By John Cole
While the students of Canisius were recuperating from their spring breaks last weekend, the baseball team traveled to Virginia and North Carolina to play four games. The Griffs cam out with two wins over George Mason, as well as a losses to George Mason and Virginia Tech.
While the Griffs did not play during the middle of the week, their first game in Virginia came on March 13 against a formidable Virginia Tech team. The Griffs struggled to find traction early on. Seven of the Hokies’ 11 runs came in the bottom of the third inning, with three Griffs pitchers making an appearance on the mound in the half inning. Although the pitching struggled in the contest, the offense also struggled against Virginia Tech pitcher Connor Coward, who pitched four innings, letting up no runs.
After spending the weekdays off, the Griffs returned to the diamond last Saturday (March 18), beginning their three-game series against George Mason. Canisius and the Patriots opened their series with a doubleheader on Saturday, with both games going in the Patriots’ favor. Falling behind early again, the Griffs were down five runs after the conclusion of the third inning. The Griffs showed resilience, however, clawing their way back into the game. The comeback was kickstarted by a redshirt junior Liam Wilson who had 3 RBIs in the game. Senior catcher Christ Conley and junior Cyrus Senior both had an RBI to tie the game, 5-5.
The comeback was ultimately foiled as George Mason freshman John Callahan hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to win the game in the bottom of the 10th inning for George Mason.
The Griffs’ resiliency paid off in the second game of the doubleheader, squeaking out a gritty 4-2 win. Led by junior pitcher J.P. Stevenson’s eight innings and six strikeouts, the Griffs found their way to win. The two runs for George Mason both came by way of solo home runs in the third and fourth innings. Canisius gave Steveson some much needed help on offense scoring all of their runs in the seventh inning. Three of the team’s four runs were unearned due to fielding errors by the Patriots. Redshirt junior Tim Kensinger, who is in his second season with Canisius, hit his first career home run with the Griffs, closing out the scoring for Canisius. Junior Tyler Smith came in and earned his third save of the season.
The last game of the series was the best overall performance by the Griffs during the past week, defeating George Mason, 7-1. The Griffs not only flexed their offense prowess, they were able to limit the Patriots to only one run. Sophomore Andrew Kneussle tallied his first win of the season with a strong outing of 4 1/3 innings pitched, allowing no runs. Michael Ginther and Andrew Sipowicz both pitched in relief giving up no earned runs.
George Mason’s only run scored off two fielding errors in the seventh inning. The pitching was not the only thing the Griffs did well this game, the team’s offense played a pivotal role. The Griffs were able to scoring early and often as junior Ryan Stekl and sophomore William Krull both drove home runs in the first inning. Senior Jake Lumley added another RBI in the second inning before Kensinger stole home in the fourth to make it a 4-0 lead for the Griffs after the fourth inning. The ball game was put out of reach in the eighth inning when Wilson, named the MAAC’s Player of the Week on Wednesday, drove home three runs continuing his strong weekend at the plate.
At the halfway point of the four-game road trip, the Griffs were struggling but with a little luck and a lot of perseverance the team was able to win the last two games of their series against George Mason.
The Griffs (12-7) will travel to Kennesaw, Ga. to face off against Kennesaw State for a four-game series beginning on Friday.