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Buffalo Bulls Baseball 2015 Season Preview

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UB Athletics

Ron Torgalski has been with UB Baseball since the program restart in 1999-2000, and head coach since 2007. Like so many other teams in the department, it's in recent years that the diamond Bulls have become a viable contender in the MAC; UB's 32 conference wins over the last two seasons are nearly as many as the 34 the program amassed in the five years prior.

Lately, we've enjoyed filling the summer dead period in college sports with news on the significant list of former Bulls now in professional baseball, but that comes with a price. The core of the surprising 2013 team is almost entirely gone and 2015 will be a key year in seeing how able Buffalo is able to reload.

Key Departees

Mike Burke, Pitcher - Now in the Baltimore Orioles organization, Burke was a monster off the mound and in the box for UB. Replacing Burke means replacing the UB all-time leader in wins, starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts. Though his junior year (First Team All-MAC) was better from the mound, he also added a .324 batting average, three home runs, and 20 RBI as a hitter in 2014.

Kevin Hughes, Pitcher - After battling multiple elbow injuries during his UB career, Hughes was invaluable on his way to Second Team All-MAC recognition in 2014, leading all starters with a 2.70 earned run average over 73.1 innings. He was even better in MAC play, putting together a 2.33 ERA in seven conference starts.

Tyler Mautner, Infield - Mautner joined Burke in the MLB draft, selected in the 14th round by the Minnesota Twins. It was the first time in over 30 years UB had two players drafted in the same season, and for good reason; Mautner hit .337 and had 52 RBIs. In only two years, Mautner claimed seventh place on UB's all-time doubles list and earned All-MAC Second Team and All-MAC First Team recognition.

Key Returners

Nick Sinay, Junior. Sinay might be my favorite player on this team just for the style he adds to the group. His .254 average isn't blowing anyone away, but add 51 walks and HBPs and suddenly you have the second-best OBP on the team and the team leader in runs (45). Every team needs a Nick Sinay

Anthony Magovney, Senior. Magovney is very good, but he's also the most experienced returning pitcher. Last year he started 5-0 before finishing with a 6-4 record, but UB would benefit from a step forward in his senior year. Fortunately, Magovney is used to the workload, having appeared in 14 games last year.

Vinny Mallaro, Sophomore. So much offense is gone! By batting average, Mallaro was fifth on the team in 2014 but is the top returner. The outfielder will likely see action in more than 35 games this year, but will need to generate more walks to help the Bulls rebuild their offense.

2015 Newcomers

Baseball is of course not a full scholarship sport, so I'm not sure which of the new guys to focus on, but UB has fully nine freshman on the team this year.

Charlie Sobieraski. I really, sincerely hope that Sobieraski becomes a star, because he's one of a dying breed: the high school three-sport athlete. Charlie starred in football, basketball, and on the diamond for Lockport, but baseball was his best sport, as he was named First Team All-WNY as a senior. .

Andrew Taft, Logan Harasta, Tom Taplin, Tyler Utz. The first three were First Team All-NYS, and Utz played on the Williamsville South team than advanced to the state championship game. 

Eddie Edwards III, Ben Vey, Mitchell Machi. Three players from Pittsburgh, with Edwards III and Vey earning WPIAL All-Star recognition.

2015 Schedule

13 February JMU (@ Gardner-Webb)
14-15 February @ Gardner-Webb (2)
20 February Maryland Eastern Shore (@ VMI)
20-21 February @ VMI (2)
22 February Maryland Eastern Shore (@VMI)
28 Feb - 1 Mar @ Bucknell (4)
6 March @ Wright State
7 March @ Dayton (2)
8 March Missouri State (@ Dayton)
10 March @ Canisius
13-15 March @ Houston (3)
20-22 March NIU* (3)
24 March @ Canisius
27-29 March @ Ball State* (3)
31 March @ St. Bonaventure (2)
3-5 April Ohio* (3)
10-12 April at Miami* (3)
15 April Canisius
17-19 April Central Michigan* (3)
24-26 April @ Western Michigan* (3)
28 April @ Niagara (2)
1-3 May Kent State* (3)
5 May St. Bonaventure (2)
8-10 May @ Akron* (3)
12 May Niagara
14-16 May @ Bowling Green* (3)

It's a pretty normal schedule for UB this year, with a long road trip before the first home game in late March, and a bunch of games against Canisius, Niagara, and St. Bonaventure to fill in spots.

For the most part, the Bulls don't swing too far south this season, though they will take a single trip to Houston before the MAC slate. UB will miss Toledo (middling) and Eastern Michigan (bad) among the MAC opponents, though I wonder if that's by design, as that was true last season, as well.

Final Thoughts

I didn't truly realize how much production left with 2014 until I started putting this together. At the end of the day, this season is going to be a big chance for the program to show that it's raised its game; a fourth straight season with 20+ wins would be a program first and especially significant given all the underclassmen stepping up.

On the flip side, a poor season shouldn't at all reflect badly on Torgalski, who is UB Baseball. After the runs of the last two years, he's earned the benefit of the doubt should the young team need another year.

To avoid that, everyone's going to have to step up, from another reliable starting pitcher to compliment Magovney, to several improved hitters who can step in for the half-dozen big departures on offense.

Go Bulls.