continues record-breaking home run binge as Bearcats top Le Moyne
SYRACUSE, N.Y.--Junior third baseman Jay Balback (Millsboro, Del./Indiana Institute of Technology) went 4-for-5 and hit two more home runs on Tuesday, leading the Bearcats (10-32-1) to an 8-6 victory over Le Moyne (25-14) in a non-conference game at Rockwell Field.
Balback has five home runs in his last three games, and now has 12 for the season, eclipsing the old season mark of 10 set by Tim Macko in 2001. In addition to the recent string of home runs, Balback is batting .615 (8-for-13) over his last three games, with six runs scored and seven runs batted in.
Balback's heroics were part of a five-home run barrage by the Binghamton, which rapped out 13 hits in ending a three-game losing streak against the regional powerhouse Dolphins. The Bearcats last beat Le Moyne in the second game of a doubleheader on May 1, 2001, winning 10-3. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 28-6.
Binghamton led 2-1 before breaking the game open with three home runs in the sixth inning. Freshman shortstop Justin Smucker (Bird-in-Hand, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) led off the inning with a solo shot and Balback followed with a single to left field. One out later, junior outfielder T.J. Kowalchuk (Stormville, N.Y./Carmel) and senior designated hitter Kyle Loucks (Johnson City, N.Y.) hit back-to-back homers for a 6-1 lead.
The Dolphins closed to within 7-6 with a four-run eighth inning but Balback's second home run of the afternoon provided an insurance run and senior closer Phil Artonio (Massapequa Park, N.Y./Massapequa) pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first save of the season.
Earlier in the game, senior first baseman Tony Berube (Vestal, N.Y.) scored a run on a double play groundball in the first inning, and Balback hit his first home run in the fourth inning. Smucker and Kowalchuk each wound up 2-for-4 in the game, while Berube was 2-for-5 with a run batted in. Sophomore Chris Darling (Whitesboro, N.Y.) made his second start of the season and scattered seven hits and two earned runs in seven innings to pick up his first career victory. He walked just one, struck out four, and retired 15 of the last 19 batters he faced, while benefiting from two double plays behind him.
The Bearcats return home this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders against conference foe Vermont. The Catamounts are tied for first place in the conference with a 9-3 record in America East games. Most recently, Vermont took three out of four games from Hartford. First pitch is set for noon on both Saturday and Sunday at West Gym Field. Sunday's games will close out the home portion of the schedule for Binghamton. A ceremony will be held prior to the game to honor the team's six seniors.
NOTES: Binghamton is hitting .292 over its last 14 games, while averaging better than five runs per game in that span ... The burst has raised the team batting average 15 points (from .240 to .255) ... The Bearcats have also hit 17 home runs in the last nine games, after connecting for 20 in the first 34 games ... Binghamton has made just one error in its last 32 innings ... The team has a .948 fielding percentage for the season.
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