Led by seven shutout innings from junior Rohn Pierce, the Canisius baseball team opened the 2014 season with a 3-0 win at No. 5/8 North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday afternoon. The win is the first victory in program history over a ranked team and first win for a Canisius athletics team over a team ranked in the top five of a major poll since the men’s basketball team defeated N.C. State in 1956 NCAA Tournament.
Pierce outdueled All-American Carlos Rodon as the junior from Newfane, N.Y. threw seven shutout innings on 101 pitches, scattered five singles, walked one and struck out six. The 6-foot-3 right-hander didn’t allow a baserunner past second base on the day.
Canisius jumped on Rodon right out of the gates, with junior Mike Krische and senior Jesse Kelso hitting back-to-back doubles to lead off the game and give the Griffs the quick 1-0 lead. In the third inning, senior Ronnie Bernick led off and reached on a two-base fielding error by the leftfielder. After Rodon retired the next two batters, senior Jimmy Luppens and junior Jesse Puscheck each reached after being hit by a pitch. Senior Shane Zimmer worked a nine-pitch walk to force home a run as the Griffs took a 2-0 lead without the benefit of a hit.
The Griffs again scored with two outs in the fifth inning as Kelso reached on a one-out infield single. After Rodon notched a strikeout, the senior outfielder stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored after an errant throw by the second baseman to make it 3-0.
Pierce (1-0) allowed the first two batters to reach but settled down to retire the next eight batters and 21 of the final 25 batters he faced. Sophomore Alex Godzak relieved Pierce and earned his first career save by throwing two shutout innings. The lefty had to pitch himself out of a jam in the ninth when he issued a leadoff walk, followed by a single. Godzak then induced a pop-up on the next pitch and struck out the next two batters to close it out.
Rodon (0-1) went six innings, allowing three runs (one earned) while walking one and striking out six for NC State.
Canisius will play a split doubleheader on Monday. The Griffs will face the Wolfpack at 1 p.m. in Raleigh, N.C. and then head to Durham, N.C. to play North Carolina Central at 6 p.m.
Game Notes: Canisius faced a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference for the third consecutive season and defeated one for the first time since 2012 when the Griffs split a four-game series at Duke… Canisius opened the season with a win for the fifth straight season… Canisius was hit by a pitch three times after ranking second in the country with 125 HBP last season.