UB baseball 2017 season preview
UB’s baseball program has had a tough run the past few seasons.
Last season, the team finished 21-31, 8-16 Mid-American Conference, after struggling through growing pains and injuries last season, The Bulls have not had a winning season since 2013. Head coach Ron Torgalski knows things have to be different this season and he’s made several changes within the program.
Torgalski does not want to lose another promising season to injuries again. The Bulls have added new programs to keep players in shape and hired a new trainer during the off-season. Many players have increased the amount of time they have put into the weight room to stay in top form.
The team has also introduced an arm care program after a number of arm-related injuries last season.
“Our goals were to train hard, get stronger and stay healthy,” Torgalski said.
Senior outfielder Vinny Mallaro, the team’s best hitter last season, suffered an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. Due to recovery, Mallaro did not start practicing until a month ago with the Bulls. Now in the designated hitter role, Mallaro will look to have another strong season after becoming one of the team's top hitters last year.
“Being the DH, you can help out the hitters more to really help with aspects of their game,” Mallaro said.
Mallaro feels the team needs to work on reducing the number of strikeouts. Even Mallaro says he needs to improve, having struck out 48 times last season. As Mallaro adjusts to the new role as designated hitter, he feels the team can improve and that they are already in a better place than where they left off last season.
“One through nine we are a lot stronger then we have ever been in my career here,” Mallaro said. “We got a lot of seniors and guys with high level experience so we have definitely improved one through nine.”
Torgalski has higher expectations for this more experienced team as well; there has been a trend for players to have breakout years in their later seasons.
“It's a part of building a program. Guys come in as freshman and they are not ready. They aren’t strong enough, not enough bat speed, power. As they get through the program they start to grow and the experience all comes together and we start seeing real good results in the second and third year of the program,” said senior pitcher Alec Tuohy.
Senior infielder Chris Kwitzer has also noticed improvement within the Bulls this year. He sees a more determined team, ready to pass expectations.
“Our mental toughness is stronger than ever… I feel like we are going to shock some teams. I don’t think anyone is going to expect us to be this good,” Kwitzer said.
Kwitzer feels the team has become well rounded during the offseason. He has seen an improvement in hitter consistency and confidence in pitching.
The starting pitcher rotation is one of Tuohy’s main focus.
Last season, Tuohy had a breakout year with 69 strikeouts and a 2.98 Earned Run Average. This year Torgalski believes they have the talent to have a strong starting rotation with junior Charlie Sobieraski and Tuohy.
“I thought all three of our Friday, Saturday, Sunday guys looked really good last year... I think having another year under their belts will help them to be more consistent,” Torgalski said. “Tuohy’s our guy, I expect the same thing I saw last year. He is a great player to have.”
As the season continues, the injury prevention measures the staff has implemented will be tested. If the team can stay healthy, the Bulls may have found the solution to one of the team’s lingering issues.
Thomas Zafonte is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org