MOUNT PLEASANT - An eight-run third inning carried Buffalo to an 11-10 win over Central Michigan on Saturday, evening the teams' Mid-American Conference series at a game apiece.
CMU (10-13 overall, 1-1 MAC) trailed 8-2 after two-and-a-half innings, but twice clawed back within one run of the visiting Bulls (7-10, 1-1 MAC). The final time was in the bottom of the ninth, when Eric Wrozek's two-out single scored Sam Russell from second and cut the Buffalo lead to 11-10. Tom Lally, however, was called out on strikes to end the game.
Seven of the Bulls' 11 runs came on two-out home runs, including a grand slam and two-run homer as part of their eight-run third.
Two runs were already in and the bases were loaded when Mike Scarcello drove a 2-0 pitch from Rick Dodridge over the wall in left that gave Buffalo a 6-2 lead in the third. Two batters later, Matt Pollock homered on a 2-2 pitch that extended the lead to 8-2.
CMU immediately began chipping away at the lead, scoring once in the third and three times in the fourth to cut the deficit to 8-6.
Jordan Dean and Tyler Hall's back-to-back singles with two outs drove in the three runs in the fourth; the Chippewas still had the bases loaded when Dean, attempting to steal home, was called out to end the inning.
Dan Scahill stretched the Buffalo lead to 9-6 with a two-out solo home run in the sixth, but a two-out rally in the seventh by the Chippewas cut the margin to 9-8. Russell doubled home Nate Theunissen from first, then scored two batters later on Reid Rooney's single to right.
Buffalo added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the eighth on Michael Burke's bases-loaded single that scored Tom Murphy and Jon Mestas.
Trailing 11-8, Lally led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run that chased Buffalo's Kevin Crumb, who to that point had allowed just two runs on two hits in three innings out of the bullpen. Burke shifted over from shortstop and retired four straight hitters before CMU tried to stage its finally rally in the ninth. Russell doubled with one out and Rooney drew a two-out walk to put runners on first and second for Wrozek, who singled a 1-2 pitch back up the middle to score Russell with his fourth run of the game. Burke ended the rally when he struck out Lally with a breaking ball that caught the outside corner.
Crumb (1-4) earned the win for Buffalo after coming on to start the fifth inning. Burke earned his first save of the season.
Dodridge (1-3) took the loss for the Chippewas, surrendering eight earned runs on eight hits in just three innings. Pat Kaminska and Jon Weaver combined to allow three runs on six hits over the game's final six innings in relief.
Russell was 3-for-4 with three doubles and a walk to go along with his four runs scored. Dean finished 3-for-5 with a double. He also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.
Along with earning the save for Buffalo, Burke reached base all five times he came to the plate. He was 4-for-4 with a double and was hit by a pitch.
The third and deciding game of the weekend series is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Theunissen Stadium. The game can be heard on WMHW-FM 91.5 and online at CMUChippewas.com.