VESTAL, N.Y. — The University of Maine sewed up the America East regular season championship on Sunday.
Fran Whitten doubled and singled and drove in two runs in an eight-run 10th-inning rally that gave the Black Bears a 13-7 win over Binghamton and a sweep of their doubleheader.
Maine erased a pair of two-run deficits in the opener to beat the Bearcats 4-3 on Brian Doran’s solo homer in the sixth inning. Binghamton beat Maine 4-3 on Saturday.
Maine is now 31-19 overall, 18-8 in conference play with three America East games remaining at home against UMBC next Friday (2) and Saturday. They have non-conference games at Boston College on Tuesday at 2:30 and in Sanford against Holy Cross on Wednesday at 6.
The Black Bears will be the top seed for the four-team, double-elimination conference tourney at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass., on May 22-24. LeLacheur Park is the home of the Lowell Spinners, the Boston Red Sox’s Class A franchise.
Binghamton fell to 25-21, 14-12.
“To finish first is nice,” said Maine coach Steve Trimper. “Now we want to get some more at-bats and set up our pitching for the tournament.”
“We’ve played real well in the conference. That was our focus all year,” said Whitten.
In the nightcap, the Black Bears built a 5-1 but the Bearcats rallied for two runs in the eighth and ninth innings at the expense of relievers Logan Fullmer and Whitten to tie it. A two-out wild pitch in the ninth by Whitten allowed the tying run to score.
But Whitten atoned by leading off the 10th with a double.
Scott Heath reached on a bunt single and Mike Connolly doubled over the center fielder’s head to score Whitten and send Heath to third.
That chased Mike Kaufman in favor of Mike Urbanski.
Sam Balzano greeted Urbanski with an RBI single and, one out later, Troy Black singled home another run.
Two walks forced in a run before Eric White’s two-run double and Whitten’s two-run single capped the rally.
“I wasn’t happy with giving up two runs in the ninth,” said Whitten. “But it was nice to get things going (with his double) in the 10th. He threw me an off-speed pitch. Those were my only two hits in the game but it’s nice to get them when it counts.”
“To be one strike away from winning the game (in the ninth) only to have them tie it up could have been back-breaking. But our guys showed some resiliency to come back and win it,” said Trimper. “The guys swung the bats well.”
Binghamton had erased the 5-1 deficit on Danel Nevares’ two-run double in the eighth and David Schanz’s RBI single and Whitten’s wild pitch in the ninth.
Back-to-back homers by Alex Calbick and White and RBI singles by Michael Fransoso and White helped stake Maine to the 5-1 lead and Shaun Coughlin threw seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball with two strikeouts and two walks.
Brewer’s White had four hits, including his homer and double, and four RBIs to key Maine’s 18-hit attack. Black and Balzano had three hits each and Calbick, Whitten and Connolly had two apiece. Calbick, Whitten and Balzano each knocked in two runs.
Schanz, Jake Thomas and Nevares had two hits each for Binghamton.
In Sunday’s first game, Maine rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the fifth inning on singles by Connolly, Black and Balzano (RBI) and Colin Gay’s run-scoring fielder’s choice.
Doran homered to right with two outs in the sixth off Jack Rogalla.
“I got a good pitch to hit,” said Doran, whose homer was his first of the season. “It was a fastball, middle-in and I got a good swing on it.”
Fransoso, Connolly and Black had two hits each for Maine while Zach Blanden, Nevares and Bill Bereszniewicz had a pair apiece for Binghamton.
Jake Marks picked up the win in relief of A.J. Bazdanes and Burk FitzPatrick notched the save. They combined for 3 ⅔ innings of four-hit shutout ball.
On Saturday, Schanz’s single with nobody out in the 10th inning scored Bereszniewicz and gave Binghamton its come-from-behind win.
The teams had been scheduled to play a noon doubleheader Saturday but it was delayed by rain so they decided to play one game on Saturday and the noon twinbill on Sunday.
Bereszniewicz opened the 10th inning by singling to right and he moved to second when Blanden singled to left.
Schanz followed with his single to right to end it.
Maine built a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and third innings.
In the first, Gay reached on a one-out infield single and moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt. Fransoso delivered him with a double down the left-field line.
In the third inning, Calbick’s two-out single to left scored Gay, who had singled up the middle and moved to second on a groundout.
Binghamton got one back in the fourth on Jake Thomas’ infield single, two walks and John Howell’s groundout.
Fransoso’s third homer of the season regained the two-run lead for Maine in the seventh but the Bearcats tied it with a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh.
After a groundout and a flyout, Nick Pancerella and Bereszniewicz each singled and Blanden fisted a pop fly double that landed on the left field foul line.
The Black Bears stranded 11 baserunners and that told the story, according to Trimper.
Maine put the leadoff runners on in the ninth and 10th innings and sacrificed them to second but couldn’t deliver them.
“When we get the big hit, we win,” said Trimper. “Today we didn’t get the big hit. We had plenty of chances.”
Junior righthander Tommy Lawrence, who set the conference record for wins with eight and entered the game with an 8-0 record and a 1.76 earned-run average in league play, hurled the first seven innings and gave up seven hits and three runs with six strikeouts and no walks.
Reliever D.J. Voisine absorbed the loss.
“Tommy got a little tired,” said Trimper. “His pitch count was up. He didn’t have his great stuff. He threw his curve for strikes but didn’t throw a lot of fastballs for strikes.”
Binghamton used four pitchers and Mike Urbanski picked up the win with two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief.
Blanden, Schanz, Thomas and Bereszniewicz had two hits apiece for Binghamton while White had three singles for Maine with Franzoso, Gay and Whitten contributing two apiece.
Fransoso’s homer and double and Blanden’s double were the game’s only extra-base hits.