Team effort leads baseball to hot start

 

Preziuso_AtBat

Joseph Preziuso’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning over No. 25 NC State helped lead the Griffs to their first victory over a ranked opponent since 2014. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin file photo)

 

By Nolan Hopkins

Assistant Sports Editor

The Canisius baseball team has hit the ground running to begin the 2018 campaign, with an 8-3 record through their first 11 games.

After dropping the first two games of the season in Port Charlotte, Fla. to Ohio State and Milwaukee, 6-4 and 8-3 respectively, the Griffs quickly rattled off six straight wins.

The squad recorded its first victory of the season in sunny Florida against Ohio State, 5-4. Senior designated hitter Liam Wilson recorded a pair of hits, as well as an RBI in the opening frame of the contest. Senior pitcher J.P. Stevenson started the game on the bump and allowed three earned runs on three hits while striking out eight batters in five innings of work.

Canisius picked up their second win of the season the following day defeating Milwaukee, 3-2. Junior transfer Conner Morro drove in all three runs in the ballgame.

Stevenson has posted a 1.65 ERA to this point of the season, which is the lowest amongst the starting pitchers on the team. His innings pitched (16), strikeouts (18) and record (2-0) are also rotation highs.

Following the season-opening trip to Florida, the team set its sights on the state of North Carolina, where they would play a total of six games on back-to-back weekends.

They opened the trip with a three-game sweep of Western Carolina, including a 12-11 win Feb. 24 in extra innings.

A win over Campbell, 9-5, last Friday marked the sixth win in a row for the Blue and Gold. The win streak would go no further as the Griffs dropped the first game of a doubleheader against Bowling Green, March 3, 12-10. The team bounced back quickly with a 9-2 win in the second game of the day. Senior catcher Christ Conley belted two three-run home runs in the game, helping the Griffs get back into the win column.

The most notable win of the season thus far has come against nationally ranked North Carolina State. Canisius took down No. 25 Wolfpack last Sunday, 3-2.

It was the first time Canisius had defeated a nationally ranked opponent since the 2014 season, when the Griffs defeated NC State, when they were No. 5 in the country, 3-0. Current head coach Matt Mazurek was on the coaching staff for the win.

“It’s a prideful win for the program, it’s great for the team to build on because it shows them that they can do that,” Mazurek said. “This is a game that we know we are capable of winning because our preparation has made us able to compete against teams like that. It’s not David vs. Goliath.”

NC State drew first blood with a two-run home run in the third inning. However, that would be all for the Wolfpack from the plate, as solid performances on the mound from senior Michael Ginther, sophomore Will Frank and Stevenson silenced the opposing offense.

In the fourth inning, senior third baseman Ryan Stekl launched a solo home run to left-center field, and Morro hit an RBI singled down the line to tie the game up, 2-2.

Neither team would budge until the ninth inning, when senior outfielder Cyrus Senior would tag up from third base and score the go-ahead run on junior Joseph Preziuso’s sacrifice fly to left field.

It has been a team effort for Canisius thus far, with the offense posting a .281 collective batting average and the pitching staff allowing opposing teams to hit a modest .228 against them.

“I mean right now I have a low ERA but the guys are hammering the ball and it really helps me,” Stevenson said. “We have a lot of older guys (on the staff) but when you go out there and already have a two-to-three run lead to start the game, it’s pretty relaxing and you feel pretty good.”

The Griffs travel to Lynchburg, Va. this weekend to take on the Liberty Flames. First pitch is set for today at 3 p.m.

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