Bulldogs Square-Off With Vikings In Horizon League Championship Opener
May 21, 2007
2007 Championship Bracket
The Week Ahead:
The Week Ahead:The Bulldogs enter the Horizon League Championship as the No. 5 seed and will take on No. 4 Cleveland State in the first game of the tournament on Wednesday (May 23) beginning at 11:00 a.m. Central Time at Les Miller Field on the campus of UIC. A win would advance Butler in the winners' bracket to face either the top-seeded Flames or second-seeded Wright State, while a loss would pit the Bulldogs against the loser of the No. 3 vs. No. 6 match-up of UW-Milwaukee and Youngstown State.
Butler Against CSU: The Bulldogs split the season series with the Vikings in 2007, with Butler claiming two-of-three in Indianapolis (March 30-31) and CSU taking two-of-three in Cleveland (April 13-14). Pitching has been key in the match-ups, as the Bulldogs boast a 2.73 ERA against the Vikings this year, while CSU has allowed just 3.21 earned runs per nine innings versus Butler.
Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler (22-31, 10-20 Horizon League) enters the Horizon League Championship as the No. 5 seed for the second year in a row. The Bulldogs tout one of the most consistent pitching staffs in the league, ranking second in the conference with a 4.57 ERA while boasting a 1.76 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (292 strikeouts, 166 walks), the second-best rate in the league. Junior right-hander Jon Dages continues to be one of the most consistent workhorses for the Bulldogs with a 3.50 ERA while leading the team with six wins, 90 innings pitched and 61 strikeouts. Junior righty Brian Deter has been one of the team's strongest starters in the last month, working at least six innings in his last five starts and touting a 3.93 ERA during that span. Junior Bryan Bokowy adds a left-handed look to the starting rotation, boasting 51 punch-outs and a 4.36 ERA. On the offensive end, Butler's 29 home runs rank third in the league, with senior catcher Joe Dempsey tied for third in the conference with six long balls. Senior outfielder Dustin Bucalo paces the squad with a .345 batting average, including a .366 mark against league foes, while junior infielder Joe Pauley leads the team with 66 hits and 41 runs scored. Head coach Steve Farley (415-459-1) is in his 16th season at Butler.
Last Week's Results:
May 16 - Butler 4, Xavier 1 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Sophomore southpaw Matt Sokolowski turned in a dominant 7.0 innings of work for his first-career win, and the Bulldog offense provided enough support as Butler claimed a 4-1 decision over Xavier. Sokolowski handcuffed the Musketeers on just four hits, with only two leaving the infield, while the bats rapped out 11 hits, including a solo homer by short-stop Joe Pauley.
May 18 - Butler 8-11, UW-Milwaukee 7-4 (Bulldog Park)
The Bulldog bats came out swinging in their first outing at Bulldog Park in nearly a month, as Butler rallied for an 8-7 win over UW-Milwaukee in the first game of a double-header before pounding the Panthers in the night-cap to the tune of an 11-4 victory. The Bulldogs collected 17 hits, including Joe Pauley's game-winning RBI single in the ninth, to claim the opener. In the finale, right-hander Jon Dages held the Panthers to just two earned runs in 7.0 innings, while the bats put the game out of reach with a five-run sixth.
May 19 - UW-Milwaukee 2-6, Butler 1-2 (Bulldog Park)
The Bulldogs were unable to muster enough offense in the regular season finale in a twin-bill on May 19, as the Panthers claimed a double-header sweep. UWM rallied for a 10-inning, 2-1 victory in the opener before scoring six runs in the final four frames for a 6-2 decision in the night-cap.
Five Is Fine: You don't have to look too far back to realize that being the No. 5 seed in the Horizon League Championship might not be so bad for the Bulldogs. Last year, Butler entered the tournament in the fifth spot and proceeded to advance to the championship game, topping Youngstown State in the first round before ousting top-seeded UIC twice to chase the Flames from the tournament.
Familiar To Farley: Butler head coach Steve Farley is no stranger to the Horizon League Championship. The 16th-year Bulldog mentor boasts 23 wins in the conference tournament, more than any other active league coach. He also guided the Bulldogs to a pair of league tournament titles, coming in 1998 and 2000, and has had Butler in the championship game in five seasons.
Dempsey Likes The Vikes: Senior catcher Joe Dempsey has been one of the Bulldogs top hitters in Horizon League play this season, batting .315 (34-for-108) in 30 games. The Butler co-captain has found much of his success against Cleveland State, however, as Dempsey leads the team against the Vikings with a .435 average (10-for-23) with a homer, two doubles, four walks, and four RBI. The only other league team that Dempsey has fared better against has been conference-leader UIC, against whom he holds a .440 average (11-for-25) and eight RBI against the Flames.
Deter Meter: The Butler pitching staff has received quite a boost from right-hander Brian Deter in the last month. The junior right-hander has pitched at least six innings in each of his last five starts while holding his opponent to two earned runs or fewer in four of them. His recent success includes one start against the Vikings, in which he allowed just two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings.
Bucalo And Pauley Have A Week: Butler outfielder Dustin Bucalo and shortstop Joe Pauley have had the hottest bats for the Bulldogs in the last week. The tandem already began last week as the team's top two hitters, with Bucalo batting .320 and Pauley batting .303, before boosting their averages significantly by week's end. Bucalo raised his mark by 25 points to a team-best .345 thanks to an 11-for-21 (.524) performance last week, while Pauley went 12-for-24 (.500) at the plate to improve his average by 24 points to .327.
Arms Race: Butler boasts one of the top pitching staffs in the Horizon League this year, with the Bulldogs recording a 4.57 ERA for the second-best mark in the conference. The staff has been even more effective in league play, combining for a 4.47 ERA in 30 league battles. Junior Jon Dages leads the team with four wins and 63 innings in conference play and a 3.29 ERA, while junior Bryan Bokowy boasts a 3.99 ERA in 47.1 frames. Junior Brian Deter has also been strong in 38.1 innings, recording a 4.46 ERA. Sophomore Ryan Kruszka finished the year with a 2.92 ERA for the best league mark on the squad but had his season end early due to injury.
What A Difference Six Makes: The Bulldog pitching staff has been one of the best in the league this year, touting a team ERA of 4.57 for the second-best mark in the conference. That bodes well for Butler, as the Bulldogs are 18-9 on the year when holding its opponent to five runs or less. It's the sixth run that tends to cause problems, as Butler is only 4-22 when an opponent breaches the six-run mark.Major League Calling: Former Butler pitcher Pat Neshek reached baseball's highest stage last summer, as the Minnesota Twins called him up from Triple-A Rochester on July 6. He earned his first relief appearance against the Texas Rangers, allowing just one hit in two innings of relief, and became a vital part of the Twins' post-season run in the final months of the season. He finished his initial season with 37.0 innings pitched, recording a 4-2 record and a 2.19 ERA while striking out 53. This season, Neshek is one of the Twins' top options out of the bullpen, boasting a 2-0 record with a 1.35 ERA, 24 strikeouts and only seven walks in 20.0 innings pitched through Sunday (May 20).