VESTAL, N.Y. — The University of Maine’s 2010 season ended abruptly Thursday at the Binghamton University’s Varsity Field.
Binghamton staked righthander Mike Augliera to a four-run, first-inning lead and the sophomore responded by scattering nine hits while going the distance as the Bearcats eliminated the Black Bears from the America East Baseball Championship with a 6-0 victory.
“Getting a four-run cushion, a pitcher of his caliber, he’s licking his chops [thinking], ‘I can do whatever I want right now,’” said UMaine senior Joe Mercurio.
Top-seeded Binghamton (31-19) advances to play Albany, 8-4 loser to Stony Brook in Thursday’s second game, in today’s 11 a.m. elimination game.
Coach Steve Trimper’s second-seeded Bears close out the season 34-22 after being shut out for the only time this season.
“Our standards, obviously, are not to come into the tournament and not win it,” Trimper said.
“We didn’t play our best baseball, whether it was not getting big hits or not throwing strikes,” he explained. “It’s unfortunate that you have such a small window of opportunity in tournaments.”
UMaine couldn’t string hits together against Augliera (6-2), who featured a lively fastball along with a slider and a changeup. He struck out 11 and walked two.
“He mixed his pitches well,” said UMaine’s Joey Martin. “He’s not afraid to come after you with a fastball.”
Only twice in the contest were the Bears able to get a runner into scoring position. They were stranded, along with seven other baserunners.
Augliera wound up throwing 137 pitches on a hot, sunny day. His endurance and effectiveness mean the Bearcats have more pitchers available to chase the three more wins needed to claim their second straight title.
“I knew my job is to go as deep in the game as I can,” Augliera said. “That was my goal for today and every inning he [coach Tim Sinicki] asked me how I was feeling and I felt fine throughout the game.”
Binghamton was shorthanded Thursday. First, sophomore first-team outfielder Henry Dunn has been declared academically ineligible for the postseason.
Then, junior outfielder Corey Lewis, the America East Player of the Year, was hit in the face by an A.J. Bazdanes fastball in the second inning and was forced to leave the game.
The Bearcats reached Bazdanes (7-5) for four hits and four runs in the first inning with the aid of a walk and a hit batsman.
Jim Calderone drew a leadoff walk, stole second and took third on a low throw to second base by catcher Mercurio. Peter Bregartner followed with a handle single to left, providing the eventual winning run.
Dave Ciocchi then cranked a two-run home run to right field, before a hit batter, Jeff Abrams’ single and Joel Stubbs’ RBI double — all with two outs — made it 4-0.
“It was a great feeling,” Augliera said of the early lead. “It makes my job a lot easier to just come in and throw strikes, help my defense make plays.”
Bazdanes, who had been UMaine’s most effective pitcher in conference play, was lifted after giving up a single and back-to-back walks and hitting Taylor.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot and that’s no fault but ours,” Trimper said. “You have to play your best baseball at this time.”
Junior righthander Matt Jebb was impressive in relief for the Bears. He limited the Bearcats to five hits and one run in 7ª innings. He struck out two and walked three.
“It’s always tough coming in down like that, but just trying to give the team a chance to win is what everybody out of the bullpen always tries to do,” Jebb said. “We were down early, we never really got anything started [offensively], but it was nice to go out there and pitch well.”
The Bears had a good threat in the second inning when Martin and Tyler Patzalek opened the frame with consecutive singles. Instead, Augliera worked out of trouble, including making a nifty play on an inning-ending chopper toward third base by Pat Thibodeau of Caribou.
Mercurio, who led UMaine with two hits, pounded a one-out double to center field in the sixth but was left stranded. The Bears went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Justin Leisenheimer stroked two singles for UMaine.
Stubbs (RBI) and Calderone keyed Binghamton with a double and a single each, while Abrams singled twice.