Lots of stuff to talk about in UB-land this weekend, even if you set the historic-for-UB NFL Draft aside.
First things first, Trena Peel's first season at the helm of UB Softball has come to an end, and while the Bulls continued to break new frontiers for the program, they ultimately fell two wins short of the MAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament when, needing to beat Ohio twice to take the title, they lost 4-0 in their first shot.
That would be the simple, easy way to fill you in, but unfortunately it's Buffalo and Ohio in a MAC championship, so you know there's more to the story than that. And even more heartbreakingly, it goes back to even earlier than the championship round.
After waltzing through their first two opponents, UB faced Ohio in the "winners' bracket" championship of the double-elimination tournament. (Anyone who's played Little League Baseball knows these brackets.) Basically, the winner of this game got a berth in the MAC Championship with no losses, and got to wait for all the teams who already had one loss to sort themselves out before getting two chances to knock the last team standing off. Obviously, that would be a huge advantage.
For all of UB's success in their first two games, Ohio had also done more than just squeak through. Led by ace Savannah Jo Dorsey, who pitched a perfect game against top-seeded Ball State in their second round game, Ohio had the firepower to counter UB's Tori Speckman, owner of two no-hitters herself this season.
And so it began. And then it just kept going. At first, a 0-0 game was exciting to follow, even on Twitter, as you knew that one hit could break things open. But then the two teams went into extras and just didn't stop for a while, ultimately wrapping up the 12th inning still tied at 0.
In the top of the 13th, Ohio finally broke through, capitalizing on a two-out dinger to stake a 2-0 lead and force UB to answer. Unfortunately UB couldn't, and the Bulls were sent to the losers' bracket, where they'd have to beat the winner of Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.
Before that, however, let's point out that softball is a little different than baseball, in that it's apparently not too significant that both pitchers went the distance in the 13-inning marathon. Buried at the end of the mac-sports.com writeup:
A day after throwing a perfect game in a 3-0 victory over MAC regular season champion Ball State, Dorsey limited the Bulls to only five hits and two walks while fanning 13 over 13 frames of work to match her career high for the fourth time this season and second time in as many games.
Buffalo senior pitcher Tori Speckman also went the distance, striking out nine over 13 frames.
Needing to beat NIU just to get back to Ohio, UB started Saturday with a potentially long day ahead of them. Happily, Tori Speckman is apparently a robot cobbled together from elastic and chicken wings, and she pitched another 7 innings in the UB win. Advancing to the Championship round needing to top the Bobcats twice, UB fell short in the first game, a 4-0 affair that was honestly kind of pedestrian compared the drama of the previous night's matchup. UB - and for that matter no one in the tournament - just couldn't string any hits together against Savannah Jo Dorsey. Speckman - of course - went the distance once again for UB.
Championship game loss aside, I think I'll take the GREATEST SEASON IN PROGRAM HISTORY from a new coach in her first season. No UB team has ever won as many games or advanced nearly as far in the conference tournament. The Bulls are losing Speckman, fellow pitcher Tori Pettine, and All-MAC seniors Holly Luciano and Sammi Gallardo, but generally have an even scholarship distribution, and look poised to succeed as long as Coach Peel sticks around.
That makes three teams that have concluded their season, as softball joins men's and women's tennis on summer break, but Track and Field had one more tune up meet this past weekend in advance of the MAC Championships later this week in Athens, Ohio (Of Course), and they certainly look ready to go, winning 12 events, mostly across the throws and sprinting events.
You can view the full results here. In addition, three members of the Men's team competed at the Virginia Challenge, where Tyler Scheving lowered his own school record in the 800m to 1:49.83. Just for reference, 800m is about the difference from Hochstetter Hall on one side of Flint Loop to the Buffalo statue in front of Alumni Arena. Imagine being able to travel the length of the spine in under two minutes!
The MAC meet begins on Thursday, so stay tuned Wednesday night or Thursday morning for a preview.
Finally, we turn our attention to an out-of-season team. New coach John Stutzman has finalized his recruiting class for the new wrestling Bulls and is receiving national recognition. Per a UB press release, TheOpenMat.com has UB's class ranked 18th in the nation, second in the MAC to just Old Dominion:
The 2014-15 class features standout high school grapplers from five different states who have combined for 58 State Championship appearances, 40 State medals and four State Championships. This nationally recognized recruiting class will add talent and depth a Bulls squad that tripled their win output from a season ago and had one grappler qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
It's frequently lost in the midst of hockey, lacrosse, and other high school sports, but Western New York is actually quite the hotbed for high school wrestling talent, and with a strong couple of years it's not too far-fetched to see UB blossom into a contender. After the Big XII, the MAC is widely considered the second-best conference for wrestling, and the Bulls - during the Desi Green years - have stood on the precipice of consecutive nationally-ranked classes before. With the small sample size available to us now, it certainly looks like John Stutzman, with less than a year in Amherst under his belt, has the Bulls on the right track.