BY MICHAEL KELLY
ALBANY — Tonight’s post-game dinner table is going to be crowded.
After the Binghamton baseball team starts its three-game series this afternoon at UAlbany, most of the Bearcats — about 35 of them — are headed to Clifton Park for a meal at redshirt sophomore Justin Yurchak’s house.
Don’t worry. His parents are aware.
“They know,” he said Thursday. “They put out the offer.”
For Yurchak and freshman teammate Ben Anderson, the trip to UAlbany is a homecoming series. The Shenendehowa graduates and former area stars are each playing their first college games in the Capital Region this weekend
“It’s really exciting,” said Anderson, who helped lead the Plainsmen to a state title last spring along with his brother Ian, who is now pitching in the minor leagues. “Getting back home, especially for a weekend — it’s Easter weekend and I can see my family — is exciting.”
Yurchak plays third base and Anderson is a relief pitcher for Binghamton, which is 13-7 overall and undefeated at 3-0 in the America East. Ahead of today’s 3 p.m. game,
Yurchak is hitting .342 after sitting out last season following his transfer from Wake Forest, while Anderson has allowed one earned run in the last five of his six appearances.
That first outing? Not Anderson’s best, but he can laugh about it now. New Mexico welcomed him to college baseball in mid-February by slamming three home runs off him across two innings. In his words, “that was a wake-up call,” but he learned from that experience that he cannot be tentative on the mound.
“You’ve just got to always be confident in your stuff. You need to be confident every time you go out there,” said Anderson, who the Toronto Blue Jays selected in the 26th round of last year’s MLB draft. “I’m definitely feeling more comfortable. Everyone on the team here is very supportive. They’ve all gone through it before, too.”
As a reliever, Anderson’s not sure if he’ll get a chance to pitch this weekend in front of family and friends. If he does, he’ll be ready for the opportunity.
“I just got to go out and do what I can do, help the team in any way that I can,” Anderson said. “These conference games are very important for us, so we have to do anything we can to win.”
Binghamton won its third conference championship in four years last season, one Yurchak watched the Bearcats win from the bench. The chance to be back playing for a school team, he said, is an opportunity he doesn’t take for granted.
“We’ve got that target on our backs after last year,” Yurchak said, “so it’s a lot of fun going out there this year.”
Yurchak, a 2014 Shenendehowa graduate who hit .313 during his freshman season at Wake Forest, is coming off a 2016 summer in which he made the Cape Cod Baseball League’s all-star game. He’s likely to be drafted in this year’s MLB draft and flirted earlier this season with leading the nation in batting average before cooling off a touch.
Like Anderson, a solid showing of Yurchak’s family and friends is expected to attend the Bearcats’ series at UAlbany, which is 11-14 overall and 1-2 in conference play. Yurchak said it will be fun to play against some familiar foes — UAlbany’s roster includes six Section II products: John Clayton (Burnt Hills), Marcus Failing (Fort Plain), Nick Kondo (Saratoga Springs), Charlie Peltz (Queensbury), Eric Mueller (Bethlehem) and Kyle Sacks (La Salle) — but that he doesn’t feel any extra pressure with coming home to play.
“Our goal is to win each game, take the series. That’s the priority,” Yurchak said. “But it’ll be really nice to have my friends and family come to the games.”