KINGSTON, R.I. — The America East Baseball Championship was characterized by some impressive pitching performances.
Jake Lambert made sure Sunday that his will be best remembered.
The senior right-hander pitched eight shutout innings on his way to the tournament Most Outstanding Player honor, leading second-seeded Binghamton University to a 4-0 victory over the University of Maine at Bill Beck Field.
“My approach was just don’t give them anything good to hit,” said Lambert, who lives in San Diego. “They’re a good-hitting team; they’ve hit me hard this year before.
“I didn’t necessarily have velocity, but I was locating all my pitches and that’s why I came out with the win,” he added. “I had great defense behind me, too.”
The title game was postponed Saturday because of rain in Lowell, Mass., and was moved to the University of Rhode Island because an AAU tournament was scheduled at LeLacheur Park.
Binghamton (30-23) earns the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, while coach Steve Trimper’s top-seeded UMaine ballclub finishes the season at 37-22.
Lambert is joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Daniel Nevares, David Schanz and Shaun McGraw. UMaine’s selections were Tommy Lawrence, Mike Connolly and Eric White of Brewer.
Other honorees were Brandon McNitt and Johnny Caputo of Stony Brook and Albany’s Austin Chase.
It was a disappointing ending to a strong season for UMaine, the league’s regular-season champion.
“It’s tough,” said Connolly, who pitched six innings Sunday after only one day of rest.
“They do deserve it, because they grinded this tournament out. They won four games,” he added.
Pitching on three days’ rest, the 6-foot-9 Lambert (7-2) baffled the Bears, allowing five singles while mixing a fastball and a changeup in with an effective slider. He struck out seven and walked one, throwing 120 pitches.
“It was the Jake Lambert show,” Trimper said. “He went out there and did what he had to do.”
Lambert finished the tournament with 17 scoreless innings after throwing a two-hit shutout in Binghamton’s 9-0 win over Albany on Wednesday.
“He was pounding the zone. We couldn’t even take pitches, because he didn’t give us the opportunity to,” said UMaine senior co-captain Mike Fransoso.
“He did exactly what Tommy Lawrence did the other day to them,” he added, “that was come back and battle on a few days’ rest.”
Connolly (6-4), who had thrown nine innings and 121 pitches in Friday’s 3-1 win over Stony Brook, again asked for the ball and gave UMaine a chance to win.
He allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings and finished with two strikeouts, four walks and two hit batsmen. The Bears could not score on his behalf.
“I was trying to grind it out,” Connolly said. “I was tired. I wasn’t sore, so that’s the only thing I had going for me, but it’s hard to win a game when you don’t score any runs.”
Nevares drove in two runs with a pair of singles, while Schanz and Jake Thomas each stroked a double and a single for Binghamton. McGraw and Nick Pancerella each had two singles and drove in a run.
White posted two singles among only six hits for UMaine.
Trailing 4-0, the Bears threatened in the ninth inning, but not until after Lambert had been replaced by Jake Cryts, who promptly walked Troy Black and Fransoso.
Cryts was replaced by Mike Urbanski, who got Alex Calbick to pop out to shortstop. White reached on an infield single behind the bag at third that loaded the bases.
Urbanski struck out Scott Heath of Westbrook, then got Brian Doran to fly out to center field to close out the win.
“We, unfortunately, didn’t get the bats going. Things didn’t go our way,” Calbick said.
“We had six hits and unfortunately they weren’t strung together,” he added.
The Bearcats scored the only run they would need in the top of the first. Zach Blanden worked a leadoff walk, then was nearly doubled off on a liner to the mound by David Schanz, but Connolly dropped the ball and threw late to first.
Blanden scored on a one-out infield single to the shortstop hole that was knocked down by Fransoso, whose throw to the plate tailed up the first-base line. Jonathan Salcedo threw out Nevares, who tried to take second base on the play.
“I just kind of aired it a little bit, didn’t get it on target,” Fransoso said.
Binghamton made it 2-0 in the third. Schanz pulled a double down the line in left with one out, Thomas walked, then McGraw delivered a run-scoring single past shortstop.
The Bearcats added an insurance run in the sixth after Connolly hit Brian Ruby and John Howell with pitches to open the frame. Pancerella followed by slashing an RBI single past second baseman Black after faking a bunt.
Binghamton made it 4-0 in the eighth on Nevares’ RBI single.
The Bears couldn’t solve Lambert, who retired 10 batters in a row at one point and was backed by inning-ending double plays in the fifth and seventh innings.
UMaine didn’t get a runner to second base until the sixth when Salcedo walked and moved up on a groundout. And the Bears couldn’t score despite two hits in the eighth.
“We just didn’t have the right approach today. We were swinging at bad pitches,” said Connolly, who pointed out Lambert threw 49 pitches in the first two innings, but had only 71 over his last six frames.
Trimper said the Bears were unable to capitalize, despite getting a day of rest because of Saturday’s rainout.
“Our guys were ready to go. There’s nothing that we would have done differently,” he said.
“I know our guys were feeling it today, [but] they would not tell me that.”