At Last! Bulls Clinch MAC Tournament Berth in Season Finale
BUFFALO, NY - At long last, the Buffalo baseball team has made it. For the first time since joining the Mid-American Conference for baseball in 2000, the Bulls earned a trip to the conference tournament Saturday afternoon thanks to an 8-5 win over Bowling Green. The win, coupled with an Akron loss at Kent State, helped Buffalo clinch the eighth and final spot in the tournament, which starts May 23.
Despite being outhit 16-9 in the game, the Bulls used five errors by the Falcons. Mike Burke made the start and threw 3.1 innings, but it was the relief efforts of River McWilliams who saved the day for UB. After being honored as one of nine players who were playing for the last time at Amherst Audubon Field, McWilliams went out in style with 5.2 innings of relief and allowed just one run and six hits while striking out five.
"It's a great thing for the kids. It's a great thing for the program. We've come close a couple years and never got there," said head coach Ron Torgalski. "I couldn't be happier for the nine seniors. These guys have stuck with it all year. We've had some close ones and blown some games during the season. To hang with it this last weekend and keep battling, I couldn't be prouder of them. They stepped up and made the plays and got the hits when they needed to today and took care of business."
After BG opened the game with a run in the top of the inning, Matt Pollock hit a triple over the head of the center fielder and would come in on an error off a hit by Jason Kanzler. Senior Dan Scahill would score Kanzler on a single back up the middle to give UB the lead after one.
The Bulls matched Bowling Green run-for-run, never allowing the opposition to rest. In every inning the Falcons posted a run, Buffalo would match or best it in the bottom of the very same inning.
In the third inning, Tom Murphy hit a one-out single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Scahill would come through again with an RBI hit, splitting the right side of the defense and bringing in Murphy.
Bowling Green would take the lead briefly in the fourth inning and chase Burke from the game with a pair of runs, but the Bulls would charge back with a trio of runs in the home half. Mike Scarcello made it all the way to third to lead off thanks to another defensive error, and senior Andy Smietana would score him on a groundout. Jon Mestas reached on another error, and Pollock's second triple of the day would bring him around to tie the game back up. Murphy would help the team reclaim the lead with a sacrifice fly and score Pollock.
The Bulls would keep playing the hot hand of Kanzler to add some insurance runs in the seventh inning, as he stroked a two-out home run to left field that brought around Smietana, who had led off the inning with a single.
With the season coming all the way down to the final day, it made Buffalo's senior day all the more sweeter. Andy Smietana, Russ Carone, Jordan Camp, Cameron Copping, Jeff Thompson, Dan Scahill, Kevin Crumb, Jon Fragulia and River McWilliams all will be leaving the team at the end of the season, but the group will have at least two more chances to don the blue and white and fight for a conference championship.
Next up for the team will be top-seeded Kent State at the MAC Tournament, held May 23-26 at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio. The two teams will be the late game on Wednesday, with first pitch set for 7:30 pm.