MT. PLEASANT, MI - Mike Burke's career as a pitcher has been on a steady rise from the moment the Cleveland, OH native stepped on to campus as a true freshman. His lasting importance to the team was backed up with an impressive record-setting day Sunday afternoon, as he won his 18th career game as a pitcher, setting a new program record. The now-senior righthander went for a complete-game effort in Buffalo's 11-3 blowout of the Central Michigan Chippewas, who entered the day 8-0 in the Mid-American Conference.
After giving away leads in both games of a Saturday doubleheader to the Chippewas(19-12, 8-1 MAC), the team leaned on Burke to send them home with at least one win for the weekend road series. He had plenty of help, though, as the offense recorded 14 hits - all singles - and were able to spot their pitcher six runs in the first four innings to help him cruise.
Thomas Richards was "Captain Clutch" for the team early, with two run-scoring singles with two outs that helped to build the early lead. In the first, he brought home Nick Sinay and Matt Pollock after a successful double steal with two outs put them both in scoring position. Then in the third, he started another rally with a two-out single that would score Pollock from second. Vinny Mallaro followed suit with a single to score another run for an early 4-0 lead for UB.
With his first two at-bats resulting in runs scored, Pollock would turn into the run producer in the fourth, scoring two runs on another two-out single. The Chippewas would score runs on a groundout and sacrifice fly to pull within four, but the Bulls would pick up the slack and get the lead back to six in the top of the eighth. Tyler Mautner would now play the role of clutch producer, hitting a two-out, two-run single that brought around Jimmy Topps and Mike Scarcello. Mautner added another two-run single in the ninth as the offense would score all 11 runs with two outs in the inning.
While the offense chipped away at the CMU pitching staff, Burke managed his game wisely, saving the UB bullpen arms. He would strike out five and walk a pair, scattering eight hits and allowing just two earned runs. Where the UB offense excelled at two-out offense, Burke made sure the home side would not be as fortunate. He stranded five runners in scoring position on the day, adding in four innings where the side was set down in order.
Now 13-12 overall and 4-4 in the MAC, UB will not play again until it opens up a five-game homestand that starts next weekend against Western Michigan. First pitch Friday at Amherst Audubon Field is scheduled for 3 pm, weather permitting.