Career win No. 300 for McRae
* Mike McRae (Niagara Falls, Ont.) scores his college career win No. 300. Easy as pie — eight runs in the ninth on the road. ….
By Todd Devlin
The milestone went down in exciting fashion.
Ahead 8-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning last Saturday, the Canisius College Golden Griffins watched their lead over Ohio University Bobcats evaporate, as the home team tacked on four runs and knotted the score at eight to put the achievement in jeopardy.
But the visiting Griffs came through in the end, and in emphatic fashion, sending 13 men to the plate in the ninth, scoring eight times for a 16-8 victory and the milestone: coach Mike McRae’s 300th win.
The only problem was, nobody in a Golden Griffins uniform even knew about it — least of all McRae himself.
“In fact,” the coach said, “I was back in my hotel room when my assistant, Matt Mazurek, said ‘Hey congrats, you just won No. 300.’ My response was, ‘Is that good?’”
It is good, and although the longtime Griffins manager doesn’t keep track of these things, he’s been able to reflect — since being told about win No. 300 — on how much Canisius baseball means to him.
“It means home, stability, pride,” said McRae of Niagara Falls, Ont., the only Canadian head coach at an NCAAA Division 1 program. “We took over a program that had three consecutive seasons of a 4-40 record, and now we’ve made six straight playoff appearances. There’s a lot of pride in how this program has grown.”
In 2007, McRae, listed 39th on the annual top 100 list of most influential Canadians in baseball, guided the Griffs to their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) playoff appearance since 1994.
In 2008, the team saw a 21 1/2-game improvement in its win-loss column, marking the biggest improvement in the country. McRae was named coach of the year for his efforts, a feat he accomplished again in 2010. Entering 2011, Canisius had more wins over the previous three years than any other team in the Northeast or Midwest.
In addition to the on-field success many Canisius players have enjoyed in recent years, McRae has also seen several players selected in the MLB draft, including eight over the last five years. Six of those — SS Sean Jamieson (Simcoe, Ont.), RHP Chris Cox (St. George, Ont.), LHP Shane Davis (Belmont, Ont.), INF Kevin Mailloux (Windsor, Ont.), LHP Nathan Linseman (Guelph, Ont.), RHP Benson Merritt (Smithville, Ont.) — have been Canadian, which speaks to McRae’s efforts in recruiting plenty of Canadian talent year after year.
Two former Canisius Canucks even participated in the recently-completed World Baseball Classic. Jamieson was a member of the qualifying team — a minor-league squad that won three straight games in Regensburg, Germany last fall to punch Canada’s ticket into the main event.
This month, RHP John Axford (Simcoe, Ont.) anchored the Canadian bullpen in Phoenix at the WBC, where the red and white were bounced in the first round of the tournament following a 9-4 loss to the United States.
All of this has happened under McRae’s watch, and his accomplishments in building a successful program has not gone unnoticed by the higher ups within the Griffins athletics department.
“Mike has developed our baseball program into one of the top programs not only in the MAAC but in the entire Northeast region,” Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said. “His achievement of 300 career victories is significant, and it’s a symbol of his long-term success as a head coach. We look to many more victories from Mike and our baseball program.”
Many more victories are something McRae says he’s looking forward to also.
“I certainly expect to be here for win No. 400,” the coach said. “Canisius has a lot to offer, and the school has made a strong commitment to me. As long as they continue to support the program, then I want to continue to develop young leaders at Canisius and oversee their growth.”
In fact, McRae is already looking ahead to a possible day down the road when he might be able to coach his son at Canisius. Young Mason McRae is currently 11 years old and already an three-time OBA champion at the Rookie Ball, Minor Mosquito and Major Mosquito levels.
But first thing’s first, and that’s getting the Griffs back to the playoffs in 2013. The team is off to a good start — 14-5 through action last weekend. They’ve won 10 of their last 11, and following McRae’s win No. 300, they completed their first four-game road sweep since 2008.
Another 13 Canadians will be helping the Canisius cause this year, including Brett Siddall (Windsor, Ont.), who is batting .386 (22-for-57) with 15 RBIs and 11 runs scored in 17 games thus far. The freshman was 3-for-6 on Saturday with a lead-off double in the ninth that started the Griffs’ eight-run outburst.
The rest of the Canucks include: RHP Billy Martin (Mississauga, Ont.), C Brooklyn Foster (Langley, BC), OF Shane Zimmer (St. Albert, Alta.), INF Jose Torralba (Mississauga, Ont.), RHP Jason Rubenstein (Thornhill, Ont.), RHP Jon Fitzsimmons (London, Ont.), RHP Devon Stewart (Maple Ridge, BC), RHP Iannick Remmillard (Valleyfield, Que.), INF Connor Panas (Toronto Ont.), OF Michael Krische (Langley, BC), C Michael Booth (Lakeshore, Ont.) and RHP Tyler Soucie (Cambridge, Ont.),
“So far we’re off to a good start,” McRae said. “We have three more road victories than anyone else in the nation and we’re among the national leaders in runs per game and stolen bases. We definitely have the ability to make a [MAAC] championship run.”
He may not be up on his current record, but a championship … that’s the kind of milestone McRae will surely be paying attention to this spring.