By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette — Talk about Fall Classics. Niagara University rolled out the foliage carpet Saturday afternoon for as enjoyable a three and a half hours of inconsequential softball that even the most optimistic could hardly imagine.
Due to circumstances almost as complicated as the tax code, NU entertained two visiting teams and established a firm foundation for what it can hope to be the Larry Puzan era.
Upwardly mobile Monroe Community College motored over from Rochester with many of its fans, both bipeds and quadrupeds, including a Newfoundland the size of Manitoba, a slobbery beast of such proportions that the mere walking of it requires an environmental impact statement.
By design and cooperation, Monroe played Canisius at noon and after a little lunch took on Niagara. Actual playing time measured less than three hours, an intense but informal afternoon with little regard for the details of legal substitutions and eight-run rules.
None of it counted, really, but don’t tell that to pals of Lew-Port’s Meghan Cuda, who went 3-for-3 at the plate, ‘though not a ball came her way in the field. Three Canisius pitchers struck out 10. Monroe, on the other hand, put up 17 assists in just six innings, including seven assists and two putouts by shortstop Jordan Miller, not an easy play in the lot. With nine hits in just 23 at-bats, Canisius put three runs on the board, Monroe none.
In the second game, Purple Eagle pitchers Jen Sansone and Kim Bryson struck out 10 in two innings each and newcomer Bridget Hogan, after a strong game at third and a 1-0-1-1 batting line, came back in to finish it off with three more strikeouts in the seventh. Niagara had all eight runs in the game, starting with Niagara-Wheatfield’s Katie Graurin’s round-tripper (triple and error) in the second. Newcomer Taylor Houston hoisted a three-run homer in the fifth; under a stricter accounting it would have stopped the game.
Almost everybody would rather have done this on Sunday, but NU’s girls were working at Ralph Wilson stadium in support of their own program, tough duty, five hard hours in service to the sport that can’t afford even a round ball.
It soothed some of the sodden sting of the previous week’s washout of the eight-team Nan Harvey Tournament near UB and sent everyone home better informed and in a glorious mood, truly a day in the sun, whether the results make the record book or not.
Doug Smith offers his takes on the local diamonds Mondays during baseball season with Base Paths. Contact him at email@example.com.Doug Smith offers his takes on the local diamonds Mondays during baseball season with Base Paths. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org