UB baseball player Charlie Sobieraski makes move from third base to the mound
On Feb. 21, Charlie Sobieraski took the field for the first time this season.
He was used to heading out to third base or the batters’ box for the Buffalo baseball team, like he had done his first season at UB. But on this day, Sobieraski headed out to the mound instead – completing his transition from one of the Bulls’ better offensive players as a freshman last year to a starter in the team’s pitching rotation this year.
Sobieraski finished that day with six strikeouts in five innings pitched. The Bulls fell to Marist 8-3, but it was Sobieraski’s first pitching performance since high school and first step to becoming a Division-I college pitcher.
Sobieraski is now 4-1 for the Bulls (9-15, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) with the second-most strikeouts on the team (35).
“He looked comfortable,” said head coach Ron Torgalski of that game. “We knew he could throw, but we wanted to see some progression in his pitches and if he could make adjustments if they got a few hits on him. Even though we didn’t get the win, it was good to see him make those adjustments on this level.”
Last season, Sobieraski played third base and performed well at the plate. He finished fourth on the team in batting average (.265) and led the team with four home runs as a freshman. Near the end of the regular season, he received some time on the mound with 10.1 innings pitched.
He decided to permanently move to the mound for his sophomore season.
“It just started off last year getting on the mound and seeing what I got and over the summer it turned into something I wanted to do,” Sobieraski said. “I knew there was a position open and I really wanted to be a weekend starter and I think all the hard work has paid off.”
During the offseason, Torgalski made sure that Sobieraski was prepared for the move. After a couple looks on the mound last season, he made sure that Sobieraski received starts on the mound during the summer. He wanted him to “build up the stamina” to complete the transition.
What he noticed was a strong pitcher with a stronger arm. Since his first few appearances as a freshman, Sobieraski came back with better velocity, thanks to him filling out between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
As a freshman, Torgalski saw someone that might be able to pitch. As the 2016 season drew near, he saw someone who could become a great weekend starter.
“When he first came to Buffalo, he tried to pitch but he didn’t like it. There was room for improvement,” Torgalski said, “but like most of our student-athletes, Charlie came in and started to fill out. He put on like 25 to 30 pounds from his first year to his second and it helped him, added some velocity on his arm.”
This season, Sobieraski has been a crucial member for Buffalo’s weekend staff. In seven starts, his four victories are tied for most on the team. But his ERA is 5.44 and he leads the team in walks with 25, showing that he still has ways to go.
Working with four pitches, including a four-seam fastball that was clocked in at 93 miles per hour, Sobieraski continues to work on the intricacies of pitching. He’s still working on a slider and changeup – two pitches with different grips compared to the fastball.
While he knows how to throw the ball, Sobieraski said the areas in which he needs to improve the most are “figuring out when to throw what pitch at what time” and “limiting his walks.”
But so far, it’s been his experience as a hitter in the MAC that has allowed him to have success early.
“Hitting helped me last year, for sure. Like last year, it was about figuring out what the pitcher was throwing,” Sobieraski said. “Like 2-0 in a count and they would throw an off-speed pitch. You don’t normally do that, but some pitchers in the MAC do that. Now as a pitcher, I need to be able to anticipate what the hitter is thinking and keep him guessing.”
With 29 games remaining in the regular season, Sobieraski and his teammates have the MAC Tournament in mind. After missing the tournament last season for the first time since the 2011, his goal is to “continue his strong play so far.”
Torgalski said that Sobieraski has a bright future on the mound and could be a key member of Buffalo’s weekend rotation for years to come.
“He has a great mound presence,” Torgalski said. “He’s been making strides since he first got back on the mound … I think once everything comes together, he has the chance to be the best pitcher in the conference.”