The Canisius College baseball team rallied from a 5-1 eighth-inning deficit in the opener and then hung on in the seventh inning of the nightcap to sweep a pair of one-run games from Rider University at the Demske Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Griffins won 6-5 and 8-7 to improve to 15-13 overall and 4-1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Game One - Canisius 6, Rider 5
Rider took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second on an RBI single from Jerry Mulderig. The throw home from right fielder Chris Gruarin got away from catcher Brooklyn Foster, allowing a second run to score on the error. Canisius kept the deficit at two runs in the fourth when left fielder Jesse Kelso threw out Greg Fazio at the plate.
Canisius mounted a rally in the sixth as Gruarin singled through the right side and sophomore Shane Zimmer fisted a ball into center field. After a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Jimmy Luppens put two runners into scoring position, Murphy struck out freshman Jesse Puscheck for the second out of the inning. Kelso followed with a single up the middle, scoring Gruarin but Zimmer was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Brandon Cotten.
Rider (7-18, 2-3 MAAC) built a four-run lead in the top of the eighth, taking advantage of two Canisius errors to score three unearned runs. Justin Thomas reached on a one-out pinch-hit single. After an error allowed Mike Parsons to reach, reliever Alex Tufts got Fazio to fly out to left on a running, over-the-shoulder catch from Kelso. A two-out single from Mulderig scored Thomas and made it 3-1. A single to left from Ryan Murphy would score Parsons, and an error on the fielding of the cutoff throw allowed Mulderig to score and give the Broncs a 5-1 lead.
Canisius mounted its rally in the eighth as Gruarin and Zimmer each drew four-pitch walks to start the inning. After a single from Luppens loaded the bases, pinch hitter Drew Pettit was hit by a pitch to force home a run and make it 5-2. After MAAC Closer of the Year Tyler Smith came into the game and struck out Kelso, Foster drilled a ball into the gap in left center that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double to cut the deficit to 5-4. Pinch hitter Manny Hernandez hit a slow chopper to second, scoring Pettit and tying the game with the infield single. On the next pitch, freshman Mike Krische dropped down a bunt to score Foster and put Canisius ahead 6-5.
Sophomore Jon Fitzsimmons came on in the ninth and retired the side in order to record his seventh save of the season. Tufts (2-1) earned the win after getting the final two outs of the eighth. Sophomore Garrett Cortright allowed two runs in 6.2 innings while striking out seven.
Game Two - Canisius 8, Rider 7
Canisius loaded the bases without a hit in the bottom of the first, but Kurt Sowa got Pettit to hit into a 5-3 double play to get out of the jam. The Griffs took advantage of Sowa's free passes in the second as Kelso drew a leadoff walk and eventually came around to score on a two-out, opposite-field single from Torralba.
The Griffs made it a 2-0 game in the third with a couple of two-out hits. Pettit lined a single up the middle, and Kelso followed with a triple down the right-field line to give Canisius the two-run lead. After Rider scored two unearned runs in the fourth to tie the game, the Griffs reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning with three unearned runs of their own. Bernick led off with a single, and Krische reached on an error by the shortstop. After a sacrifice bunt from Torralba, an intentional walk to Gruarin loaded the bases. Zimmer swung at the next pitch and hit a sharp single through the left side to give Canisius the 3-2 lead. Luppens hit the next pitch into center field, scoring Krische on a sacrifice fly. The relay throw went over the catcher's head with Sowa backing up behind the plate. The other two baserunners attempted to advance on the throw home, and Sowa threw to second base in an attempt to throw out Luppens. The throw went into center field and allowed Gruarin to score easily and make it 5-2.
The Griffs broke the game open in the fifth, which started with a leadoff walk to Kelso. Pinch hitter Ryan Coppinger dropped down a bunt and reached when no Rider fielder covered first base. After a wild pitch put the two runners into scoring position, pinch hitter Connor Panas hit a grounder to first. The throw home was in the dirt, allowing Kelso to score. Torralba followed with a triple down the right-field line that scored both runners and gave Canisius an 8-2 lead.
The Griffs would need all of those runs as the Broncs rallied in the top of the seventh. Rider put together five consecutive two-out hits, with a bases-clearing double from Parsons making it 8-7 and chasing starter Devon Stewart from the game. Junior Jason Rubenstein fell behind 3-0 in the count to Mulderig, but Rubenstein battled back and struck out Mulderig swinging to end the game to record his first save of the season. Stewart (2-2) picked up his second consecutive win, allowing seven runs, five earned, in 6.2 innings.
Canisius and Rider will conclude the three-game series on Sunday, with first pitch set for noon at the Demske Sports Complex.
Notes: Canisius is two games over .500 for the first time since March 7 (7-5)... Canisius has now won seven of the last eight meetings between the teams in Buffalo... The Griffs have clinched the three-game series and have won 18 of their last 21 home series... Canisius improves to 60-20 in its last 80 home games... Canisius starting pitchers have thrown at least six innings in 13 of the last 15 starts... Canisius has won three straight one-run games after losing seven straight earlier this season.
Cortright has 19 strikeouts in his last 23 innings pitched... Fitzsimmons tied the program's single-season for saves in a season (Shayne Wilson in 2010 and Ryan McGorman in 2008)... Luppens has reached base in 10 of his last 15 plate appearances... Zimmer extended his consecutive games streak of reaching base to 35 games... Kelso now has 13 RBI in his last 10 starts... Stewart didn't walk a batter for the second straight start... Torralba has multiple hits in four the last eight games.