By: Jodi Pontbriand
KINGSTON, R.I. — Binghamton’s Jake Lambert stole the show as he cruised through eight shutout innings in the Bearcats’ 4-0 win over top-seeded Maine, Sunday afternoon in the America East title game. Pitching on just three days rest after hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Albany on Wednesday, the senior starter and tournament MVP fanned seven batters while allowing just five hits and one walk to lead BU to its second conference championship in five years.
Lambert – who retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced – was spotted an early lead as Zach Blanden scored from second on a first-inning, RBI-single by Daniel Nevares. The second-seeded Bearcats added another in the top of the third when David Schanz crossed the plate on a two-out single by Shaun McGraw.
Maine’s Mike Connolly struggled a bit with control, walking four batters over his six innings pitched and drilling the first two Bearcats he faced in the top of the sixth. BU’s Nick Pancarella then laced a single through the right side which drove in Brian Ruby to put Binghamton ahead 3-0.
Lambert, meanwhile, continued his mastery of the Black Bears’ hitters as he faced just two over the minimum through his first seven innings of work.
Maine experienced a bit of tough luck in the top of the ninth when BU’s Jake Thomas sent a laser down the line that narrowly missed third base umpire Rick Emerson’s head. Clearly rattled from nearly being taken out by the hit, Emerson initially indicated that the ball was foul, but quickly reversed his call and waved it fair, allowing Thomas to easily make it to second base as Maine’s left fielder slowed up his approach after seeing the foul call. Nevares followed with a single to right which plated Thomas for the 4-0 advantage.
Maine finally got something going in the bottom of the ninth as back-to-back walks and an infield single brought the tying run to the plate with one away. However, Binghamton’s Mike Urbanski quickly ended the threat with a strikeout and a game-ending fly out to center field to pick up his second save of the season.
Overall, the Bearcats collected 11 hits on the afternoon – two apiece from Schanz, Thomas, Nevares, McGraw and Pancerella. Maine managed just six (all singles) and did not advance a runner past second base until the bottom of the ninth.
Connolly went six innings for the Black Bears and was charged with the loss after allowing three runs on eight hits, four walks and two hit batsmen. Defensively, he recorded a team-high five assists from the mound.
Following the conclusion of the game, Tommy Lawrence (Maine), Mike Connolly (Maine), Eric White (Maine), Daniel Nevares (Binghamton), David Schanz (Binghamton), Shaun McGraw (Binghamton) and Jake Lambert (Binghamton) were presented with America East All-Championship awards. Joining them on the All-Championship team were Austin Chase of Albany and Stony Brook’s Brandon McNitt and Johnny Caputo.
Lambert was an easy choice for the Most Outstanding Player Award, as he surrendered just seven hits while recording 13 strikeouts over 17 shutout innings in a pair of starts at the conference tournament.
Note: The America East Championship game was slated to be played at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. on Saturday afternoon, but inclement weather forced the cancellation of the game. Due to prior field commitments on Sunday, the Conference’s title game was moved to the University of Rhode Island’s Bill Beck Field, a FieldTurf surface that could withstand the potential threat of rain on Sunday. Had the America East not been able to find a site for the game, Maine would have received the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as the top-seeded team in AE Tournament.