It was the ninth inning and St. Bonaventure was trailing Saint Joseph’s, 5-4, in an Atlantic 10 baseball matchup in Philadelphia.
With the bases loaded, Bret Heath singled to tie the game. Then Jason Radwan singled to give the Bonnies a 6-5 lead, one the team would hold in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the win.
It was a dramatic way for the Bonnies to earn coach Larry Sudbrook his 600th career victory at the school.
Sudbrook was pleased, of course. But truth be told, he was a lot happier when that 500th victory came around back in 2008.
“Certainly it’s about longevity and I appreciate the opportunity I’ve gotten to do something I love, which is coach baseball at St. Bonaventure for 28 years,” Sudbrook said. “There are some tremendous kids I’ve gotten to know over the years. I still call them kids, even though my first class of seniors are now 50.
“But out of fairness and being honest, I’m not as excited about 600 as I was about 500. In 2008 we were coming off going to the Atlantic 10 Tournament six out of nine years. We had won an Atlantic 10 title and another year we were runner-up and another year third. The program was doing extremely well.
“The past four years have been some mediocre years. We’ve been below .500.”
Before getting to the nitty-gritty of Atlantic 10 baseball and St. Bonaventure’s place in it, there is an opportunity to reflect on the body of work of Sudbrook’s career. Staying in one location for 28 years is testament in itself. But Sudbrook has a resume of success. He was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2008. In 2004 the Bonnies won the A-10 tournament and advanced to the NCAA field. He has coached 30 all-conference selections, 10 Major League Baseball draft picks and 14 professional players.
He’s done it all at a small school with iffy weather and a small budget.
While Bona baseball has benefited from success and improvements (see the turf field at McGraw-Jennings), the team is still not fully funded, meaning they do not have a full complement of scholarships or as many full-time assistant coaches as others in the A-10.
“When you’ve been mediocre for a while, it’s usually because other teams are getting better players and have done a better job of coaching them,” Sudbrook said. “In our conference, we’ve always been David and Goliath but Goliath is getting bigger and we’re using the same rocks and the same slingshot to try and hit him in the head. It’s getting harder to do. That’s a challenge and it’s getting more difficult. But if I didn’t think we could still do it, I would probably quit coaching. It’s more difficult, but I still think we can do it.”
This season, the Bonnies are off to a 9-15 overall start and are 2-4 in the conference with six weekends of A-10 games still to play.
Bona was optimistic to start the season with the return of two key pitchers – lefty Eddie Gray and right-hander Andrew Revello. But Gray has been battling some nagging injuries and Revello has been inconsistent.
“We’re going to need those two arms to pitch very well,” Sudbrook said. “One has been injured most of the year and the other has been up and down. But I think because it’s still early in the Atlantic 10 season, we still have a chance.”
Pitching buoys Bulls
The University at Buffalo is off to one of its best baseball starts in recent history.
The Bulls are 16-13 overall and 6-3 in the Mid-American Conference. That puts them tied with Kent State, which played in the 2012 College World Series. It is the latest in the season that Buffalo has been over .500 since 1986.
The reason for the early success? The pitching staff. In the last four years the team’s earned run average has steadily declined, from 8.49 in 2009 to a current mark of 3.86.
Sophomore righty Anthony Magoveny was the latest Bull to have a career day on the mound. He threw a complete-game, 3-1 win over Toledo, needing just 90 pitches over nine innings. He faced just three batters over the minimum, struck out six and scattered five hits. The performance earned him MAC East Pitcher of the Week honors.
Synchro moves to club
It was a difficult decision for Canisius, but not a terribly surprising one, when the college announced it would reclassify synchronized swimming, moving it from varsity to club status.
The impetus for the decision came when the NCAA removed it from its list of sponsored sports in 2010.
Canisius is one of six schools in the country to sponsor a synchronized swimming team and one of just three Division I schools to have granted it varsity status.
This season, the Golden Griffins won their 16th straight ECAC title and finished fourth at the U.S. Collegiate National Championships. Canisius will continue to compete in those events with its club status.