Finding their place: Baseball eighth in MAAC, three games out of first

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

After struggling in their series against the Marist Red Foxes that left them sitting at 2-4 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Griffs battled back to win two series, the first against the University at Buffalo Bulls and the second against the Siena Saints.

On the weekend of April 8, the Griffs traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to face off with the Red Foxes for their first MAAC road play. On Saturday, the Griffs played a doubleheader, losing game one 10-7 and dropping the second, 11-4.

In the first game, Andrew Kneussle got the start on the mound, allowing 11 hits and four runs. Halfway through the fifth inning, the score was knotted at three. After the Red Foxes broke the tie with a run in the bottom of the sixth, Zachary Sloan came in to pitch for the Golden Griffins. The Red Foxes scored six runs off of four hits to finish the inning, though Sloan earned none of the runs due to defensive errors in the field.

In game two, the Red Foxes broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fourth and scored in both the fifth and the sixth to put the game away. J.P. Stevenson allowed seven hits and seven runs, six of which were earned.
Sunday afternoon, the Griffs fell once again, this time by a score of 13-3. Andrew Sipowicz got the start at pitcher, and once again, the Griffs defense let the Red Foxes get ahead early. Sipowicz allowed 10 runs, earning nine. The blue and gold struggled to get anything going offensively, scoring all three runs in the final two innings.

Upon their return to the Demske Sports Complex the following Tuesday, the Griffs took on the Bulls in non-conference action. They defeated UB in each game of the doubleheader, winning 6-5 and 13-5.

Last weekend, the Griffs battled the Saints in Loudonville, N.Y. After suffering an 8-3 loss in game one of the series on Friday afternoon, the Griffs won games two and three, with scores of 4-2 and 7-2.

“We brought the guys together after the first game,” said junior Ryan Stekl. “We’re trying to stay loose, stay relaxed, stay confident. When you start playing with a little bit of ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen now?’ that’s when you don’t play your best.”

Stekl discussed how the team developed a do-or-die attitude after the Marist meeting and

how the team has grouped together to ensure they maintain a relaxed attitude in games. This resonated after the loss to Siena, which helped the Griffs finish the series strong.

Coach Mike McRae also commented on the series, saying that the team’s effort on the mound improved from the series against Marist.

“When we’ve gotten a good start, it certainly has translated and it’s helped our team play with confidence and given us a chance to get rolling in a ball game,” McRae said. “In game two, we got ourselves a really good start, and it translated.”

Following the Siena series, the Griffs then finished their series with UB on April 18, losing 14-6. This game was more than likely the last time the Griffs will ever face the Bulls in a baseball game, with the UB baseball program being cut in early April. Barring both teams making the College World Series, they will never play each other again.

Against the Bulls, the Griffs started slow, with pitcher Carson Perkins earning five runs to go with a total of nine runs allowed. The Bulls were up 9-4 after two innings, and the Griffs were unable to get much going offensively, despite senior Jake Lumley earning four hits.

“We didn’t get a good start on the mound,” said McRae. “I am a big believer that walks and errors go together, and sure, we could’ve got out of that first inning with no runs because of the Jake Lumley error, but it followed three straight walks. Defenses tend to get back on their heels and they’re not as sharp and they’re not as active.”

McRae said that he thought the team did a good job getting back into the game, but mound struggles and lack of resiliency cost them in the end.

Stekl agreed with McRae’s sentiments, saying the team got off to a slow start. He said they were more aggressive in the batter’s box in the first games.

“The first time we played them, we played aggressive and we kept it on them,” said “We got down early and we just stayed flat the rest of the game.”

Tomorrow, the Griffs will once again be at home, facing the Rider Broncs on the Demske.

“The guys will have a pretty short memory. I think they also realize that the MAAC standings are pretty tight and with our disastrous weekend two weekends ago, we’re still trying to play some catchup,” said McRae. “I thought we played better baseball against Siena in game two and game three and if anything, I hope that translates going forward.”

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