By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
For the fourth consecutive season and 11th time in 14 years, the Canisius softball program faced off against the Syracuse Orange in non-conference play. With Syracuse coming to the Demske Sports Complex on Wednesday, select players and members of both coaching staffs were able to reconnect with familiar faces.
Canisius pitching coach, and former Syracuse pitcher, Jocelyn Cater was able to coach against former teammates and coaching staff for the first time. Junior Moriah Harris and senior Lindsey Silfer also faced off against former high school teammates.
Harris, a graduate of Clarence High School (approximately 25 minutes from Canisius), played against Syracuse’s Alyssa Dewes. Dewes, who graduated a year ahead of Harris at Clarence, is in her final season as an outfielder and catcher for the Orange.
While at Clarence, Dewes was an Honorable Mention to the All-Western New York Team by The Buffalo News as a sophomore in 2011. She was named to the All-WNY, All-Large School, and ECIC I All-Star Teams in her junior year, to go with All-New York State First Team honors in Class AA. She sat out her senior year after having shoulder surgery.
Harris received many accolades while at Clarence, including The Buffalo News’ All-WNY First Team, Coaches Large School, ECIC Large, and ECIC I Teams in her junior and senior years. She was named ECIC I’s Co-Player of the Year after her junior season. Harris was also tabbed to All-New York State’s First Team her junior year, making the Second Team the year after.
“It’s always awesome to see Dewesy,” Harris said after the Griffs were swept by Syracuse in their doubleheader. “We’ve been playing together since I was in 12U. I was a catcher and she actually took my catcher’s spot from me on our team and I became a third basemen after that.
“We’ve been playing together all throughout high school. She’s awesome, she’s always someone I looked up to. She was kind of always my partner.”
Silfer, a Cicero-North Syracuse (C-NS) High School graduate, was able to play her best friend since Pre-K, Sydney O’Hara. O’Hara is a utility player for the Orange. Both players graduated from C-NS in 2013 and were named to the All-Central New York First Team their junior and senior years.
O’Hara was the All-CNY Player of the Year in 2012, earning Pitcher and Player of the Year in 2013, to go with being named New York State’s Class AA Player of the Year. She was named to the All-New York State First Team three years in a row, beginning in 2011.
Silfer was an All-New York State’s Fifth Team selection in 2012, before joining O’Hara on the First Team in 2013.
In a 2012 article announcing the All-CNY players, Silfer told syracuse.com that the best moment of her junior season was when she hit her first home run, a grand slam:
“O’Hara started tearing up. She’s my best friend and it was touching to see how happy she was for me. … O’Hara (was the most inspirational person in her softball career) because she always works so hard and has accomplished all of her dreams and goals. She always pushes me to do my best and helps me out when I’m doing something wrong.”
To this day, even though they may be in different areas of the state, both quotations from five years ago are still accurate, according to Silfer.
“It definitely does,” she said. “We’re so close, we’ve always played softball together. I caught for her for the longest time, for all I could remember. I’m so proud of her, she’s doing so well this season. It’s makes me want to do my best, even though I’m not having the best season, I’m so proud of her for doing as amazing as she is.”
O’Hara accrued many accolades while also playing for C-NS. To add to being All-CNY’s Player and Pitcher of the Year, she was named New York State’s Gatorade Player of the Year for softball in 2013. She has set multiple records at Syracuse, including the single-game record for home runs, hitting four last month against North Carolina State (March 10). With no surprise, O’Hara set the single-game record for RBIs (8) in the game.
Her success throughout her collegiate career has not only come offensively, but also inside the circle. This season, she has recorded six saves which is a single-season record. She also holds Syracuse’s career saves record (11).
Going into Wednesday’s contests, she ranked in the top 10 in the nation in multiple categories. Offensively, O’Hara ranks sixth in batting average (.479), and second in on-base percentage (.603). She leads the nation in saves, while averaging 12.2 strikeouts per seven innings, third in Division I softball.
“She’s amazing,” Silfer said on O’Hara’s success. “It means so much because we grew up together. Even our friend Amy (Van Hoven) at Fordham, it’s such a proud feeling of seeing everyone doing so well.”
• • •
Even though she did not make her way onto the field to pitch against the Griffs this year, Jocelyn Cater was in the same dugout as the team that she had decent success against in her collegiate softball career.
With being fairly quickly removed from the game, and coaching against former teammates, Cater credited the Syracuse’s coaching staff in changing their players this year, compared to last year.
“I definitely know them from last year but they’re a whole new team and they work on the weaknesses they had years prior,” she said. “We attacked it more as a new situation, and I had some information on them, but not necessarily from my experience, just from watching them and seeing them play this year. They have changed their game plan over the past couple years.”
In two career appearances against Canisius, Cater pitched 12 innings, allowing nine hits while striking out 16. She owned an ERA of 0.58 against Canisius, limiting the Griffs to hit a mere .214.
Cater, who was donning the Syracuse uniform just last season has said that the transition from playing to coaching has come quite fast.
“It has happened really fast,” she said. “I think it’s funny because I came to Canisius two years ago to pitch here and I remember I would have never would have thought any of this would have happened. I did do some interviews for a bunch of GA (graduate assistant) spots and somehow just ended up here. I think that it has been a perfect fit for me. It’s kind of cool and I’m glad we get to play them at least once a year.
“I definitely like being a pitching coach, I don’t think I have any intention to be a head coach one day. When Griff (Canisius head coach Kim Griffin) had first started, she had the intention to being a head coach one day. My knowledge seems to be in the pitching realm and I think I kind of want it to stay like that. I would enjoy coaching for a while, I don’t think it’s a lifetime thing, but I definitely love it now.”
For Cater seeing the coaching staff from Syracuse again, especially Syracuse’s head coach Mike Bosch had a great feeling to it.
Bosch played an integral part in bringing Cater to Syracuse after spending one year with the University of Washington, where Cater played her freshman year for the Huskies. The Delta, British Columbia native and the Huskies appeared in the College World Series in Oklahoma City, losing in the quarterfinals to the eventual runner-up, Tennessee. She also has played for the Canadian National Team.
“It means a ton,” Harris, who went a career 1-for-6 off Cater, said on what her presence means to the program. “Playing for the Canadian National Team, Washington, and Syracuse, obviously she knows what her stuff. I’ve definitely seen a difference in our pitching staff. It’s nice to have someone new and change things up.”
“He’s definitely an awesome coach,” Cater said. “All the coaches I was really close with at the time I really respected them a lot for what they changed the program into. I don’t think they would have thought that I would have been here either.
• • •
In game action, Syracuse defeated Canisius in both games of their doubleheader on Wednesday. The first game ended in a mercy-rule shortened game, playing only five innings, with the Orange coming out on top 9-0. The Orange bested the Griffs in the nightcap, 8-2. The Orange have now won five straight against Canisius dating back to 2014, and have won seven of the last eight matchups. Canisius is 6-16 all-time against Syracuse, including a 5-8 mark when hosting the Orange.
Defensive miscues plagued the Griffs in the first game as Canisius was charged with five errors. Sami Sharkey, Denver Keller, and Gianna Degaltini had the lone hits for the Griffs. Lauren Castro started for Canisius, going the distance in the circle allowing just one earned run.
The second game got out to a rocky start for Canisius as the Griffs allowed five runs in the opening frame. Erika Mackie earned the start for Canisius going five innings, allowing seven hits and all eight runs. She walked three, while also fanning three. Madi Weathers came in relief, tossing two innings allowing two hits and striking out two. She walked three batters.
Degaltini, Cassie Ho, Harris, Sydney Kreimann, Ashley Barnett, and Taylor Decker all had hits for Canisius in the second game. Harris had the lone extra-base hit of both games, hitting a home run off Syracuse starter AnnaMarie Gatti.
O’Hara went 1-for-2 overall in the two games, drawing six walks and scoring one run. Dewes started the first game as the catcher before pinch-hitting in the second game and remaining in the game in left field. She went 1-for-3 with a double and scoring twice and drawing three walks. Harris’ lone hit was the home run in the second game, as she went 1-for-5 for the day, starting both games at first base.
Canisius (15-24) will return to MAAC play this weekend as the Griffs will travel down the I-90 to play the Siena Saints on Saturday. Following Easter Sunday, Canisius will face Robert Morris on Monday for a single game. Syracuse (21-15) will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa. to return to ACC action against the Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday for a doubleheader, before a single game on Saturday.