By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
The nine-day trip to Florida meant the world to the Canisius softball players. The entire team enjoyed their fair share of success on the field in their 11 games in the Sunshine State, while also being able to spend time with their loved ones off the field.
Senior Sami Sharkey and sophomore Denver Keller were both happy to be back in their native state. They were able to spend time with their families that traveled to their games in both Tampa and Fort Myers.
“It was incredible,” Keller said on having 12-14 family members at her games in Fort Myers. “They haven’t come to see me play in years, so it was cool to see them and watch me.”
“I had about 10 relatives come. Some cousins as well as my parents and grandparents,” Sharkey added. “It was so great seeing them. It’s hard to go three months without seeing my parents. And the support is always appreciated at games.”
Not only did Keller and Sharkey get to reconnect with their families, they had the opportunity to rekindle and play against former teammates of theirs back from their high school and travel softball days.
“I played three girls I was previously friends and/or teammates with,” Sharkey said. “I also got to see three other friends who were also in the tournament. It was awesome playing Florida State and playing one of my high school best friends and teammates.
“It’s weird being in the opposite dugout sometimes, but it’s great to be on the same field.”
Keller played against former teammates she grew up with and also played travel softball with.
“It was pretty cool. I haven’t seen them in so long,” Keller said. “Just to see how much better they got from the last time that we played each other was pretty cool.”
Not only did Sharkey and Keller get to see their loved ones so did other players, including Lauren Castro. In the 11 games in Florida, Castro went 14-for-34 (.412), with a pair of home runs and driving home 11 runs. Castro’s mother and grandmother made the almost 3,000-mile trip from the San Francisco area to Florida for the final three days of the trip.
“They’re my biggest fans,” Castro said on having the family support. “Whenever they can make it, I know they will be there and it always warms my heart.”
The Griffs opened up their stretch in Florida with a win over Central Connecticut State on March 10 in the Under Armour Showcase in Tampa. Canisius went 3-2 overall in the showcase, also defeating Holy Cross and La Salle in their final two games. They lost to Villanova on March 10 and to South Dakota State on March 11. The Griffs turned a triple play in the loss to South Dakota State.
After spending some time at the beach and at Disney World, Canisius returned to the field for a doubleheader hosted by Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers. The first game for the Griffs came against the one of the nation’s top-ranked teams, Florida State.
The Seminoles potent pitching staff stymied the Griffs’ offense limiting them to just two hits in a mercy-rule shortened game with Canisius losing 9-1 in six innings. Sharkey and Castro had the lone hits for the Griffs.
Canisius faced Florida Gulf Coast in the latter game of the doubleheader with the Eagles prevailing in extra innings, 2-1. The Griffs plated the game’s first run in the second inning off an RBI single by Keller. Florida Gulf Coast countered with a run of their own in the fifth inning before a pinch hit walk-off RBI single sealed the game up in the ninth inning.
Canisius remained in Fort Myers to participate in the Battle at the Beach Tournament last weekend, also hosted by Florida Gulf Coast. The Griffs opened tournament play with a meeting against Cleveland State. Canisius won their second game in three meetings against the Vikings this season behind a complete game shutout pitched by Madi Weathers. Canisius won 3-0. Weathers allowed just three hits while striking out seven, en route to her fifth win of the season. Castro hit her second home run on the season, while Ashley Barnett and Sydney Kreimann, both freshmen, drove home the other Canisius runs.
In the second game of the tournament, Canisius came up short against Iowa State losing 4-3. The loss marked the seventh time the Griffs have lost by one run this season. Castro stroked her third home run of the season in the first inning before Iowa State plated all of their runs in the fourth inning. Sharkey hit an RBI single with two outs in the seventh inning in an attempt to spark a Griffs comeback but came up just short.
“I think when my parents come to games, I want to make them proud,” Sharkey, who batted .351 in 10 appearances said. “Playing old teammates motivates me too. It’s always nice to play in anything above 50 degrees, so it was all around a good time.”
Canisius concluded the tournament at Florida Gulf Coast last Saturday with matchups against Drexel and Florida Gulf Coast. Kreimann and Sharkey collected RBIs in the fifth inning to give the Griffs the lead for good over Drexel, enabling Canisius to win 2-1. Castro threw four innings, earning the win in the circle. The Griffs ended the tournament with an 8-0 loss to Florida Gulf Coast in six innings.
For the entire Florida trip, Castro and Sharkey shined combining to hit .380 (27-for-71), driving home 16 of the team’s 34 RBIs. Castro not only impressed offensively but also in the circle. The sophomore had a record of 1-1, while having a 1.68 ERA in 8 1/3 innings.
Weathers was also a force in the circle throwing 33 2/3 innings. The junior, who was named the MAAC’s Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday, allowed just 21 hits and seven runs in six appearances. She had an ERA of 1.46 while honing a 3-2 record. She also earning her third save of the season, which is tied for sixth in the nation , along with 19 others, through all games completed through March 22.
“I just wanted to go out and give the best performance for my team,” Weathers said. “I’m a California native, so I love warm weather, it was kind of my motivation and love playing in tournaments like that.”
Canisius will play in the Mount St. Mary’s Tournament this weekend in Emmitsburg, Md. They will also play their home opener in a doubleheader against the University at Buffalo on Wednesday.