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Tullio breaks Point Park record for career saves, provides valuable role for Pioneers

March 20, 2012

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Senior pitcher Mike Tullio is now Point Park's all-time leader in career saves. Photo by Lyddia Ankrom.

 

PITTSBURGH -- Senior pitcher Mike Tullio is now the all-time leader in career saves at Point Park University, and the right-hander from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is a big reason for the Pioneers' success.

Tullio picked up a couple of saves in last weekend's series sweep at Salem International to give him six on the season and nine in his career. The 6-3, 235-pound Tullio beat the previous mark of seven career saves shared by Jim Sawicki (1987-88) and Ernie Peterman (1989-92).

"It is great to get the record," said Tullio, who has made 29 of his 34 career outings in relief. "I was not aware that I was approaching it until coach Torres told me the other day. I am fortunate enough to have six so far this year, and I picked up three last year. If I am getting saves, that mean's that we are winning. That's all that matters to me -- the team winning as much as possible and keeping the losses to a minimum."

Tullio has been a work horse for the Pioneers, who are 18-3 entering Wednesday's home doubleheader versus Penn State-Greater Allegheny. Virtually any time Point Park is in trouble or the game in on the line, Tullio is summoned from the bullpen to close things out.

He has appeared in 11 of the Pioneers' 21 games thus far and all of those appearances are as a reliever. In 17.2 innings of work, Tullio is 2-1 with a 1.02 ERA and six saves. In his 11 outings, he has given up the lead only one time. All of the other times he has either picked up the save or closed out the game in a non-save situation.

His six saves so far this year rank seventh in the NAIA. Some of his more notable saves this year have come against No. 23 Madonna (March 8) and versus teams that are receiving votes in the national poll in Martin Methodist (Feb. 24& 25) and Campbellsville (Feb. 26).

One of his best relief outings did not come as a save but rather as a win in relief. He worked the last two innings of Point Park's 3-2 win over No. 7 Cumberland on Feb. 25. He came on with the score 1-1 and held things there long enough for the Pioneers to win in eight innings.

"Mike Tullio plays a very valuable role for us," said third-year Point Park head coach Loren Torres. "He is our go-to guy out of the bullpen. When the game is on the line, we feel very good handing it over to him to close it out. We like that if we can get to the last inning or even in the last two innings, he can come in and shut things down."

Tullio is in his third year at Point Park after spending his freshman season at Palm Beach Community College, near his hometown of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He transferred to Point Park in the middle of his sophomore year of college and arrived with the team in January of 2010. That was just a few week's before the Pioneers took the field under Torres as their new coach.

Point Park was 13-26 that year, and Tullio did not have a very good year with an ERA in the double digits while working mainly out of the bullpen. But things fell into place for Tullio as junior in 2011. His emergence as a lights-out closer was a huge factor in Point Park putting up a 38-13 record and reaching the American Mideast Conference Tournament Finals.

Tullio was 6-0 with a 0.98 ERA and three saves in his breakout 2011 season. He earned All-AMC Second Team honors and helped the Pioneers to a No. 23 ranking in the final NAIA Top Poll of the year.

He was instrumental down the stretch run of the season. He appeared in virtually every game the last two and a half weeks of the season helping the Pioneers secure the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. After that, he worked in three of the Pioneers' four postseason games, including five innings of relief in the finals.

"I feel very comfortable being the closer," said Tullio. "What has helped me is my ability to stay calm out there even in the big games. The mental aspect of the game has been huge for me."

So far this year, Tullio has picked up right where he left off last season. And he is appearing in games more often than ever before. Tullio is only two games shy of his career-high of 13 appearances he set last year. His durability and endurance allow him to log as many innings as the starters and throw just about every game. His 17.2 innings pitched are fourth on the team and rank behind only top three starting pitchers Derek Peluso, Ryan Loutsenhizer and Sean Clark.

"I feel like I could be a starter," said Tullio. "But my role is as the closer, and I will do whatever is asked of me as a pitcher. We have a lot of good pitchers up and down the staff. And whether you are a starter or a reliever, the idea is the same -- to throw a lot of strikes and pound the zone.

So far, the Pioneers have been carried by their pitching staff. Point Park ranks fifth in the NAIA with a team ERA of 2.66, which is outstanding for college baseball. Opponents are hitting .243 off Pioneers pitching, which ranks 24th in the country. Tullio sees no reason the strong pitching can't continue.

"If we can keep everyone healthy, I think our pitching can continue to do what it's doing," he said.

And with Tullio on the back end of the staff, the Pioneers always have a go-to guy in the bullpen.