UB baseball faces growing pains in series loss to Ball State

Despite dominant Saturday win, Buffalo drops series to Cardinals

baseball

The growing pains of a young team continue to impact the baseball team this season. Buffalo’s inexperience particularly showed this weekend against an opponent that began the season ranked as the No. 28 team in the nation. 

On Sunday, the Bulls (6-14, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) concluded a three-game series against Ball State (18-8, 5-1 MAC) with a 16-8 loss, giving the Cardinals the series victory. Buffalo dominated on Saturday with a 14-1 win that included 10 runs in the final inning, but the Bulls still failed to win their second MAC series in as many tries.

Head coach Ron Torgalski said that the team is still in the midst of finding its groove.

“Right now, we’re still on and off, hot and cold,” Torgalski said. “At times, we’ve been looking good. At times we make plays. At other times, we play like a young, inexperienced team. It’s part of maturity. After two conference weekends, hopefully they realize they can’t take a pitch off.”

The Bulls fell to Ball State 6-4 in the first game on Friday. Buffalo got off to an early 2-0 lead after junior outfielder Nick Sinay scored off an error by the Cardinals third baseman and an RBI single by freshman first baseman Ben Vey. The Cardinals responded with three runs in the third and held the lead for the rest of the game.

Sophomore pitcher Brent Cleland picked up the loss for Buffalo as he went 5.1 innings, allowed eight hits, five earned runs and one homerun. He also struck out five batters.

The Bulls’ offense came alive on Saturday though, as they tallied 10 runs in the final inning and defeated the Cardinals 14-1.

Torgalski said picking up a victory over Ball State was important to see “where they were” in the conference.

“It’s always good to go on the road and get one game,” Torgalski said. “[Ball State] was picked to win the league this year and were ranked No. 28 in the preseason polls. This was a team with high expectations. We played them tough.”

Torgalski said that the team was capitalizing with runners in scoring position –something it wasn’t able to consistently do the previous game.

“It was nice to see us bring in people from second and third,” Torgalski said. “We left too many people on base and we’re one big hit away from taking game one, so to get 10 runs, even in the final inning was great because we got experience in bringing those guys in.”

Senior pitcher Anthony Magovney allowed no runs and just four hits in 5.2 innings. Sophomore pitcher Mike Kaelin picked up his third save of the season and struck out two batters over two innings of relief.

The Bulls’ offense was balanced Saturday, as seven of the nine position players finished with at least one hit and eight of the nine finished with at least one RBI. Sophomore outfielder Vinny Mallaro finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs, including a homerun in the third inning. Sinay finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs.

In the third and final game of the series on Sunday, the Bulls fell to the Cardinals 16-8. Senior pitcher Mike McGee lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed seven runs and walked four. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the second inning and forced the Bulls to use their bullpen early. Torgalski called it “one of those days.”

“The wind was blowing to left field, so any fly ball had a chance of going out the park,” Torgalski said. “We saw a kid hit a popup and it turned into a homerun. It was a terrible day to be a pitcher. They got some balls up into the jet stream and got some runs. Overall, it was a rough day.”

Junior shortstop Bobby Sheppard finished 4 for 13 hitting on the weekend with three RBIs. Haefner finished the series 4 for 8 and added four RBIs and five walks. Mallaro went just 2 for 11 on the weekend, with most of his damage coming in his grand slam in the second game of the series.

Torgalski said the only thing the team can do is to continue to improve, despite the difficulty of not playing at home. Buffalo has yet to play at Amherst Audubon Field this season and its scheduled home-opening series against Northern Illinois last weekend was moved to Indiana due to weather.

“I told them today, build on what we’re doing, continue to improve and it’s been tough for us,” Torgalski said. “We play a weekend outside then play inside. Most teams are outside practicing and getting into a rhythm … Every week, we’re adjusting travel. We opened up conference play with a home series seven-hour away. We don’t because of field conditions. It hurts us.”

The Bulls travel to face St. Bonaventure (10-5-1, 0-3 Atlantic 10) for a two-game series on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the sports desk editor. He can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com