award. He had a 5-4 record with a 3.35 ERA and he led the league in inning pitched with 75.1. And was second in strikeouts with 77. He should get the ball for UMBC on Thursday when they begin play. Another arm that UMBC will rely on is Sam Downs. In 62.1 IP, had a 2.31 ERA which is the best in the league and all of college baseball.

The other four teams heading to Binghamton will get started in a win-or-go-home Wednesday doubleheader. The first game features the UMass Lowell River Hawks (23-29, 11-12) facing UAlbany (15-33-1, 10-13). During the regular season, the two teams met five times with the Great Danes winning three of them. There was one game lost to the weather. The River Hawks were tied for the top-hitting team in the league at .276. They were the second-best fielding team in the league at .971%. RF Carlos Martinez led the league and was third in the country in doubles with 25. UAlbany was a tale of two seasons wrapped into one. The first half was terrible and the second half was much better. They made the tournament by going to Maine last weekend and taking two of three to get in. Their struggles left them with the worst team batting average in the league at .244, and the worst fielding team at .957 (70 errors in 1187 chances). Their team ERA is second worst at 8.39

The late game on Wednesday afternoon, matches NJIT (24-26, 12-11), against the host school for this event the Binghamton Bearcats (21-28, 10-14). The two teams split the six games played. Each team took two of three at their home park. These two teams met last weekend in Newark, NJ with the Highlanders winning two of three. On Wednesday, they will meet for the fourth straight time. Junior Nelson Berkwich is tied for 16th in the country in starts with 14. His record is 5-5 with 72 IP. The Highlanders were middle of the pack in hitting, pitching, and fielding in the league. This should be a close game with NJIT having the last at-bat because of a better record. The Highlanders come into this tournament having won seven of their last nine games.

The final players of the week go like this. The AE Player of the Week is third baseman Devan Bade of Binghamton. Last week he hit .692 and slugged 1.000 with nine hits, six RBI, and three runs scored. He had three hits in every game played by the Bearcats. This was Bade’s first weekly award.

The AE Pitcher of the Week is Cregg Scherrer of UAlbany. He tossed a complete game in the season and series finale at Maine on Saturday. He allowed three earned runs and struck out five. In 10 innings, he went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, and a save came in the opening game on Thursday afternoon.

The AE Rookie of the Week is AJ Soldra of NJIT. In a 3-1 week for the Highlanders, Soldra slashed .462/ .556/ .692. He finished the week with six hits, four runs scored, and two RBI. This is AJ’s first weekly award.

A good week’s worth of college baseball is about to start in Vestal, NY, home of the Binghamton Bearcats. If you are in the area, go out to the ballpark and see for yourself.

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