KALAMAZOO, MI – The University at Buffalo softball team knocked off the defending Mid-American Conference Champions on Sunday, defeating Western Michigan, 5-4, at Fran Ebert Field. It was a victory that almost didn't happen, but the Bulls defense came through when they needed to the most.
It was the bottom of the seventh and the Bulls were holding on to a one-run lead, but the Broncos had runners on the corners with nobody out due to a UB error on a sacrifice bunt. WMU's Allie Carlson was up and hit a ball to left field, which was caught by freshman Karly Nevez. The Broncos sent their runner from third, but Nevez threw a strike to Alexis Curtiss behind the plate as UB was apply the tag and record two outs. A groundout to third then ended the game.
"Karly did a great job getting under the ball and then getting into a throwing position," said head coach Jen Teague. "Her throw was a little high, but Alexis was able to grab it and apply the tag. Just a great job by both of them, especially in that situation late in the game."
The Broncos scored the first three runs of the game against Buffalo starter Holly Johnson before the Bulls got on the board in the top of the third. Junior Jessica Griffin began the inning with a walk and was replaced on the bases by sophomore Kelli Gleiser. Junior Andi Saucier followed with a single to right field and both Gleiser and Saucier came in to score on a double to right field from Holly Luciano, who moved to third on the throw home. The Bulls were unable to score Luciano, but still cut the deficit to 3-2.
Johnson then allowed a leadoff home run and a double to start the third inning as she was replaced by Tori Speckman, who was brilliant in relief. The Broncos had runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the third, but Speckman got a ground out to second, followed by a strikeout and a foul out to limit the Broncos to one in the inning.
It remained a 4-2 Western Michigan lead into the top of the fifth when the Bulls took the lead. Griffin got it started with an infield single and advanced to second on a one-out walk to Luciano. Senior Kristin Waldron came on as a pinch hitter and walked to load the bases with just one out. Curtiss followed by connecting on a single down the left field line, scoring Griffin and Luciano to tie the game up. Waldron moved to third on the hit and Curtiss advanced to second on the throw. Alyssa Ward was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases up again and sophomore Sammi Gallardo singled to right field, scoring Curtiss, who was the go-ahead run.
The Broncos put runners on base in each the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but each time Speckman was able to work out of trouble. She allowed just one hit in her five innings of action, but did walk four batters. Speckman was able to pick up her ninth win of the season, which is four more than she had all of last season.
Griffin reached base in all three of her plate appearances as she had two hits and a walk. Luciano and Curtiss each finished with two runs batted in. The victory was also UB's 12th of the season, tying their win total from last season.
"Anytime you can go 3-1 on the weekend it gives you great momentum, especially being able to do it on the road," said Teague. "These games were very important for us as we head into our final three conference weekends. We will work on improving our defense in practice on Tuesday and keep working with our pitchers, but I thought our hitting was fantastic these last five games. We have remained disciplined at the plate and we have to work on being able to sustain that this late in the season."
The Bulls will now begin a season-long nine game homestand, which starts on Wednesday afternoon as Niagara comes in for a doubleheader. First pitch is set for 3:00 pm.