Pushing on without Pollock
Despite losing star left fielder for second straight weekend, Bulls finish weekend 3-1
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 01:02
When the baseball team loses an All-Mid-American Conference first-team player for five of its first seven games, struggles would be expected.
When senior outfielder Matt Pollock, who sat out most of last weekend with a wrist injury, struggled to swing the bat on Friday, the Bulls’ long weekend in Lexington, Va., did not look promising.
But Pollock’s replacement, junior outfielder Jimmy Topps, went 5 for 11 and scored two runs in Pollock’s absence, helping the Bulls (4-3) to a 3-1 record on the weekend and giving them their best seven-game start since 2009.
The Bulls swept Maryland Eastern Shore (1-5), 9-6 and 6-3, and split with Virginia Military Institute (3-5), 4-6 and 10-3. Buffalo led in every game.
Head coach Ron Torgalski preached readiness as the key to bouncing back from Pollock’s injury, and he said Topps’ ability to step into a starting role for the second-straight weekend is a good example for younger players.
Torgalski was particularly impressed when the Bulls bounced back against VMI on Sunday after losing to the Kangaroos on Saturday afternoon.
“We really executed at the plate with our situational hitting, we got good pitching and we made plays defensively,” Torgalski said. “It was really a complete game, which was great to see out of our team after losing to them the day before.”
Senior outfielder Jason Kanzler led the offensive attack. Kanzler had three home runs and six runs batted in, earning MAC East Player of the Week honors.
Torgalski also thought pitching was key to the success. He pointed out that this year’s staff has been able to throw the ball around the plate more than pitchers of the past.
“I think we’re limiting the number of free passes and we’re forcing guys to swing the bat, and that’s been the difference,” Torgalski said.
Junior pitcher and shortstop Mike Burke pitched seven innings on Monday, allowing three earned runs and six hits and striking out five. Senior pitcher and infielder River McWilliams led the Bulls with two pitching appearances over the weekend, striking out two and allowing one run on four hits through 3.2 innings.
Junior pitcher Cory Folk and senior pitcher Zach Stevens were also impressive on Sunday against VMI. They combined to pitch nine innings and allow nine hits and two earned runs while striking out four.
As a staff, the Bulls averaged fewer than three walks a game.
In the last game of the weekend, the Bulls took the lead in the top of the first and held it until Burke gave up three runs in bottom of the sixth, giving UMES the lead. But though the Bulls struggled in close games last season, they excelled on Monday afternoon.
Buffalo loaded the bases on a junior Jon Mestas single, a Kanzler single and a junior Tom Richards walk. Senior Alex Baldock then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game.
The Bulls didn’t score again until the top of the ninth, when Topps led off with a bunt single. The Bulls then took advantage of some UMES mistakes to score three runs and take the lead for good.
“I think they’re playing with confidence,” Torgalski said. “After finishing last year and winning some games toward the end and winning close ones, we’re going out in games and expecting to win. We’re not playing scared; we’ve got a confidence in each other as a team.”
The Bulls have a short week approaching. They will now travel to Farmville, Va., to take on Longwood (2-2) in a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday.