Griffs host Bobcats in pivotal mid-season series

 

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Christ Conley and Canisius welcome Quinnipiac to the Demske Sports Complex for a pivotal three-game weekend series beginning on Saturday. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

 

By Nolan Hopkins

Assistant Sports Editor

The Canisius baseball team will welcome the first place Quinnipiac Bobcats to Demske Sports Complex for a three-game series this weekend.

Quinnipiac (16-19 overall, 8-1 MAAC) enters the series losers of their last two ball games, while the Griffs (20-12, 9-3 MAAC) come into the weekend after dropping their last contest to West Virginia on Wednesday, 9-2.

The Bobcats, who were picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches poll, have surpassed expectations to this point, with series sweeps over both Saint Peter’s and Monmouth. Their lone conference blemish came at the hands of Siena on April 14.

Canisius, who were picked to finish second in the preseason poll, currently sit in third place in the conference behind Quinnipiac and Manhattan, who have a 7-2 record in MAAC play.

The Griffs are one of two conference teams that have a winning overall record at this point in the season, and they are the lone team with a winning record away from their home ballpark.

After dropping two-of-three games to Monmouth the last weekend of March, the squad has bounced back to rattle off six straight conference wins, which included a pair of three-game sweeps of Iona and Saint Peter’s.

“We’ve been playing pretty well lately,” senior Christ Conley said. “Most weekend series our biggest opponent is ourselves, but I think we’ve played up to our standards these past two weekends.”

Conley has been one of the most consistent producers in the lineup thus far, as he is third on the team in home runs (five) and RBI (21).

The senior catcher has also reached base safely in his last 22 games.

Canisius and Quinnipiac roll out two of the best offenses in the conference, with both teams hitting over .270 from the plate.

Quinnipiac has hit 12 more home runs (30) than the Griffs (18), and lead the conference in base hits (327). However, the Bobcats have played five more games than Canisius to this point.

With offense seeming to be in abundance this weekend, the focus will be put squarely on the shoulders of both team’s pitching staffs.

The Griffs 3.44 team ERA ranks as the lowest in the conference and is over one run lower than Quinnipiac’s 4.95 ERA.

The starting rotation is led by southpaw J.P. Stevenson. The senior’s 2.33 ERA is the lowest amongst starting pitchers in the entire conference.

Senior Charlie Sobieraski is not too far behind his teammate, as his 3.80 ERA puts him in the top-15 in the conference.

“With the veterans on staff you do want to say you expect that [strong starting pitching], but the reason is because they’re getting in and executing pitches at the right times,” head coach Matt Mazurek said. “They’re having the ability to throw whatever pitch they want in whatever count they want.”

With the homestretch of the season right around the corner, this weekend could prove to be a pivotal three-game set for both squads.

However, Conley does not want the team to feel any unnecessary pressure.

“Most people would circle this weekend but I mean every weekend is pretty important — we circle every weekend in the calendar. That’s how we take it,” Conley said. “We just have to worry about us, we know they have good arms on the mound for them, and we have the hitting to equalize it.”

The series kicks off with a doubleheader tomorrow afternoon at Demske Sports Complex, with the first pitch of game one scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and game two scheduled for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

The series concludes Sunday with a noon first pitch.

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