Baseball clinches MAAC Championship title, automatic bid into NCAA Tournament with victory over Monmouth

Sobieraski-6

Charlie Sobieraski tossed six shutout innings in the championship game for Canisius, who will be making their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last six years. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

Four days. Four games. Four wins. MAAC Champions.

With an 11-0 thwarting of Monmouth on Saturday at Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island, Canisius earned their third MAAC Championship in the last six years. It was the seventh time in the last 10 years that the Griffs had appeared in the championship game.

It was the Griffs’ second win over Monmouth in as many days after beating the Hawks in the semifinal round of the winners bracket on Friday, 7-4.

Charlie Sobieraski earned the start for Canisius in the championship game, throwing six innings and only allowing three hits. He walked three and struck out four. It was Sobieraski’s fourth win of the season.

Ryan Stekl led the Griffs offense by going 3-for-5 while driving home a team-best four runs. Three of his Stekl’s four RBIs came in the first inning on a bases-clearing double down the left field line.

Mark McKenna went 2-for-4 while driving in a pair of runs. Conner Morro scored three times while going 2-for-4 at the plate, also adding a double to his credit.

J.P. Stevenson was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player following the conclusion of Saturday’s game. Stevenson, who was tabbed the MAAC Pitcher of the Year earlier this week, threw the final inning for Canisius on Saturday inducing a pair of flyouts while striking out one batter.

Stevenson becomes the third Canisius player to be named the Most Valuable Player in the MAAC Championship but is the first Canisius pitcher to ever earn the honor. The New Glasgow, P.E.I. native started the first game against Niagara on Wednesday in which he earned his 10th victory of the season after throwing seven innings.

John Conti, McKenna, Tyler Smith and Stekl also earned All-Championship Team honors following Saturday’s game.

Conti aided Canisius to victory on Friday against Monmouth with a go-ahead two-RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning. Over the four games, Conti batted .500 (4-for-8) with three RBIs. He also drew three walks and was hit by a pitch on three occasions.

McKenna, one of Canisius’ more consistent batters throughout the tournament batted .647 (11-for-17) with seven RBIs. He also stole two bases.

Stekl, the hero in Saturday’s contest, had a batting average of .412 (7-for-17) in the four games. All five of Stekl’s RBIs came in the last two games.

Smith earned a save in Wednesday’s game before earning his first career postseason victory on Friday. The MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year logged 4 1/3 innings of work in the two appearances, allowing three hits while striking out six.

Fun Facts: Canisius, as a No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament, becomes the first No. 3 seed to win the MAAC title since — you guessed it — Canisius in 2013. With the four wins prior to the tournament and the four wins in the MAAC Tournament, Canisius’ eight-game win streak is their longest since 2016.

MAAC Tournament recap

Griffs 5, Purple Eagles 4

In the opening game of the tournament, the third-seeded Griffs defeated archrival and No. 6 seed Niagara, 5-4.

McKenna and Morro drove home runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, which proved to be the game-winning RBIs. Both McKenna and Morro had two hits in the victory.

Christ Conley, Brett Migliore and Canice Ejoh also drove home runs in the winning effort.

Fun Fact: It was the first time Canisius and Niagara had ever met in the MAAC Tournament.

Griffs 11, Bobcats 3

Canisius utilized a six-run ninth inning that helped the Griffs defeat second-seeded Quinnipiac on Thursday, 11-3.

A pair of two-RBI singles by McKenna and Billy Krull, as well as an RBI double by Liam Wilson, were the key hits for Canisius in the inning. The Griffs also plated a run on a Quinnipiac wild pitch.

Wilson’s double was his 26th of the season, establishing a new conference and team record.

McKenna was 4-for-5 in the game while driving home three runs. Krull also brought home three runs while going 2-for-5 at the plate.

Will Frank earned the victory throwing 4 2/3 innings of relief for Andrew Sipowicz. Frank only allowed two hits while fanning four.

Fun Fact: It was the fourth time Canisius and Quinnipiac met in the MAAC Tournament since Quinnipiac joined the MAAC in 2013. Canisius holds a record of 3-1 against the Bobcats. The Griffs have scored at least 10 runs in every victory over the Bobcats in tournament action.

Griffs 7, Hawks 4

Six of Canisius’ seven runs came with two outs as the Griffs earned their spot in the MAAC Championship round.

Canisius entered the eighth inning trailing, 4-3, before Canice Ejoh would tie the game up with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left field.

Conti’s two-out single up the middle drove home two runs to give Canisius the lead, 6-4. Conley also added an RBI single up the middle to give the Griffs even more breathing room.

Smith earned the win for the Griffs after throwing 2 1/3 innings. The senior allowed two hits while striking out three. The hard-throwing right-hander relieved starter Andrew Kneussle who tossed 6 2/3 innings for Canisius. Kneussle allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. He walked three while fanning a pair.

Fun Fact: Fifteen of Canisius’ 34 total runs in the MAAC Tournament came in the seventh inning or later.

What’s next?

Canisius will now wait until noon on Monday to find out where they will be heading within the 64-team tournament. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Regionals will be held from June 1-4. The highest seed in each region will be the host. There will be 16 sites and each regional will be determined during the selection show.

The two times Canisius has made the NCAA Tournament they traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 2013 and Springfield, Mo. in 2015

Canisius holds an 0-4 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament, having played the likes of North Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Missouri State and Oregon.

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