Baldock Shines as Bulls Advance to MAC Tournament Semifinal
AVON, OH - Backed by eight strong innings from pitcher Mike Burke and a season-high five runs batted in by Alex Baldock, the Buffalo baseball team (20-35) held off a late rally from Western Michigan (26-29) and brought home a 10-8 win Friday morning at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Needing a strong performance to stave off elimination and also save its bullpen, the Bulls turned to the sophomore righty in Burke and he provided exactly what they needed. Allowing just two earned runs, he struck out four batters and walked only one.
"Mike bared down and got himself out of jams when he had to," said head coach Ron Torgalski. "He pounded the strike zone and he didn't walk batters and that's the way it needs to be, because our defense will make the plays that need to be made."
Burke was supported by an offense that scored in double digits for the eleventh time this season. When the team drives in ten or more runs, it owns an 8-3 record. It was buoyed today by another strong game by its junior first baseman, as Baldock drove in a season-high five runs.
"We did what we had to do today on offense," Torgalski said. "We got guys on base, moved them over and got hits to drive them in when we needed to. Alex has been clutch and it is good to not only have his bat back in the lineup on a regular basis, but also to see him get hot here in May."
The scoring kicked off right away from both teams, with both pushing across a run in the first inning. Matt Pollock led off the game by getting plunked, the first of two HBPs he would get in the game. He moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Dan Scahill, and with two outs in the inning Baldock drove in the game's first run with an 0-1 single to left center field.
The two-out offense was cruising along again in the second inning, as Jason Kanzler drove in Ryan Tulloch with a single to left field with two away to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead. The score would hold until the fifth when it would be broken open thanks to plenty of hustle from the Bulls and a pair of errors by Western Michigan.
Pollock led off the inning by getting plunked again, and a mishandling of a bunt by Jason Kanzler put two runners on with still no outs. Scahill flied out, and Tom Murphy appeared to hit into a tailor-made double play on a ground ball to the shortstop. Kanzler instead was called safe at second in a terrific hustle play and all runners were safe for Baldock. After going down 0-2 in the count, Baldock worked it back full before punching a line drive through the left side of the infield and scoring two runs.
Mike Scarcello then followed with a single to left field that scored Murphy easily, and after the left fielder misplayed the ball for the Broncos' second error of the inning, Baldock was able to score as well and extend Buffalo's lead to 6-1.
Kanzler added a sacrifice fly in the sixth that brought home Andy Smietana, and the Bulls tacked on three runs in the ninth which proved to be crucial in the home half of the final inning. Scahill drew a 3-2 walk and was moved over by a single by Murphy. Baldock brought them both in on a double off the wall in left field, and Scarcello then hit a soft line drive to center field that would score Baldock and give the Bulls a 10-2 lead.
Western Michigan would certainly not go quietly in the ninth though, piecing together seven hits and six runs to make the Bulls sweat it out. Despite being up on the count to many of the WMU batters, the UB pitchers could not get that final call and allowed four two-out runs before Dan Ginader secured the win. The sophomore, who will now get the start tonight against Kent State, retired the only batter he faced for his first career save.
A relieved coach Torgalski was proud of the team's ability to finish under pressure and get two straight elimination wins against teams that Buffalo was winless against in the regular season.
"Our whole bracket was teams that we had not beat this season and we've now beaten two of them and hope to get a third in the afternoon," Torgalski said. "They (the team) are excited to be staying here for another game and also playing the best team. We've told them all along that you're going to have to beat them to get to the final so let's see what we can get done against them."
The meeting with Kent State will be the fifth of the season between the East Division foes. Kent State won in the opening round over the Bulls 9-0 behind a lights-out performance from David Starn. First pitch at All Pro Freight Stadium is tentatively scheduled for 4 pm.