This was my second straight year making the trek to Lowell, Massachusetts to take in the America East Tournament. Here are some of my thoughts about the tournament and other things.
Why would you cover the America East Tournament over other conferences?
First of all, the biggest issues with the larger conference tournaments like the ACC and SEC is the fact that 90-95 percent of the squads that play in those tournaments are going to make the NCAA Tournament. Those student-athletes are not playing for their baseball “lives” like the athletes at America East schools and many other lower level Division 1 conferences.
When you look at the end of the day with the squads that took the field, 90-95 percent or even a higher number will never play any baseball at a higher level than college. So, if they lose in this tournament their long baseball careers are over.
True Leaders on the Field
An interesting thing happened when Binghamton picked up the 8-7 victory on Sunday afternoon. After the pig pile in the outfield and the Binghamton staff celebrating the victory. Stony Brook number 1 pitcher Frankie Vanderka made the trek over to the Binghamton side of the field to congratulate Coach Sinicki on winning his second straight America East title. Frankie didn’t need to do this as this was the last time he was going to play for Stony Brook and ended his career, but it was a class move by the senior.
The other pure leader that showed for the second straight year was Binghamton senior Shaun McGraw. This kid plays the game the right way with all his heart on his sleeve. Tim Sinicki commented about McGraw calling him “The best leader I have had in my 22-year coaching career. It doesn’t matter what he (Shawn) does from working with the freshmen to keeping the seniors on point. He helps out everyone.”
To me, this is what college baseball should be about not about looking for your next step, which at many of the power schools is “When am I getting my signing bonus?”
How good is Hartford’s Sean Newcomb?
Um..pretty good would be an understatement. I was probably the only person in the entire country that had him in their top ten lists for collegiate players to watch this season. He didn’t disappoint with the Hartford Hawks going 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 starts while having four shutouts. He ended up holding batters to a .162 average.
Newcomb tossed seven innings giving up two hits and a single run as Hartford picked up the 6-1 victory over eventual champion Binghamton. Hawks head coach Justin Blood called him “The best pitcher I have coached,” after the win. This is exceptionally high praise coming from Blood as he coached Matt Barnes at UConn who eventually went in the first round to the Boston Red Sox.
Who cares that Binghamton went 25-25?
Really, who cares…You are going to hear people discrediting Binghamton’s right to be in the NCAA Tournament with a .500 record but the team that I saw on the field all week in Lowell reminded me of a gritty Providence College squad from the late 90’s that consistently grind out at bats and games to the point they eventually would win.
People witnessed some great baseball
This is why college sports can be great, these seven games in Lowell were more exciting than any College World Series game I have ever covered. There was that anxiety in every pitch that one mistake could cost the team the season. Yes, there was a couple of blowouts but the last two games were absolute classics.
Binghamton and Stony Brook both deserved to win the games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon if a bounce went a different way, it would have.
When you have a 4-3 game in the bottom of the ninth inning and a line drive double play to end it with two runners on base, that is exciting baseball.
They followed that up on Sunday afternoon playing the longest game in America East Championship Round history with a back and forth 8-7 game.
Sadly, the umpiring all weekend was atrocious
I had zero dog in this fight all weekend but the umpiring was just awful and inexcusable stuff that affected the quality of the games.
The line drive that the Binghamton player looked like he caught in the air on Saturday night was not ruled by a single umpire on the field on whether or not that it was a catch leaving the two base runners in limbo on what to do. It affected the game because this was a game deciding play but all four umpires looking at each other to make a ruling is just sad. They ended up getting the call right in the end on Saturday but you have to be better than that if you want to keep order.
Of course, this followed right over into Sunday. In the bottom of the first inning, home plate umpire Keith Segedy messed up the count to hitter Zach Blanden allowing him to reach base on three balls. When he was questioned by the Stony Brook bench about this he tried to cover up his error saying the scoreboard had given a strike to one of the pitches that he called a ball. I clearly saw him signal the pitch a strike but everyone makes a mistake right?
Later in the game, a Binghamton player struck out looking and Segedy just did his usual strike call like it was strike two to the batter instead of his normal gestures when ringing a guy up. Now, the Binghamton bench was up in arms since it clearly showed that Segedy didn’t even know the count. This could have been easily fixed by Segedy keeping one of those “clickers” in his hand.
Segedy wasn’t the only umpire in this tournament that was bad, he was just the latest in week of frustrations from Joe Cacciatore wild zone to fair and foul calls.
Umpires…we need you guys to be better for your $173 paycheck per game.
Yes, I will be going to the tournament next year, even though I will only be joined by about 122 other people but you know what, there was not a better place to be over the last four days.