Niagara Gazette

May 14, 2009

COLLEGE BASEBALL: Niagara blows lead in both games at Canisius

By Jonah Bronstein

BUFFALO — The doomsday scenario for the Niagara baseball team was this: finish the regular season with three straight losses against rival Canisius, then see Rider and Marist sweep their respective three-game series.

That nine-game parlay was the only way the Purple Eagles would not be invited to the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship tournament in Trenton, N.J.

Missing the postseason is now a bit more plausible after Thursday’s events. While Rider started its series against Saint Peter’s with a win, Niagara lost both games of a doubleheader at Demske Sports Complex, squandering four-run leads in both outings.

“We just didn’t show up today,” Niagara coach Rob McCoy said afterward. “I’m very disappointed. We got caught up in everything except going out and playing they way we are capable of.”

Niagara (20-33 overall, 14-9 MAAC) can still clinch a spot in the MAAC tournament for the first time in four years if they beat Canisius today. Marist opens its series with Fairfield with one game today, while Rider and Saint Peter’s play a doubleheader Saturday.

The defending champion Golden Griffins (32-20, 15-8) guaranteed themselves another title quest by winning scoring seven runs in the eighth inning of the first game, and winning 11-10.

In the second game, Canisius used an eight run fourth-inning to win 12-8.

Overall, Niagara’s bullpen gave up 15 runs in four innings of work.

“We’re not too deep to start with, so we can’t afford to have our top guys not be mentally sharp,” McCoy said. “Maybe we weren’t prepared to deal with how many runs were going to be scored. It’s definitely a hitters park. They don’t have low-scoring games here.”

With the wind of Lake Erie blowing toward the close wall in left and the short fence in right, and the synthetic turf speeding up every ground ball, Niagara and Canisius combined for 49 hits in what amounted to 15 total innings.

Timothy Cozier and Jason Cramer each had six hits for Niagara on the day. Cozier and Trevor Rutkowski had solo home runs in both games.

Brian Deering notched five RBI’s in the first game, including a three-run home run that put the Purple Eagles up 7-4 in the sixth inning.

Niagara led 8-4 heading into the eighth inning, after seven solid innings by starter Marcus Spaulding. Canisius’ comeback churned through three Niagara pitchers, including freshman closer Adam Wagner, who was handed his first MAAC loss.

Kevin Mahoney hit a three-run homer to cap the Canisius rally. Mahoney also had a two-run blast in the second game, giving him home runs in five straight games, and 22 for the season.

Niagara scored twice in the ninth inning and had the tying run on third base, but Stephen Smith’s pop-up to third ended the game.

Cam Stykemain singled home two runners in the fourth inning of the second game to give Niagara 7-4 lead. With starter Joe Candelmo pulled after three innings, reliever Matt Jordan gave up three hits, two walks and five earned runs in the fourth while only getting one batter out. Mark Sikorski then came in and allowed three more runs before the inning was over.

Niagara scored once in the ninth, and loaded the bases for Matt Lucchesi, who ended the game with a dribbler to the pitcher.

Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2258.

Today’s Game

• WHEN: Noon

• WHERE: Demske Sports Complex, Main Street, Buffalo

• NOTES: Niagara can clinch spot in MAAC tournament with win. ... Canisius is already in the tourney field, but needs another win to ensure the No. 2 seed. ... The Purple Eagles have not been swept in MAAC play all season.