LOWELL, Mass. – The top-seeded University of Maine baseball team remains alive in the America East baseball tournament, but no longer sits in the driver’s seat.
No. 2 Binghamton overcame an early deficit and holds an 8-2 lead over Maine in a winners-bracket final suspended by rain with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday night at LeLacheur Park.
The game will resume at noon Friday with the loser playing an elimination game against No. 4 Stony Brook at 4 p.m.
The survivor would then have to beat Binghamton — assuming it goes on to beat Maine — at 8 p.m. to force a winner-take-all game Saturday.
The America East winner will earn a bid to the NCAA tourney whose 64-team field will be announced at noon Monday on ESPNU.
Rain also delayed Stony Brook’s 3-1 victory over No. 3 Albany in the first elimination game earlier Thursday. That pushed back the Maine-Binghamton game by an hour to 9 p.m.
The Bearcats lost 4 of 5 meetings with Maine this season, but three were decided by one run and another required extra innings. Binghamton knocked out Maine starter A.J. Bazdanes with seven hits in four innings to overcome an early 2-0 deficit.
Zach Blanden’s tie-breaking two-run double in the fourth made it 4-2 in a rally that began with two outs and nobody on.
An error by shortstop Michael Fransoso, the America East player of the year, allowed Blanden to score from second for a 5-2 advantage.
Fransoso’s fourth home run of the season came in the first inning and cleared the fence in right by a large margin on the game’s 11th pitch.
Troy Black had reached with a one-out chopper over Binghamton starter Jack Rogalla, who got his bare hand on the ball but failed to corral it in time.
Rogalla, who was 0-2 against Maine in the season, set down nine straight after the Fransoso home run, until cleanup hitter Alex Calbick dropped a surprise bunt for a hit, one of six for Maine against Rogalla. Eric White followed with a sharp one-hopper to third to start an around-the-horn double play.
Binghamton cut the margin in half when No. 9 hitter Bill Bereszniewicz singled off the glove of Maine second baseman Black. Had the ball continued unabated to Brian Doran in right field, the Bearcats likely would have had runners at the corners with two out.
Instead, Brian Ruby scored from second to make it 2-1. Ruby had led off with a single.
The Bearcats tied it in the third on a Daniel Nevares grounder. David Shanz and Jake Thomas started the rally with consecutive singles, but the Black Bears caught Thomas trying for a double with a nice relay.
Trailing by three, Maine had a chance to tie after loading the bases with two outs in the fifth on a single by Scott Heath, a walk by Colin Gay (after an 0-2 count) and a bunt single by Balzano. But Rogalla induced an infield pop.
Binghamton padded its lead in the seventh: Shaun McGraw scored on a wild pitch, Bereszniewicz singled in one and scored on Blanden’s double.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR Steve Abbott said final candidates for the men’s hockey job would be interviewed over the weekend. “We’re getting close to the point where we’ll be ready to name a coach early next week,” Abbott said.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: