By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
There is no denying that the Canisius softball team is young, very young. Of the 17 members of this year’s team, eight are freshmen.
During the Griffs’ first games during last weekend’s Cleveland State (CSU) Dome Invite in Cleveland, Ohio, Canisius head coach Kim Griffin had at least four freshmen starting in all four games.
“Getting the freshmen experience on the field was a huge positive,” stated Griffin. “We have eight freshmen and at any given time there’s probably four on the field. Getting them their first college experience was huge and they did a great job. To compete and see the fire in the girls was huge.”
Sydney Kreimann was the lone Canisius player to appear and start in all four contests last weekend. Sue Vi played in all four games but started in three. Cassie Ho and Morgan Altman started in three of the four games last weekend. Gianna Degaltini, Ashley Barnett and Chelsea Czapkowski both appeared in two games, with Degaltini and Barnett starting in both of their appearances.
Ho impressed Coach Griffin during the weekend series, going 3-for-8 (.375) at the plate. The first collegiate hit for the Hawaiian native was a two-RBI double. Two of Ho’s three hits were extra-base hits (both doubles).
“She did a great job hitting, she caught and did a good job behind the plate,” Griffin praised Ho’s play. “Defensively, she was really solid. She also played outfield, since we’re a little shorthanded with a couple of injuries. She looked confident and really stood out.”
“Sydney started every game at third base for us and played very solid defensively,” Griffin added about Kreimann.
Despite the Griffs splitting the invite’s four games, the Griffs’ offense ranks as the top team amongst MAAC schools in multiple categories: earned run average (ERA), home runs per game, slugging percentage and stolen bases per game. The Griffs’ 2.75 doubles per game average is tied for the second-best average in the nation tied with none other than Niagara. Both teams trail Southeast Missouri State for the top average in the nation (3.33).
Part of Canisius’ offensive success came in part due to sophomore utility player Lauren Castro. She not only contributed offensively but also in the circle, earning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Player of the Week honors. Castro batted .545 (6-for-11) in last weekend’s invite, with four of her hits being doubles. She’s currently in a five-way tie for first in the nation averaging one double per game.
While in the circle for the Griffs, Castro tossed a team-high 10 innings allowing nine hits and five runs, three of which were earned. Castro limited opposing batters to hit .237, while she struck out eight batters and walked six.
“Lauren has a potential to be a starter in our pitching rotation,” Griffin stated. “She gets a ton of groundballs and has definitely shown a lot of gains in the circle. Her bat last year came alive towards the end of last season. She started to get confident in her swing and she is someone with so much power. Even when her timing is off or it’s not a great pitch to attack, she still hits it hard.
“She hasn’t run the bases yet at practice because she’s coming off of a surgery. I think we’re kind of at the tip of the iceberg with her. When we get her 100-percent healthy, which she hasn’t been since she’s been here, she’s going to be dangerous.”
Not only did Castro aid the Griffs’ success in the circle, so did junior Madi Weathers. The Westminster, Calif. native was named the MAAC Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday after appearing in three games last weekend. Weathers threw 6 2/3 innings allowing two runs, none of which were earned. She allowed five hits and struck out five, while earning two saves.
“She has so much game experience and is very confident. There’s no hesitation in us making that pitching change,” Griffin said about Weathers coming into relief. “We know she can come in, throw strikes, close the door, and be effective. When you’re bringing in a freshman to close the game, there’s that tentativeness and nerves. She doesn’t have that.”
“I’m definitely really excited this is how we started the season off,” said Canisius’ first-year pitching coach Jocelyn Cater. “She really takes the team on her back and decides she’s going to be the one to help our team. She did very well for the first weekend.”
Canisius travels to Charlotte, N.C. to start the first day of the First Pitch Classic on Friday (Feb. 17). The Griffs play two games on Friday, the first against Bowling Green at 10 a.m. The Griffs lost to Bowling Green via mercy-rule, 8-0, last Sunday. Their final game of Friday will be immediately following their game with Bowling Green against fellow WNY school, St. Bonaventure. The Griffs will play Saturday against the host school, Charlotte, at 12:15 p.m. Canisius is guaranteed a game on Sunday, but will find out their opponent following the conclusion of all tournament games.