NCAA Baseball - Half way through and Buffalo Leads the MAC East

When Tom Murphy moved on from Buffalo there was every reason to think UB would plummet back to the bottom of the MAC, at least that's what the pundits thought.

Before the season started the Mid American Conference coaches poll awarded Buffalo just 19 points. That put UB last in the east, 53 points behind Kent. A team that started the season expected to be a punching bag for the conference became a curiosity when they entered MAC play with a better record than any other Mid American Conference team.

Much of that success was chalked up to a "weak" schedule by writers who cover the conference. Then the Bulls, a team with limited scholarships and no campus facilities, started working their way through the MAC. Team by team UB started to win each series they played.

First it was Ceentral Michigan in a home series played at Monroe Community College, then a trip to Kalamazoo to take on Western Michigan, Then Toledo and finally EMU. Each of the series won by a 2-1 margin. That consistency put UB all alone at second in the MAC East, just on game behind Kent.

Of the teams they have faced from the West nobody entered last weekend with a winning overall or conference record. For all of UB's success there were still questions.

The doubters finally had a chance to see if UB was for real this past weekend when defending MAC Champions and World Series participants came to Buffalo. Kent was expected to dispatch of UB as they had Miami one week prior.

Instead of being swept, or even losing the series, UB did something no MAC team has done since the spring of 2008, they swept Kent State. The Sweep gives UB a two game lead in the MAC East division and ties them with Northern Illinois in the West.

Year Coach Rec MAC DIV
2001 Breene 11-39 5-23 7th
2002 Breene 16-28 6-17 6th
2003 Breene 16-37 5-21 6th
2004 Breene 15-39 4-18 6th
2005 Breene 19-30-1 5-14 6th
2006 Breene 15-37 6-21 6th
2007 Torgalski 16-35 11-16 3rd
2008 Torgalski 14-38 7-19 6th
2009 Torgalski 20-35 6-20 6th
2010 Torgalski 23-29 9-18 5th
2011 Torgalski 14-38 3-22 6th
2012 Torgalski 20-36 10-16 4th
2013 Torgalski 21-16 11-4 1st

How have the Bulls done it?

At bat Buffalo features Jason Kanzler. Kanzler leads the MAC in Home Runs and Runs Batted In.

He leads a lineup which is second in the conference in slugging percent, and on base percent. The Bulls lead the MAC in home runs and are fourth in runs, double, and triples.

But as good as the Bulls have been at the plate the difference this season for Buffalo is core of very good pitchers. Mike Burke, and Anthony Magovney have three conference player of the week awards. Along with Mike McGee UB has a trio of dependable pitchers who put the team in a position to win. Of UB's 37 games these three pitchers have started 30 of them.

In the late Innings River McWilliams has been saving games and setting team records. McWilliams has eight saves on the year which both leads the MAC and gives him the best season a UB reliever has had during Buffalo's membership in the Conference.

UB has already tied their record for MAC wins in a season and they are just now hitting the second half of the year. The Bulls also have a decent shot at their first winning record since the Baseball Program's reboot.

There is a long way to go and several quality teams still standing in the way but the Bulls enter second half of conference play with a chance win the MAC East.

In addition to beating the teams that they should beat UB has some of the stronger MAC teams remaining. Northern Illinois and Miami are each in the hunt for the best record in the conference and the Bulls gave them a lot of help by beating Kent.

Buffalo has built this season on sound fundamental ball. Not only are the triplets doing a fine job on the mound but everyone is doing their part. The bottom of the order has stepped up huge in recent games, the relief pitchers are playing some of their best ball of the year, and for the most part the fielders have been keeping the mistakes to a minimum.

If the team can keep pace and win the MAC East they will far surpass what Turner Gill and the Football team did in 2008. While UB football did seem a moribund program they faced far fewer structural challenges then the UB Baseball team.

Beyond the lack of funds going to the program they have to do what Ted Williams called “the hardest single thing to do in sport”.

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