Rain delays MAC Tournament, gives pitching staff needed rest
Baseball loses opening game, blows out Northern Illinois
Junior shortstop/RHP Mike Burke pitched a complete game four-hit shutout to help the Bulls fight off elimination against Northern Illinois. Nick Fischetti, The Spectrum
Going into the Mid-American Conference tournament, head coach Ron Torgalski stressed the importance of the baseball team staying in the winners' bracket to avoid playing more games than necessary.
The Bulls' (33-23, 19-7 MAC) pitching staff is not as deep as that of some other teams in the MAC, and Buffalo has relied heavily on five pitchers this season.
The Bulls lost their opening game on Wednesday afternoon 12-10 to Toledo (23-31, 14-14 MAC) and, thus, fell out of the winners' bracket.
Sophomore pitcher Anthony Magovney was roughed up, allowing four runs in four innings on seven hits and a walk.
Freshman Ben Hartz and senior River McWilliams did not fare well, either, allowing eight runs combined, seven earned, in their five combined innings of work.
UB's offense did its best to steal the game. Every player in the lineup had a hit as the team had 16 total and five different players had an RBI - three had at least two.
But the pitching staff's four walks and five hit batters did the Bulls in.
The loss forced the Bulls into the loser's bracket, where they played Northern Illinois (22-34, 16-12 MAC) Thursday morning. Buffalo bounced back in dominant fashion.
Pitching was not an issue on Thursday, as junior ace Mike Burke pitched a complete game four-hit shutout and the offense was even more potent, scoring 13 runs on 11 hits on the strength of a five-run eighth inning.
Three different Bulls hit home runs and nine had an RBI. Senior outfielder Jason Kanzler hit his second home run of the tournament, further justifying his MAC Player of the Year selection.
The Bulls' game against Northern Illinois was the only game completed on Thursday as poor weather descended on Avon, Ohio, pushing back most of the tournament to Friday and Saturday.
The rain could be the Bulls' best friend as it pushes their next game back to at least Friday night and possibly Saturday, giving the pitching staff time to rest.
Without the rain, the Bulls would have played at 12:30 p.m. Friday in another elimination game and then at 7:30 p.m. if they won that game.
Burke's complete game allowed the Bulls to rest their best relief pitchers, Hartz and McWilliams, and the day off could potentially give Magovney time to come back on short rest later in the tournament.
The Bulls will face the loser of the Bowling Green (22-28, 14-14 MAC) vs. Toledo game. It is the fifth scheduled game for Friday (slated for 7 p.m.) and if it cannot be played due to weather Friday, the matchup will be played at 9 a.m. Saturday.
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