Burke's Walk-off Clinches Wacky Opener for UB
ROCHESTER, NY – In one of the strangest games in recent program history, the Buffalo baseball team erased a seven-run deficit in the final four innings of regulation to force extra innings, then had a game suspended due to darkness only to come back and win the next day. Mike Burke would get the walk-off winning hit to lead UB to a 14-13 win over Ball State Saturday afternoon, earning the win as the pitcher after coming into the suspended game as a reliever in its second day.
Wild weather was the main ingredient in one of the wildest games so far in the Mid-American Conference season, as wind gusts that reached 45 miles per hour led to long home runs and arduous fly balls for both teams. The Cardinals (17-9, 3-1 MAC) would run out to a quick 8-0 lead after three innings, chasing UB starter Mike McGee after just 1.2 innings pitched and ultimately laying down nine more runs against reliever Ben Hartz.
The Bulls (11-8, 3-1 MAC) would score their first run of the game in the bottom of the third, despite recording no hits. Jimmy Topps reached on a wild pitch off a swinging third strike, then three straight walks to Nick Sinay, Matt Pollock and Thomas Richards would give UB its first run. The game went into a rain delay with Richards up to bat in the third, delaying his at-bat 25 minutes as a driving rain moved through the area. While the rain would move out quickly, the changing weather front brought the worst of the wind, with measured wind gusts going from 15 miles per hour at first pitch to consistently over 30 for the remainder of the day.
Buffalo would get its first hit of the game with one out in the fourth, as Tanner Robinson would get an opposite-field single to start the team off. The offense would wake up in a big way in the inning, as Mike Scarcello would double immediately after and Topps would score both runners with a single. Sinay followed immediately with a home run to left field and the Bulls would trail by just three, 8-5.
Ball State answered back with a home run of its own in the fifth, and scored four runs to temporarily stunt the comeback attempt. Mike Burke hit a solo shot to lead off the home half of the fifth, but after the Cardinals batted in the top of sixth the Bulls would trail 13-6. There began the slow climb back into the game, as the team turned to senior Kevin Hughes to provide some much-needed relief out of the bullpen.
The Cardinals would see its bullpen taxed immediately in the sixth, as Tyler Jordan would be hit up for three runs in the home half of the sixth. The first three Bulls reached to load the bases with no outs, and Richards would again draw the bases-loaded walk. Burke then hit a soft liner to right field that was dropped, bringing in a second run, and a fielder's choice would make it a 13-9 game.
In the seventh, the wind would rear its head in favor of the Bulls to bring in another run. Topps would get an infield single and move to second on the error. Pollock followed with a high fly ball to center that was blown in so far that it would not be caught, putting two runners in scoring position. Tyler Mautner would hit a sacrifice fly and it was a 13-10 game.
Two more runs would come across in the eighth, as the wind-aided long ball would come in Buffalo's favor. After Burke singled, Robinson hit his first career home run as a Bull, sneaking a hard liner over the fence in left field to pull within one run.
With darkness aided by cloud-filled skies, the bottom of the ninth was a wild affair for all parties involved. Back-to-back singles with one out for UB would get them started, and Ball State closer Zach Plesac would not help his cause after throwing two wild pitches in the same at bat to Richards, bringing Pollock around from second and bringing Mautner just 90 feet from instant victory and just one out. Richards would not be able to play the hero and would strike out, but a walk to Burke and catcher's interference would load up the bases. Robinson stepped in with two outs and found himself in a 3-2 count. He would be caught looking at a called third strike, and after a conference with the coaches and umpires, it was ruled that the tenth inning would be played at noon the next day due to unplayable darkness after a four-hour regulation game.
The game resumed Saturday at noon, with Burke and Plesac squaring off. The two traded quick halves of the tenth, and Burke would get out of the eleventh with no harm. Mautner and defensive replacement Chris Kwitzer hit singles with one out to bring up Burke, who hit a double over the right fielder's grasp to bring in Mautner for the instant win.