Toledo Blanks Buffalo in MAC Series Matchup, 3-0
TOLEDO, OH - Senior hurlers Matt Kuna and Lincoln Rassi limited Buffalo to five hits and led Toledo to a 3-0 shutout victory on Saturday afternoon at Scott Park. With the blanking, the Mid-American Conference West Division leading Rockets even the weekend series at one win each and improve to 24-22 overall, 13-7 in the league.
Kuna (6-1) surrendered three hits with three strikeouts over 7.0 innings to claim his team-tying best sixth victory of the spring. The Griffith, IN native faced the minimum of three batters in a frame on five occasions this afternoon and the most Bulls (13-30, 6-13 MAC) he matched-up against was five two times. The right-handed hurler has now won three consecutive starts and worked at least 7.0 innings in two of those appearances.
Rassi came on in relief and yielded two hits with three punchouts over the final 2.0 frames to collect his team-tying best fourth save of the season. The Goshen, IN native has now given up only two runs over his last 10 relief outings, covering 22.0 innings of work.
Offensively, senior 1B Mark Lapikas (2-for-4, RS), senior 2B Joe Corfman (2-for-5, RS) and freshman SS Nate Langhals (2-for-3, RS, RBI) led the Midnight Blue & Gold with multi-hit efforts against a pair of UB hurlers.
The Rockets started today's contest with a chip on their shoulders and made a statement in their opening at-bat, taking advantage of a RBI single by sophomore C James Miglin. The table was set for the second-year backspot following a leadoff single by Corfman and a well-executed sacrifice bunt by freshman RF Dan Zuchowski to move Corfman into scoring position. Miglin stepped to the dish and delivered a run-scoring hit through the left side of the infield to give the home team a lead they would not relinquish.
The Bulls threatened to put runs on the board in the third inning, as they had runners on first & second base with two outs, but UT's Kuna produced a fly ball out to stall the potential threat.
In the bottom of the fourth, Toledo loaded the bases on the strength of a pair of hit by pitches. Unfortunately for the home team, Buffalo RHP Jeff Thompson induced a fly ball out to keep it a one-run difference. Earlier in the inning, Lapikas laced a single through the right side and junior 3B Wes White tried to score all the way from second base, but a perfect relay toss from Buffalo RF Dan Scahill to home cut down White.
The visitors had another golden opportunity to produce its first run of the afternoon in the seventh inning, as they again had runners at first and second base with two outs. UT's Kuna was up to the challenge, though, and recorded a ground ball out to keep the visitors off the board.
Feeding off that momentum, Toledo tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on a RBI ground out off the bat of senior CF Ban Hammer to make the score 2-0. With the bases loaded and one out, senior CF Ben Hammer hit a ground ball to UB 1B Alex Baldock. The Bulls' infielder stepped on first base to record the second out and then tried to cut down Langhals at home, but the UT shortstop beat the tag to double up the advantage.
Buffalo had one other chance to get on the board in the top of the eighth frame, putting runners on second and third base with two outs against Rassi. Fortunately for the Midnight Blue & Gold, Rassi induced a fly ball out to preserve the shutout.
The Rockets then created some breathing room for themselves in the bottom of the eighth, utilizing a run-scoring single off the bat of Langhals to make the final score 3-0.
UB's Thompson (2-2) was the hard-luck loser in today's cross-division matchup, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits with one strikeout in 6.1 innings.
Michael Burke (2-for-4) was the lone Bull with more than one hit against Kuna and Rassi, finishing with two hits.
The teams will conclude their three-game series tomorrow with a 1:05 p.m. first pitch at Scott Park. UT will start junior RHP Mike Hamann (2-4, 6.41 ERA, 60.1 IP, 70 H, 53 R, 43 ER, 27 BB, 41 K), while UB will counter with Burke (3-6, 5.10 ERA, 42.1 IP, 48 H, 34 R, 24 ER, 16 BB, 42 K). With a victory in Sunday's series finale, the Rockets would secure their fourth consecutive MAC weekend series and remain in sole possession of first place in the West Division.