MOUNT PLEASANT, MI - Fueled by an eight-run third inning, the Buffalo baseball team got back to what it does best Saturday afternoon, beating Central Michigan 11-10. After a season mired by numerous walk-off losses, the UB pitching staff found some redemption and held off the Chippewas' late charge to put the team in position to earn a critical conference series win in tomorrow's rubber match. Mike Burke went a perfect 4-4 at the plate and pitched two innings of relief for his first career save as well.
Down 2-0 going into the top of the third and managing just one hit through the first two frames, the top of Buffalo's batting order straightened out and caught fire, batting around and posting eight runs on just seven hits.
Singles by Matt Pollock and Tom Murphy set the team up early, and Dan Scahill's double would bring in Pollock and moved Murphy to third. Burke was hit by a pitch and River McWilliams would move the runners up one base and bring in Murphy after poking an opposite-field single to right. The lid would be blown off the inning following a sharp lineout from Andy Smietana, as Mike Scarcello cleared the bases with a grand slam to left field. It was the first career home run for the sophomore from local Timon St. Jude High School. Jason Kanzler added a single and would score on a two-run home run by Pollock.
After three more runs by the Chips in the fourth to cut the lead to 8-6, Scahillput a solo home run over the wall in right field. That single run would prove to be an important one, because CMU would edge even closer in the seventh inning, using a pair of runs to bring the score to 9-8 in Buffalo's favor. A brief wild spell from the Central pitching staff would provide the window Buffalo would need to give its pitching staff a bit of breathing room. Walks to Jon Mestas, Murphy and Scahill would load up the bases with one out. Burke split the left side of the infield defense and plated two runs for an 11-8 lead.
Unbeknownst to Burke at the top of the inning, he helped himself out in a big way as he was handed the ball in the bottom of the inning with a two-run lead and a chance to secure the team's first Mid-American Conference win of the season. He would put his two RBI from the previous inning to good use as well, thanks to a gutsy effort from the Chips.
The home team would hit a one-out double in the bottom of the ninth and bring him around to score, but Buffalo put its foot down and closed the door. Tom Lally, who had hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, came up to bat with two outs and the game-winning run on first base, but was caught looking at strike three from Burke to end the game.
Starter Jeff Thompson lasted four innings and struck out two batters. Kevin Crumb took the win as he pulled out three innings of relief. Buffalo will look to win its first conference series since the 2010 season tomorrow, with Kevin Hughes aiming to extend his recent hot streak as he toes the rubber. First pitch is set for 1:05 pm.