NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - The Canisius College baseball team swept a doubleheader from Niagara University at Sal Maglie Field on Thursday afternoon, winning 8-4 and 12-1. The Golden Griffins improve to 30-25 overall and 15-8 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, reaching the 30-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
Canisius will either be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in next week's MAAC Championship to be held at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, N.Y. Either one Golden Griffin win on Friday, or one Fairfield loss on Friday will make Canisius the No. 2 seed. If the Golden Griffins lose and Fairfield sweeps the doubleheader against Marist, Canisius will be the No. 3 seed.
Canisius, winners of six of its last seven games, has clinched the 2011-12 Battle of the Bridge competition between the schools. The Golden Griffins won the all-sports competition 18.5 to 14.5 and keep the Canal Cup for the second straight year and third time in the last four years.
Game One - Canisius 8, Niagara 4
The Griffs took the lead in the second as sophomore Shane Zimmer drove a double to left that short-hopped the fence. Junior Manny Hernandez followed with an opposite-field double that easily scored Zimmer. Niagara (19-28, 7-15 MAAC) took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the third on a two-out, two-RBI single from Eric Hink.
The Griffs responded in the top of the fifth as sophomore Ryan Coppinger reached on a one-out double to center. Freshman Mike Krische followed with an RBI single through the left side to tie the game at 2-2. Sophomore Jesse Kelso then reached on a Niagara throwing error that put both runners in scoring position with one out. Senior Drew Pettit scored Krische with an RBI groundout to short to put Canisius back ahead 3-2. Niagara reclaimed the lead for the second time on the day, scoring an unearned run in the sixth to go up 4-3.
Canisius reclaimed the lead in the eighth as Zimmer and sophomore Ronnie Bernick drew back-to-back, one-out walks. Junior Brooklyn Foster followed with a single through the left side to load the bases. Sophomore Jose Torralba tied the game at 4-4 when he fisted a ball behind first base, allowing everyone to advance 90 feet. Coppinger was then hit by a pitch to force home a run and give Canisius its third lead of the game. Kelso then came through with a two-out, two-RBI single to center that scored two runs and put Canisius up 7-4. Pettit also had a single up the middle to give Canisius a four-run cushion.
Freshman Rohn Pierce started and allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings of work while walking four and striking out three. Freshman Eric Stolzenburg threw two-thirds of a scoreless inning while junior Jason Rubenstein (2-0) threw 2.1 scoreless innings to pick up the win.
Game Two - Canisius 12, Niagara 1
Canisius took the lead in the third inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. The inning started with Bernick getting hit by a pitch for the second time on the day. After a sacrifice bunt from Krische, a single through the left side from Kelso put runners at the corners. Zimmer followed with a single through the right side to score Bernick and get Canisius on the board. Freshman Connor Panas was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Coppinger singled up the middle to give Canisius a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Jimmy Luppens then drove a ball to the fence in left, scoring two runs. Freshman Mike Booth went the other way with a single to score Coppinger and Luppens to make it 6-0.
The Griffs added two in the fourth on back-to-back RBI doubles from Zimmer and Panas. Kelso added a run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly that scored Krische and had a two-run double in the seventh. Freshman Sam Cumbo had an RBI groundout in the seventh.
Freshman Devon Stewart (5-4) earned the win by allowing one run on five hits, walking three and striking out four in 6.1 innings. Stolzenburg got the last two outs of the game.
Canisius and Niagara conclude the three-game series on Friday, with first pitch at Bobo Field, on the campus of Niagara University, set for noon.
Notes: Canisius reached the 30-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Prior to 2008, Canisius had never won 30 games in a season... Pierce did not receive the decision in the first game, the first time a Canisius starting pitcher hasn't received the decision in a conference game since the first game of the Rider series on March 31... Canisius batted around twice in the game after not batting around since May 1, against St. Bonaventure... Canisius takes the series from Niagara for the sixth year in a row and is now 17-4 during that span against the Purple Eagles... Canisius has scored eight or more runs in three straight games for the first time this season... Zimmer had five hits in the doubleheader after entering the game 1-for-19 in the month of May... Canisius scored five runs in the eighth inning of game one and six runs in the third inning of game two. The Griffs entered the day with two innings of five runs or more in the previous 14 games.