Seniors lead the way for softball team
The softball team has grown accustomed to seeing its seniors etch their names into the program's record book.
Last week, senior pitcher Tori Speckman threw the school's third no-hitter. This week, senior shortstop Sammi Gallardo broke the single-season home run record by blasting her 11th of the season against Eastern Michigan (9-26, 0-8 Mid-American Conference) Saturday.
The Bulls (20-17, 4-2 MAC) opened their home schedule this week going 4-2 at Nan Harvey Field. Buffalo split doubleheaders with Niagara (11-20, 2-6 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and Central Michigan (25-12, 5-3 MAC) on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, before sweeping Eastern Michigan, with UB's final victory courtesy of a walk-off home run from senior Heather Ryder in the ninth inning.
"It's the senior leadership with Tori doing her job in the circle and Sammi carrying us offensively," said head coach Trena Peel. "There's five seniors and they're all starting, so that contribution all the way around is helping us and everybody else is just following in their direction."
Gallardo's bat never cooled off during the Bulls' first six games in Buffalo. She totaled six home runs and eight RBIs while hitting .421 during the stretch. Gallardo's two home run game against Eastern Michigan helped her become the first player in school history to have more than one multi-home run game in a season. Gallardo's 11th homer of the season moved her past UB Hall of Famer Breanne Nasti for most home runs in a season. Nasti hit 10 homeruns in 2001.
Gallardo was not the only Buffalo senior to have an impact this weekend. Ryder sent the game against the Eagles on Sunday into extra innings by driving in two runs in the seventh, followed by her two-run home run in the bottom of ninth.
"We had the mentality the whole game that we were going to win," Ryder said. "Even in the seventh with two outs, I don't think there was anybody that doubted we were going to come back, so our positive mentality just helped."
The Bulls' 7-0 rout of Eastern Michigan on Saturday began the sweep of the Eagles. Speckman surrendered just two hits, while Gallardo's two home run day gave the Bulls an offensive spark.
Although the Bulls were able to flex their muscles against the Eagles in their first game, Peel believes their ninth-inning thriller was more beneficial to the team.
"Close games are your best lessons," Peel said. "We learned more today in a close game than we do from blowing them out, so we grew up a lot and different people stepped up and did big things and that's what I'm looking for."
The Bulls faced Central Michigan in a doubleheader Friday, and the team split the meetings. Speckman earned another win in their 5-2 victory, allowing only two runs and striking out four batters. Buffalo dropped its second game against Central Michigan, 5-1.
The Bulls began their six-game home stretch against Niagara on Wednesday in a doubleheader. They fell 9-8 after almost making an incredible rally in the seventh inning, but ultimately fell short. Gallardo had two home runs and four RBIs in the game.
In the second game, the Bulls defeated Niagara 6-3 in five innings, as darkness cut the game short.
Senior outfielder Holly Luciano sparked the Bulls early with a two-RBI triple and eventually came home to fuel a four-run first inning. The four runs in the first gave Buffalo an early edge to outlast Niagara as the game would come to an end with just five innings played.
The Bulls will continue their home stretch against Bowling Green (17-20, 5-5 MAC) Friday in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.
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