By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
Mother nature played a role in the opening weekend of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play for the Canisius softball program. Their first doubleheader, initially scheduled for Saturday afternoon, was moved to Monday due to torrential rain in the New York City area.
The Griffs were originally slated to play Fairfield on Saturday before it was announced on Thursday evening that the teams would meet on Monday afternoon. Instead, Canisius opened MAAC play against the Iona Gaels on Sunday, where weather played no factor.
The Griffs were unable to salvage a win against the Gaels losing both games on walk-off hits by the Gaels. Iona is the lone MAAC team unbeaten in conference play.
In the first game against Iona, a leadoff solo home run in the fifth inning by junior Moriah Harris plated the game’s first run. Iona countered the home run with an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning. Freshman Sydney Kreimann hit an RBI single to give the Griffs a 2-1 edge in the seventh inning before the Gaels tied the game up with an RBI single with one out, forcing the teams to play extra innings. The extra-inning game marked the sixth time this season Canisius has played in extra innings this season.
Canisius would get two runners on base in the eighth inning but couldn’t get any runs across the plate. Iona would string a single and a home run in back-to-back at-bats, closing out the first game of the doubleheader with a 4-2 win in eight innings. Madi Weathers was handed the loss while going throwing her third complete game of the season.
“Before getting into the seventh inning we had a lot of opportunities to score that we didn’t, so it shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” Canisius head coach Kim Griffin said. “We fought hard, we just didn’t execute. We had a couple of opportunities to move runners over and cash them in. We didn’t execute bunts but it all comes down to going into the seventh inning with confidence and not getting uptight.”
Offense would not lack in the first inning of the twin bill as both teams combined to score five runs on six hits. Sophomore Lauren Castro hit an RBI double, scoring freshman Morgan Altman all the way from first base. Harris, the next batter, would drive Castro home on an RBI single, before a fielding error by Iona would score Harris. Iona retaliated with two runs in the first inning, giving Canisius a 3-2 lead.
Following the offensive outburst in the first inning, both offenses would become stagnant as Canisius and Iona would have one hit each for the next four innings. Iona would tie the game up in the fifth inning off a Canisius wild pitch.
The Griffs would score a run in the seventh inning off a home run by Castro before the Gaels would plate the tying and game winning runs on a two-RBI double in the bottom half of the seventh. The one-run loss for the Griffs marked the 12th time this year that Canisius has lost by one run. Five of their last seven losses have been by one run.
“We need to have a little fire in ourselves,” Castro said. “Having eight freshmen they’ve never done this before. I think last weekend was an eye opener about how different conference play is from regular play and I hope that sparks a little fire in everybody.”
“I talked to the freshmen after the first game at Iona and I said, ‘that’s you’re first conference game, what’s the difference?’” Griffin said. “They said it’s more intense, everything matters, every little thing counts. I told them this is why we need to rely on your upperclassmen. They’re the one’s that know what it’s like, they’ve been here before. They’re the one’s that need to step up and lead us now.”
The Griffs opened their doubleheader with the Fairfield Stags on Monday afternoon with a 5-4 victory as Castro continued her offensive onslaught. She hit a double and a home run, while driving home three runs. The home run for Castro was her seventh of the season, tying her for sixth in team history for home runs in a single season. Jenny Maheu (2005), Katie Miranto (2007), and Stephanie Pfentner (2011) are the others.
Castro also pitched five innings, allowing four hits, earning her third win of the season. Weathers earned her fourth save of the campaign, tying her for third in the entire nation. Harris and freshman Ashley Barnett added sacrifice flies for Canisius.
Fairfield’s offense and defense stymied the Griffs overall in the finale shutting out the Griffs, 4-0. A pair of RBI singles in the first and fourth innings sparked the lead for the Stags before adding two more runs in the fifth inning. Weathers started the Griffs, throwing five innings in the circle while allowing seven hits and four runs (two of which were unearned).
Senior outfielder Lindsey Silfer was the team’s leading hitter over the past weekend batting .429 (6-for-14). Barnett also batted .429 over the span of the weekend, going 3-for-7.
Castro only had four hits in 14 at-bats but all of her hits wound up being extra base hits (two doubles, two home runs). Canisius, as a team, had eight extra-base hits (five doubles, three home runs) overall for the weekend.
“Between last year and this year, I have a lot more confidence in myself and just focusing on seeing the ball to contact and letting whatever happens after that happen,” Castro said on her success this season. “(Coach Griffin) gives me a lot of confidence. She says, ‘Go up there, you know how to do it. Believe in yourself.’ That’s a big thing.”
The Griffs return home to play a pair of conference doubleheaders this weekend facing Manhattan and Saint Peter’s on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both games are scheduled to start at noon. Canisius will also host Syracuse on Wednesday before the Easter Break begins. The Griffs will play the Orange in a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. Canisius will head back on the road travelling down the I-90 to face Siena on April 15 before heading to Pittsburgh suburb, Moon Township, to play Robert Morris on April 17.