Bulls top Canisius and blast Niagara

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The Spectrum

This year's baseball team is capable of blowing a team out, or coming up big in a close game. Buffalo did it all in their three games against local rivals this week.

After two successful outings, the Bulls have now won three-straight games. The team staged a late comeback to defeat Big Four rival Canisius on Tuesday and romped rival Niagara by 24 runs on Wednesday afternoon, lifting them over the .500 plateau on the season.

On Tuesday, Buffalo (18-17, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) found itself in a hole in the bottom of the eighth inning, trailing 7-5. With two outs, senior left fielder Bobby Pizzuto tied the game at seven with a two-run double, helping the Bulls even the score and regain momentum.

Senior third baseman Brad Cochrane followed up with the go-ahead – and game-winning – RBI to complete the comeback. Senior closer Jeffrey Hains shut out Canisius and received his first career save after striking out two Golden Griffins in the ninth inning.

Head coach Ron Torgalski attributed his team's success to patience at the plate. The Golden Griffins struggled to throw strikes all day and when they did, the Bulls took advantage by making contact.

"When they threw strikes we got on them, because they were throwing a lot of balls", Torgalski said.

It wasn't all smooth sailing for Buffalo, however.

Canisius had a big fifth inning thanks to a three-run home run by junior first baseman Brian Burton. The Golden Griffins added another run to their lead in the following inning, making the score 7-3.

Buffalo started its comeback in the seventh inning by loading the bases. Senior center fielder Adam Skonieczki drew a walk, which sent junior out fielder David Neff home, but the inning quickly came to an end and the Bulls left three men on base.

The Bulls rallied in the eighth inning. Freshman catcher Tom Murphy walked, senior second baseman Brad Agustin was hit by a pitch and Pizzuto doubled down the right field line, scoring both base runners. Pizzuto then stole third and Cochrane stepped to the plate and secured the contest with the game-winning RBI double to deep left field.

Wednesday proved to be a record day for the Bulls offensively. Buffalo set the record for runs record in a game (28) and total bases reached (50). The team also tied the single game hits record with 29.

During this Bulls win, senior shortstop Jacob Rosenbeck drove in a season-high eight RBIs including an eighth-inning grand slam, while Agustin and Cochrane each had five RBIs of their own.

Buffalo made sure that the victory was theirs in the bottom of the fourth inning by tallying nine runs to take a 15-2 lead over the Purple Eagles (12-24). The Bulls knocked around Niagara and forced their opponent to use three different relievers during the inning.

The Bulls exploded again later in the game, adding six more runs in the bottom of the seventh, extending its lead to 25-3. Both Cochrane and Murphy had back-to-back RBI doubles to left field, and Rosenbeck followed with a grand slam – his fourth home run of the season.

Buffalo ended the scoring for the day by adding three more runs in the bottom of the eighth. With Agustin on third, Cochrane hit a ball to deep left field for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Bulls a 27-4 lead.

Later in the inning, Rosenbeck drove in his eighth RBI of the contest and earned his second double of the day, becoming the school's all-time single game record holder for most RBIs since the program's reinstatement in 2000.

"It was great scoring some runs and getting some of the guys who have not been playing a whole lot a few at bats, and a chance to rest some of our pitchers," Torgalski said. "Going into the weekend, our pitchers should be fresh [and] we are seeing the ball well and we are swinging [the bats] real well"

Pizzuto went 4-for-4 including two RBIs and two runs scored. Rosenbeck finished up his stellar performance with four hits, two runs scored and a career-high eight RBIs. Agustin and Cochrane each had five RBIs of their own.

Cochrane's double in the seventh inning was his 18th of the season, which tied him for second place on the Buffalo single-season doubles list. Senior relief pitcher Brian Pullyblank (3-3) earned the victory in 2.0 innings of work, striking out three batters and giving up one hit.

With the victory, Buffalo completed its season sweep of the Purple Eagles. In the Bulls' three contests, they combined for a total of 57 runs and 57 hits, compared to the Purple Eagles 14 runs and 26 hits.

"We have a record over .500, we are 18-17 and we have not been above .500 this late in the season since the program came back [in 2000]," Torgalski said. "I think that is exciting for the kids. We are winning games and we are above .500. We are having a lot of fun out here."

Buffalo returns to conference play as they are set to host Kent State for a three-game weekend series starting Friday at 3 p.m.

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com