Niagara Gazette — Even opening with a 300-mile change of venue, March will be hard-pressed to match the madness of Niagara University’s baseball February.
The Purple Eagles got to Tallahassee in the worst way, hammered a hurler who would later shut out the New York Yankees, and finished by scoring 40 in four games in the ballpark where a past generation believes minor-league ball was invented.
Over the past weekend, then, the Eagles’ visit to Bucknell went south, literally from Lewisburg, Pa., to Petersburg, Va.
But that was a one-throw rundown compared to the Florida fling. “You can’t believe what we did to get down there” said Coach Rob McCoy. Picked off by storms and cancellations, the Eagles bussed to Pittsburgh, flew to Houston, then back to New Orleans, then arising at 4 a.m. for the six-hour drive along the Gulf Coast. On Mapquest, it had the configuration of a Greg Maddux curveball.
Playing before nearly 7,000 fans described by McCoy as “good and rowdy, that was part of the draw,” Niagara was shut out by a top prospect for six innings but broke through in the seventh against a pitcher named Billy Strode, knocking him out after only a third of an inning.
A week later, Strode would pitch a shutout inning against the Yankees in Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field. His ERA vs. the Yankees: 0.00; vs. Niagara, 54.00.
After three respectable showings in Tallahassee, the Eagles regrouped in North Carolina’s Durham Athletic Park of “Bull Durham” movie fame.
Here, the Eagles broke out against NC Central, coached by St. Francis High grad Jim Koerner and last year one of the most improved teams in all Division I. Niagara won three out of four with a second fine outing by Drew Fittry, who had yielded but eight hits in 12 innings heading into this past weekend.