The Canisius College baseball team swept a doubleheader from rival Niagara University, winning 12-1 and 4-3 at the Demske Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon. The Golden Griffins improve to 25-29 overall and 12-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The two Canisius wins, combined with the doubleheader sweep by Siena over Marist, means the Golden Griffins clinch a spot in next week's MAAC Championship (May 26-29) at Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J, their fifth straight postseason appearance. Canisius will be the No. 3 seed (playing Rider) with a win and a Siena loss on Friday, while the Griffs will be the No. 4 seed (playing Manhattan) with a loss on Friday, or a win and a Siena win.
Senior Brian Burton went 5-for-8 with six RBI, leading the team in both categories. Freshman Shane Zimmer went 2-for-3 with his first career homer, reaching base in four of five plate appearances. Freshmen Jose Torralba and Ryan Coppinger each had two hits and two RBI on the day while senior Sean Jamieson reached base five times.
Game One - Canisius 12, Niagara 1
Niagara (7-40, 4-19 MAAC) appeared to be taking the early lead in the top of the first, getting a runner to second with two outs, and Jesse Harris sent a drive to left. Senior Will Chomicki made a leaping catch against the fence to keep the Purple Eagles off the board.
The Griffs took the lead in the bottom of the third, sending 10 batters to the plate with the first seven batters reaching base. Chomicki beat out a bunt single to lead off the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch. Sophomore Chris Gruarin laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Niagara pitcher Drew Fittry tried to throw Chomicki out at third. Chomicki beat the throw to put runners at the corners. After a four-pitch walk to Jamieson, Burton lined a two-RBI single up the middle. Junior Drew Pettit was hit by a pitch to re-load the bases and Torralba hit a single through the hole on the right side to advance everyone 90 feet and make it 3-0. Senior Andrew Russo then worked a bases-loaded walk and Coppinger had an RBI groundout to put Canisius up by five.
Canisius put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth as Russo worked a two-out walk, took second on a wild pitch and scored from second on a single through the left side from Zimmer. Coppinger followed with a triple to the gap in right-center to score Zimmer and make it 7-0. The Griffs scored two more in the sixth as Jamieson singled and Burton doubled with one out. Jamieson would score on a wild pitch and Burton would be thrown out at the plate on a grounder from Pettit. Torralba then doubled to the gap in left-center, scoring Pettit and giving Canisius a 9-0 lead. Canisius plated three more runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Gruarin and two-RBI single from Burton.
The 12 runs would be more than enough for redshirt senior Shane Davis. In his last home start, Davis went eight innings, allowing one run on five hits, walking none and striking out four. Davis threw 97 pitches in the eight innings, 16 to Brian Deering during a second-inning strikeout.
Game Two - Canisius 4, Niagara 3
Niagara starter Kody Kapser pitched around two errors in the bottom of the first as Chomicki reached on a throwing error, stole second and advanced to third on a wild throw. However, the Griffs weren't able to strike early, stranding Chomicki on third.
The Griffs scored first, getting on the scoreboard with a leadoff homer from Zimmer in the bottom of the third. Canisius got runners to the corners with two outs and Burton lined the next pitch up the middle. However, it hit off Kasper, who recovered to throw out Burton by a step. Kasper didn't return to the game for the fourth.
Niagara tied the game in the top of the fifth as Wynton Bernard hit a one-out ground-rule double to left-center. After stealing third, Bernard scored on an RBI single from Cam Stykemain. With Stykemain running, Canisius starter Garrett Cortright got out of the inning as he induced a 4-3 double play from Adam Wagner.
The Griffs came right back in the bottom of the fifth. Zimmer was hit by a pitch, but pinch runner Nat Barone was thrown out on a sacrifice bunt attempt from Coppinger. After two-out, four-pitch walks to Jamieson and Pettit, Burton came through with the two-out, two-RBI single to right to score Coppinger and Jamieson. Gruarin jumped on the next pitch and hit a ground-rule double to right-center to score Burton and put Canisius ahead 4-1.
The Purple Eagles scored twice in the sixth off sophomore Jordan Cave, getting an RBI triple from Eric Hink and sacrifice fly from Joel Klock. Redshirt senior Chris Cox closed out the game with a scoreless seventh, allowing a two-out single before picking up his second save of the season. Cortright earned the win, allowing one run in five innings to improve to 3-4 on the season.
Canisius will conclude the regular season on Friday, with a single, nine-inning game against Niagara. First pitch at the Demske Sports Complex is set for noon.
Notes: Canisius batted around in the bottom of the third in the first game, the first time Canisius has batted around since the third inning against Youngstown State on April 20... Davis made his 55th career start on Thursday, tying Mike Goemans for the program record... Davis had two or fewer walks in 25 of his last 27 starts... Burton appeared in his 200th career game in the opener... Burton now has 57 RBI in 49 career games in the month of May... Canisius has allowed one first-inning run in the last nine games... Cave allowed two earned runs in an outing for the first time in seven appearances... Chomicki's consecutive games streak of reaching base ended at 20 games while Coppinger's hitting streak ended at six games, both coming to an end in the second game... Cox has not allowed a run in eight relief appearances... Jamieson extended his hitting streak to seven games... Zimmer has raised his average 25 points in the last six days... Canisius has now won three of its last four one-run games and has played in 23 one-run games this season... Canisius has won five straight series against Niagara and 15 of the last 18 games against the Purple Eagles... Canisius has won 18 of its last 20 home MAAC games in the month of May... The series win gives Canisius two points in the Battle of the Bridge competition and wraps up scoring at 20-13 for the 2010-11 athletic season.