After last season came to an early conclusion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Binghamton baseball team will start this year’s season against Hartford this weekend.
“Everyone is very happy to be back and finally play baseball,” said senior catcher TJ Wegmann. “For most of us, this is what we have been doing all our lives. [There’s nothing better than] finally got the opportunity to get out on the field and compete. ”
Last season, the Bearcats were first picked in the America East (AE) coaching survey, but were only allowed to play 12 games before the season was suspended. Before the close, the Bearcats were on a winning streak with four games and had won their last five of six games.
This season will create unique challenges for the Bearcats. Unlike most seasons, there are no non-conference games on the schedule. Instead, there will be 40 games where the Bearcats will play conference opponents in back-to-back double-headers during a 10-weekend series. Bearcats have traditionally relied on non-conference games to evaluate talent and build numbers.
“It’s going to be difficult early on not to have the opportunity to build those tones in a more traditional setting,” said Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki. “But that’s why we have 14 boys. We calculate the number of counts that we feel [are] appropriate. They all need to be ready to compete and contribute, and I think they will. “
Despite these challenges, the team is still focused on winning the conference title. In this year’s AE season poll, the Bearcats were picked as number two in AE.
“Our goals are always the same, [COVID-19] years or not, and it’s to win the America East Championship both [in the] regular season and post-season, ”said Sinicki. “We want to do the best we can and work towards the same goals.”
Sinicki is entering his 29th season as Binghamton’s head coach and is the longest-serving coach at the university. He has been named AE Coach of the Year six times and has collected more than 600 career victories.
This year, the Bearcats return the majority of the list, including all but one of last year’s seniors. In addition to the returning players, the team has made 11 beginners this season.
“[Senior outfielder Daniel Franchi] and [senior third baseman Justin Drpich] have many fights under the belt in our uniform, ”said Sinicki. Franchi played in our last regional appearance at Texas A&M in 2016. Drpich started from day one. That kind of experience will be the key, especially early in the season and trying to figure out who we are and what type of ball club we can be. ”
In addition, this year’s team brings back three all-conference players from last season: senior second baseman Alex Baratta, junior outfielder Shane Marshall and sophomore pitcher Thomas Babalis.
“Babalis will go to the number one role in our program,” Sinicki said. “[He] started last year as the number one starter pack. He gets quite a lot of interest from professional scouts. [Marshall] will continue to hit on number two for us. I personally believe that he is the best athlete at our conference. Baratta will haul itself down to the three points. [He is] one of the best pure hitters in our conference. Having those guys to trust is a great way to get into the season. ”
Bearcat’s baseball program has achieved high levels of success over the past decade. Over the last 13 years, the Bearcats have won ten titles in the regular season and tournament. In addition, the program has produced nine MLB drafts since 2010. The most recent choice was right-handed pitcher Ben Anderson, who was taken in the 13th round by the Texas Rangers in 2019.
In February last year, an anonymous $ 60 million dollar donation to finance a new baseball facility was announced. While the project was originally scheduled to be completed before this season, the timeline was delayed one year last spring. Several parts of the construction are starting to take shape, and Sinicki said that the construction has stayed according to plan to be finished before next season. This year, the Bearcats will play downtown at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton, New York.
“It’s a great facility,” Sinicki said. “The people at Rumble Ponies have been huge. They have been very welcoming for us to play and practice, and we are happy with our relationship with them, and we are excited to be their guests of the year. ”
The team will begin the season with a four-game series against Hartford, which begins on Saturday 20 March. The first pitch is scheduled for dinner from Fiondella Field in West Hartford, Connecticut.