BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo baseball team opens up their 2017 regular season this weekend on the road at UT Martin. The Bulls and Skyhawks will open play on Friday and Saturday at 2:00 pm before closing out the three-game set on Sunday at 12:00 pm.
The Bulls have a solid group of veterans returning to the 2017 version of the team as UB will return six starters along with all three weekend starting pitchers. The Buffalo starting rotation should be a strength this season as their weekend rotation combined to start 38 games a season ago.
The pitching staff will again be anchored by senior righty Alec Tuohy who turned in an outstanding 2016 campaign as he finished 7-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 69 strikeout's while earning First Team All-MAC honors for the first time in his career. UB will also return junior right-hander Charlie Sobieraski to the rotation as he will take the ball on Saturday's after finishing his first season as a pitcher in 2016 with a 5-6 record to go along with a 4.50 ERA and a team-high 74 strikeouts. Hard-throwing righty Shawn Dubin will get the call on Sunday's for UB after finishing his first season as a Bull with a 2-5 record, a 5.31 ERA and 51 strikeouts.
UB lost their flame-throwing closer Mike Kaelin to the MLB draft last season but will replace him with a very reliable option in 6-7 junior Logan Harasta. Harasta takes over the reigns as the closer after a sparkling sophomore campaign which saw him earn a team-best 2.33 ERA across 46.1 innings of work while notching three saves, striking out 42 batters and holding his opponents to a .196 batting average against in his set up man role. Junior Ben Vey will also return to the bullpen where he had some success late last season as he appeared in 13 games and owned a 2.84 ERA while striking out 21 batters in 25.1 innings of action.
Senior power-hitter Vinny Mallaro returns in the middle of the Bulls lineup after producing one of the best seasons at the plate in program history in 2016 as he was able to earn First Team All-MAC honors. The Syracuse native closed out his junior season in fashion as he batted .351 while tying Tom Murphy's program record for home runs in a season (13). Mallaro notched 52 RBI, second most in a season in program history, 42 runs, 15 doubles and had a slugging percentage of .649. He also became the first player since the programs reinstatement to hit for a cycle (single, double, triple and home run) as he went 4-for-6 with five RBI and two runs against UT Martin.
Fellow senior Chris Kwitzer will man the hot corner for the Bulls for the third straight season after compiling a career year in 2016. Kwitzer finished off his junior season batting .285 with three home runs, 23 RBI, 23 runs and 12 doubles while notching a slugging percentage of .436. First baseman Andrew Taft will be a presence in the middle of UB's lineup after batting .283 with three home runs, 28 RBI, 19 runs, and 10 doubles in his first season in the Buffalo lineup.
The middle of the Bulls infield will be a pair of returners as Ben Haefner will shift over to shortstop and senior Brian Dudek will take over the reins at second base. Haefner started 35 games in the infield last season and was the Bulls most consisteant defensive player as he accumulated a fielding percentage of .993, making just one error. At the plate, Haefner batted .246 to go along with 16 runs and 10 RBI while Dudek compiled 32 starts all over the diamond and finished the season with a .217 batting average and 14 runs scored. Senior catcher Kyle Brennan returns behind the plate for UB after his best offensive season in 2016 in which he batted .208 with 11 RBI and 10 runs while throwing out 14 would-be base stealers a season ago in just 50 attempts. Alex Thrower returns to center field for UB and will look to utilize his speed on the base paths after leading the Bulls with eight stolen bases while ranking fourth on the team with 25 runs and 11 RBI.
After the three-game set at UT Martin this weekend, the Bulls will stay on the road for another three-game series at Murray State from February 24-26.