To know coach Mike
McRae and listen to him talk about his pitching staff in such a positive
fashion, one knows that he must be pretty satisfied with the talented depth the
Griffs have shown entering the 2013 season.
"We are very experienced, very deep and returning a lot of
innings from last season," McRae said, "especially a lot of competitive
Canisius brings back more than 85 percent of its innings
pitched last season, including 59 of the 60 starts. The Griffs return their top
four starting pitchers who will battle it out through the non-conference
schedule for the three rotation spots in conference play.
Cortright took over the No. 1 spot in the rotation at the start of
conference play last season. The All-MAAC Second-Team and two-time
All-Tournament Team selection went 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA in 16 appearances. The
Hamburg, N.Y. native had 76 strikeouts in 97.2 innings. He went at least six
innings in 10 of his last 11 starts and allowed three or fewer earned runs in
11 of his 14 starts.
Stewart pitched in the No. 2 spot en route to winning MAAC Rookie of the
Year honors and earning Freshman All-American accolades. Stewart had some
impressive performances - striking out nine batters at Penn State, throwing a
seven-inning shutout of Iona where he allowed one batter to reach third base,
and going eight innings to earn a victory in the winners bracket game at the
Fifth-year senior Billy
Martin made 15 starts last season, including a team-best five starts of
eight innings or more. Martin went head-to-head with All-American Marcus
Stroman at Duke, going eight innings and receiving a no-decision. The
Mississauga, Ontario native also went 7.1 innings in the championship round of
the MAAC Tournament, allowing just one run. Martin has thrown 230 innings in
his career, bringing a wealth of experience and competitiveness to the staff.
The last starting pitcher is someone who was a little
overlooked last season in sophomore Rohn
Pierce. The Newfane, N.Y. native made 20 appearances, becoming the team's
top mid-week starter as well as an option out of the bullpen down the stretch.
Pierce had a 2.84 ERA in 10 relief appearances, striking out 16 in 19 innings.
He also started the final game of the MAAC Championship, allowing two runs in
The four pitchers last year combined to throw 356.2 innings
in 2012, posting an impressive 2.70 walks per nine innings.
"We have the same four starters as last season and will let
it play out. Performance will dictate the weekend rotation," McRae said. "I
think we have the best and deepest rotation in the league, one through four. I
have confidence in each and every one of them."
What could make the Canisius pitching staff very formidable
is its ability to shorten games with the quality of arms out of the pen. That
starts with 2012 MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year Jon Fitzsimmons. As a sophomore, Fitzsimmons set the program record
with 11 saves. He had a 1.54 earned run average in a program-record 25
appearances. The London, Ontario native averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine
innings, allowing the opposition to hit .182 on the season.
Looking to take over the left-handed setup role of Nathan
Linseman will be Eric Stolzenburg.
The East Amherst, N.Y. native will see his role expanded this season from more
of the one or two-batter specialist he was last year. Stolzenburg retired the
first batter he faced in 13 of his final 15 appearances, including getting out
of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the MAAC Championship against Manhattan. The
6-foot-4 lefty stranded 19 of 21 inherited baserunners as the opposition went
3-for-25 with runners on base.
The versatility in the pen will become apparent with the quartet
of junior Mike Tolsma, sophomore Aaron Casper, redshirt freshman Iannick Remillard and freshman Alex Godzak. Any one of those four
pitchers could see a spot start for the Griffs or provide multiple innings out
of the pen.
Tolsma comes to Canisius from Erie Community College where
he got the win to send his team to the 2011 NJCAA World Series. Casper was a
late addition for the team last season after rehabbing an offseason injury as
he posted a 2.45 ERA in six appearances out of the pen. Remillard redshirted
the 2012 season but has shown a bulldog mentality. Godzak has impressed the
coaches with his ability to adapt quickly, especially for a freshman.
Two other arms that could also see time on the mound late in
a game are junior Tyler Soucie and
senior Jason Rubenstein. McRae sees
Soucie, a transfer from Wilfried Laurie, as a late-inning option if Fitzsimmons
gets used a lot. Rubenstein also had some impressive outings - going 3.1
scoreless innings at Duke and getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the
seventh inning in the MAAC Championship against Manhattan. Rubenstein posted a
1.29 ERA in the sixth inning or later last year.
"I really like our staff. We have lots of options and lots
of talent," McRae said. "We will be tested right off the bat on the opening
weekend with the five nine-inning games in four days."