Binghamton: Poised for another strong year in the America East

A veteran lineup has the Bearcats hunting a seventh regular season title under Tim Sinicki.

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The dust had barely settled on Binghamton’s 6-1 loss to Maine in the America East championship game when longtime head coach Tim Sinicki began preparing for the next title race.

Sinicki knew he was getting the bulk of his lineup back, but questions around pitching were enough to worry him. The Bearcats would undoubtedly hit and field at a high level with the key pieces they were returning, but replacing over 60 percent of innings pitched — two weekend starters and a host of key relievers — seemed daunting.

Now, after a busy summer, Sinicki not only feels confident in his lineup — but sees the staff as a strength as well.

“We were concerned we were going to lose so much pitching,” Sinicki said. “We had some good young arms coming into the program and some contributors coming back, but still thought that’s where we’d be a little bit short.”

“Then, the summer comes, and we get involved with a few kids and next thing you know, we feel like the pitching staff can now be a strength based on some of the guys we brought into the program.”

With a pitching staff brimming with reinforcements and a lineup full of experience, Binghamton — who was picked to win last year’s title only to see Maine come away with it — once again finds itself in the preseason top spot in the America East.

Evin Sullivan (Binghamton Athletics Photo)

Proven Lineup From Top to Bottom

A year after leading the America East in batting average (.295), Binghamton has the benefit of returning the bulk of its lineup and supplementing with some key pickups this offseason.

If you look back at the lineup card from that championship game loss to the Black Bears, the departures are left fielder Cavan Tully, first baseman Kevin Gsell, and designated hitter Zachary Taylor. Gsell (.976 OPS, 8 HR) and Tully (.890 OPS) were key offensive pieces, but there’s a lot to like about how the Bearcats went about replacing them.

Tully’s spot figures to be one of a pair of returnees in Logan Haskell and Christian Perez, while Saint Peter’s transfer Sam Haney arrives to man first base. Haskell struggled last season, but the potential is there — he hit .310 across 41 games as a true freshman in 2022. Perez is a player that Sinicki highlighted as a potential breakout — he’s primarily been a role player the last three years but did hit .327 in 64 at bats in 2023.

Haney had a massive year in the MAAC last spring, slashing .320/.455/.566 with 10 home runs and 13 doubles. Another key addition is Zach Rogacki, who arrives from D-III Alvernia as an All-Conference catcher that hit .372/.457/.566 over 82 starts.

Rogacki forms an intriguing tandem behind the plate with Evin Sullivan, the 2022 America East Freshman of the Year. Sullivan, who hit .365 and hit clean-up as a true freshman, injured his hand last spring and didn’t return until mid-April. He showed flashes of his potential down the stretch, hitting .359 in his last 10 games and had three home runs and nine RBIs in five America East Championship games.

With those three lineup slots filled, the returnees are the core reason to be excited about this Binghamton club. Center fielder Tommy Reifler, an All-Conference First Team selection last year, is back after leading the team in average and slashing .371/.434/.461. Reifler, a fixture in the two-hole last season, hit .438 across his first 20 games after a .141 average as a sophomore.

He’s joined in the outfield by Mike Gunning, who put up a .285/.381/.492 line across 50 games and a team-high 18 doubles. Second baseman Nick Roselli led the team in OPS (1.033), home runs (10), RBIs (61), and roped four triples for good measure. Roselli could easily find himself earning America East Player of the Year honors if he picks up where he left off: The rising junior hit .397 across his last 30-plus games with a 1.117 OPS.

Freshman shortstop Mike Stellrecht held his own across 92 at bats, hitting .250 with a trio of home runs, while third baseman Devan Bade slashed .315/.393/.516 with 21 extra base hits. Another infielder that saw meaningful time at short was Isaiah Corry, who’s back after hitting .242 across 34 starts.

“It’s tremendous — we do have quite a bit coming back,” Sinicki said. “And we even splashed in a couple new players that are going to make an immediate impact.”

Gabe Driscoll (Binghamton Athletics Photo)

Reloaded Pitching Staff

The pitching staff is where questions lingered heading into the offseason. The list of departures was long: Starters Tommy Babalis and Ryan Bryggman, as well as relievers Tommy Snyder, Kyle Eskildsen, and Jack Collins among others. Injuries to a few key incoming recruits only further complicated things. Still, the Bearcats did quite well to reload heading into 2024.

It helps when the biggest returning piece on the mound is America East All-First Team selection Gabe Driscoll, a towering 6-foot-5 righthander that went 5-1 with a 4.98 ERA a season ago. He’ll be joined in the weekend rotation by two of the newcomers Sinicki mentioned — Ryan Bates and Nelson Berkwich.

Bates, who’d been recruited by Binghamton out of high school, transferred from Siena after Tony Rossi’s retirement. The righty was a workhorse as a true freshman, earning MAAC All-Rookie Team honors after 14 starts and a team-high 83 innings pitched. He took his lumps to the tune of a 6.51 ERA and 2-7 record, but it gives him quite a bit of experience for a second-year starter.

Berkwich, meanwhile, arrives after stops at Vanderbilt and North Carolina. A lefty specialist with the Tar Heels last spring, he’ll make the move to the rotation after logging 50 appearances across three collegiate seasons. He had success over the summer in the NECBL, posting a 14:2 K/BB ratio across 10-plus innings with Newport.

Another key pickup is Chris Sleeper, a pitcher Binghamton recruited out of Rush Henrietta that opted to go to West Virginia. After three years with the Mountaineers — including an All-Big 12 Freshman Team honor — Sleeper inherits a big role for the Bearcats as a low three-quarters slot arm that has a good three-pitch mix.

“When our season ended last year, we didn’t have any of those guys,” Sinicki added. “During the course of the summer months, we were able to grab all three and that really bolstered our pitching staff as we go into the season.”

That group of transfers is joined by the likes of Dan McAliney, John Lumpinski, and Justin Rosner. McAliney was an All-Rookie Team selection last year, Lumpinski was second on the team in appearances in conference play, and Rosner has 83 strikeouts in 82 career innings. Other incoming pieces include Bucknell’s Theo Farynick, who turned in 20 appearances and a 4.81 ERA last spring, and Spencer Howell, a grad transfer out of Pacific Lutheran that made 10 starts last year with a 3.99 ERA.

With the sheer quantity of innings replaced, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Bearcats find their footing after finishing second in the conference in ERA a season ago.

“It’s one of those situations where you have to balance what’s best for your program — it felt like the right year to strike in the portal and see what we can do,” Sinicki said. “Some of the guys that we brought in will give us the experience we need and give some of our young guys the chances to develop.”

Featured Image Credit: Binghamton Athletics