Bulls Close 2012 Regular Season With Much at Stake
BUFFALO, NY - While six of the eight seeds in the upcoming Mid-American Conference have been clinched already, the final two spots linger within range of the Buffalo baseball team. The Bulls close out the 2012 regular season with three games against East division rival Bowling Green on Thursday, with four teams vying for just two spots.
It will also be the last weekend for nine UB seniors, who will be called upon to help the team secure its first-ever trip to the conference tournament. Andy Smietana, Russ Carone, Jordan Camp, Cameron Copping, Jeff Thompson, Dan Scahill, Kevin Crumb, Jon Fragulia and River McWilliams will be donning the blue and white for the final time.
The team's quest for the tournament began in earnest in early April, when the Bulls took two of three games from Akron. From that point on, the team has won seven games and have put the pressure on the Zips and Miami (OH), who now both sit at 10-14 in the MAC East. Buffalo needs to win at least two games to have a shot at either the seventh or eighth seed, and it will need to hope that either team ahead of them can be swept.
The Zips will hit the road to take on conference leader Kent State, while the Redhawks must face Ohio on the road and take on a Bobcat team that is still aiming for the second overall seed.
It is sure to be a fierce competition between the Bulls and Falcons, because Bowling Green also stands to earn a spot in the tournament should it sweep UB and hope Akron and Miami are swept as well. The Bulls hold a tie breaker advantage over the two schools above them, while Bowling Green lost both of those series and will need a hand to make the tournament.
Bowling Green has benefitted from a solid pitching staff, which has a 4.96 earned run average. The pitching has been negated in a way by a somewhat leaky defense that has a conference-worst .948 fielding percentage and over 100 errors in 50 games. The offense bats .285 as a team and is led by Andrew Kubuski's .368 average.
The Bulls recently split its Tuesday doubleheader against St. Bonaventure, winning game one 6-1 and losing the second game 11-4. The team appears to be rekindling its fire on offense in recent weeks, averaging just over 11 hits per game over the past eight games, including a season-high 28 in a win over Eastern Michigan last weekend.
Numerous season records are also in the balance coming into these final three games, most notably Matt Pollock's pursuit of the program's all-time home run record. He is currently tied for the most at 12 with James Kingsley (2005) and Bryan Sanchez (2001). He already owns the program record for total bases in a season and is very much in the running for the conference player of the year honors.
Pollock also has 18 doubles this season, currently three behind current assistant head coach Brad Cochrane (2010). His team-leading 72 hits are the sixth most for a single season, 14 behind Chris Ciesla (2009). Tom Murphy is also chasing the doubles record, and his 43 RBI this season are seven behind James Kingsley (2005).
On the mound, Cameron Copping and Jeff Thompson will likely be making their 13th starts this weekend, putting them into a tie for the most ever for a single season. Copping also is 6.2 innings away from sitting in second for most innings pitched in a single season, when he will pass Sean McWilliams (2006). Last, but certainly not least, Copping's 71 strikeouts this season already rank as the fifth most in a single season, and he is just 11 punchouts from tying Bill Casbolt (1977) for the program record.
With so much to cheer for this weekend, fans can come out to Amherst Audubon Field starting Thursday at 3 pm, with games on Friday and Saturday at 1 pm. Fans can also follow along online with live stats through BuffaloBulls.com.
*Top eight teams advance to postseason tournament