MOUNT PLEASANT - Senior Zach Cooper moved into a tie for 10th place on Central Michigan's career strikeouts list Friday afternoon, fanning 10 Buffalo batters to help CMU beat UB in the Mid-American Conference opener, 7-2.
Cooper and the Chippewas (10-12, 1-0 MAC) shut down the high-powered Bulls (6-10, 0-1 MAC), holding the visiting team to their lowest run total of the season.
A large part of Cooper's success was due in part to spectacular defense by senior Tyler Hall in the first inning that prevented the Bulls from opening up the game with a big frame.
Jon Mestas was walked with one out and advanced to third on an error by Cooper when he attempted to turn a double play, before Hall made CMU's best defensive play of the year. Dan Scahill roped a line drive to center field where Hall made an over the shoulder diving catch only to pop up and start a relay in which junior Jordan Dean gunned out Tom Murphy at first for the double play just before Mestas crossed the plate on the tag, preventing a run.
The Chippewas' offense then gave Cooper all the run support he would need in just one inning, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. Junior Tom Lally led off the inning by being hit by a pitch and moved to third on a single by Dean. After an errant throw by Murphy allowed Lally to score from third, senior William Arnold laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to plate Dean from third for a 2-0 CMU lead.
A pair of runs in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly by Theunissen and a fielder's choice by Russell gave the Chippewas' a 5-0 lead as Cooper worked into a groove.
The senior ace then struck out two Bulls each in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings to move him into a tie with former Chippewa and seventh round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Trent Howard, for 10th on the Chippewas' career strikeouts list (213).
Redshirt freshman Nick Regnier gave the Chippewas their sixth and seventh runs in the process of Cooper's dominance, hitting a key two-out double to right center field in the fifth inning that scored Russell and Arnold.
Cooper (1-2) finished the game allowing two runs - one earned - on seven hits and two walks before redshirt freshman Dylan Rheault came on in the ninth to strike out the side and end the game.
Arnold finished the day 3-for-3 with three singles and a RBI, while Dean went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
The Chippewas and Bulls are back in action tomorrow at Theunissen Stadium for game two of the series. First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m.