Apparently Jake Lambert wanted to play baseball so bad that, while enrolled at San Diego State, he walked on to the baseball team at San Diego City College. How exactly the logistics of this dual enrollment worked is beyond me. Certainly there have been numerous dual-sport athletes, but Lambert was a pioneer in being a dual-school athlete.
All of that matriculating and hurling of orbs led the La Jolla Needle (Lambert is a lofty 6-9) east to finish his college career at Binghamton, where he led the Bearcats to an upset over top-seeded Maine and an America East Conference championship. Lambert, fresh off of 17 shutout innings over two starts in the AEC tourney, is likely to get the nod when Binghamton takes on N.C. State Friday at 7 p.m. in the Raleigh regional.
According to his LinkedIn page--hey, you have to be ready in case the pro thing doesn't work out--the industrial engineering major earned his degree in May and "knows about statistics." His own stats certainly jump off the page. Lambert is 7-2 for the Bearcats with a 2.95 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 5-to-1. He has allowed just one home run in 94 2/3 innings and is definitely not afraid to send hitters a friendly message. Lambert has plunked 11 batters so far this season.
Lambert pitches in front of a sure-handed defense that registered a team fielding percentage of .975, good for 28th nationally. And he is one of three Binghamton starters to post a sub-3.00 ERA (Jack Rogalla, 5-4, 2.82; Jay Lynch, 6-5, 2.98).
Offensively, no one jumps off the page save for sophomore left fielder Jake Thomas, who brings a ridiculous .382/.528/.541 triple slash line to Raleigh. His OBP is second in the nation to Virginia's Mike Papi (.536). Thomas has walked more than twice as much as he has struck out (44-20), and he leads the Bearcats in nearly every statistical category, including runs (42), home runs (five), and RBI (36).
Daniel Nevares has also had a solid season so far, batting .314 with 19 doubles and 34 RBI, but this is a Binghamton team that has hit just .266 and slugged .353 despite what Warren Nolan ranks as just the 260th toughest schedule in the nation.
Offense is what separates the Bearcats from last year's College World Series darlings, Stony Brook. The 2012 AEC champs had seven players drafted from last year's team, including four hitters. Most notable of those draftees was Travis Jankowski, who went in the supplemental first round to San Diego.
The Seawolves went 43-11 in the regular season before trouncing Miami en route to winning the Miami regional over Central Florida. The Seawolves followed that up by taking down LSU and Kevin Gausman, who now pitches in the majors for Baltimore, on their way to Omaha.
Binghamton managed just 30 regular season wins compared to 23 losses and lost the one game it played all year to a top-100 team, a 7-6 final against Canisius (94th in RPI according to Warren Nolan). In contrast, N.C. State has played 39 games against top 100 opponents and gone 26-13 in those games. The Pack has just one loss against an opponent outside of the top 100 all season. Binghamton has the pitching and defense to make things uncomfortable Friday, but Binghamton is not Stony Brook. The Bearcats and their 171 RPI ranking are extremely unlikely to become the Pack's second loss against a team with an RPI >100 this year, much less make a run through the tournament.
Still, after what Stony Brook did last year, we would probably all sleep a little easier if Binghamton hailed from some other obscure, non-basebally Yankee conference like the NEC.