FISHKILL, N.Y. – The Canisius Golden Griffins secured the program’s second MAAC Championship in the last three years defeating the Siena Saints twice to claim the MAAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division I championship.
Canisius (34-28) won five-straight elimination games en route to the championship, highlighted by the Griffs’ 11-2 win over the Saints in the final championship contest.
Canisius will learn of its post-season destination and opponent on Monday when the NCAA officially announces its field of 64 teams for the 2015 Division I Baseball Championship on its annual selection show. That will be broadcast live on ESPNU at noon.
Canisius senior Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.) was named the 2015 MAAC Baseball Championship MVP after he hit .500 with 13 hits, 12 RBIs and 10 runs scored in the team’s six tournament games. Joining Panas on the MAAC All-Tournament Team were fellow Griffs Mike Krische (Langley, BC) and J.P. Stevenson (New Glasgow, PEI).
In the final Canisius sophomore Zachary Sloan (Brampton, Ont.) allowed two runs on four hits to go with six strikeouts and Panas went 3-for-5 with a triple, a run scored and six RBI as Canisius cruised to an 11-2 win to claim the MAAC title.
Again, Canisius wasted little time taking the lead, as the Blue and Gold scored twice in the second, once in the third and then pushed four across the plate in the top-half of the fourth to take a stranglehold on the lead. Canisius banged out 12 hits in the final game, with Siddall and freshman Cyrus Senior (Montreal, Que.) all recording multi-hit efforts in the victory.
In the opener ... The No. 2 seeded Canisius lost to the third-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats.
The game began as a pitchers’ duel, with both hurlers limiting the opposing offense. However trouble in the top of the sixth propelled Quinnipiac to victory.
Canisius trailed 5-0 before the Griffs tallied a run in the bottom-half of the seventh on a fly ball by Panas.
Moving to 1-1 ... Canisius defeated the sixth-seeded Marist Red Foxes 5-0 as Stevenson had a strong freshman debut to the MAAC tournament pitching effectively for three innings. He allowed one hit in the three frames to go along three strikeouts to earn his first tournament win.
Iannick Remillard (Valleyfield, Que.) pitched a scoreless inning to close it out.
The Griffs got on the board first, as two hit batters put a pair runners on. A wild pitch allowed Panas to score, which made it 1-0. Siddall nearly broke the game open a batter later, as he launched a ball towards the right field fence, but the MAAC Player of the Year of a homerun to end the inning.
Panas was hit with a pitch to knock in a run making it 2-0.
The Griffs put a close game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth, as Siddall led off the inning with a double and later came around to score on a throwing error by Napolitano, trying to catch the outfielder as he was headed to third. Both Krische and Senior recorded RBI singles later in the inning to cap the three run rally.
Panas, Krische, starting a game for the first time since March 30, and Senior were the lone Griffs to tally RBI.
Moving to 2-1 ... MAAC Player of the Year, Siddall kept the Canisius championship hopes alive in the bottom of the eighth inning, as he belted a grand slam over the right field fence to help propel the Golden Griffins to an 8-7 victory over the Rider Broncs.
The Broncs scored five runs in the first four innings as they staked claim to the early lead. Canisius chipped away at the advantage throughout the rest of the game but Siddall’s grand slam with two down in the eighth gave Canisius a lead it never relinquished.
Siddall finished the game by going 3-for-5 at the dish with five RBI to lead the offense. Senior Connor Panas added three hits and scored two runs in the win for the Griffs.
Senior Devon Stewart (Maple Ridge, BC) allowed five runs on five hits while fanning five in seven innings of work. Rider threatened in the final two innings, but junior closer Remillard closed out the final two frames to earn his 10th save of the year.
The Griffs broke out in the top of the seventh, as Siddall drove in a run thanks to an RBI-single to centerfield.
In the eighth with two outs and the Griffs down a run, Senior started the rally with an infield single. Panas followed Senior and singled through the right side. Krische reached safely to load the bases, which forced Rider to its bullpen. The Broncs turned to Eric Thomas, the 2015 MAAC Reliever of the Year, the MAAC’s top reliever was bested by the MAAC’s top player, as Siddall gave one a ride to clear the bases and put the Blue and Gold in the lead for good.
To move to the next round ... Canisius received eight strong innings from sophomore starter Josh Shepley (Windsor, Ont.) and four RBIs as the Golden Griffins defeated Quinnipiac 12-2.
Canisius jumped on Quinnipiac with four runs through the game’s first two frames, highlighted by an RBI-single by Panas with one down in the second inning that drove in a pair of runs.
In the fourth, Siddall roped an RBI-double that allowed Panas to score.
Canisius added five runs in the bottom of the seventh to make the score 12-1, which proved to be more than enough support for Shepley, who improved to 3-2 on the year after he allowed one run on five hits to go with four strikeouts in eight innings of work.
“I can’t say enough about Josh Shepley’s effort tonight,” Canisius head coach Mike McRae (Niagara Falls, Ont.) said. “He went out there and competed his butt off and stepped up when we needed it. We need to take it one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time. We need to do whatever it takes to see how long we can stick around.”
In the semi-final ... Canisius forced a final, deciding game with a 10-5 victory in the first game of the day. The Griffs wasted little time getting on the board, as they scored five runs in the first two frames to jump out to an early 5-1 lead. A five-run fourth inning put Canisius up 10-2, which ended up being more than enough run-support for Stevenson, who earned the win as the Griffs’ starter after he allowed two runs on six hits while fanning a career-high nine and walking just one.
Stevenson had one of the best outings of his career in, setting a career-high in strikeouts with nine as he got the start for the Blue and Gold. The first-year hurler improved to 7-3 with a 4.20 ERA with the win.
Jake Lumley (Windsor, Ont.), Siddall and Senior all drove in a pair. Panas and Siddall each had multi-hit performances in the victory. Siddall had a double, his team-leading 24th of the year for the Blue and Gold.
Tourney Notes: This marked the third-straight year Canisius and Siena have played for the MAAC Baseball championship, and Canisius has won two of the three meetings … Panas joins fellow senior Jesse Puscheck as the only MAAC Championship MVPs in program history – Puscheck won the award when Canisius claimed the 2013 MAAC title … To earn the league’s title, Canisius played five games in 48 hours and the Griffs ended up eliminating four of the tournament’s six teams … The only team Canisius did not eliminate from the tournament this year was Monmouth … After scoring just one run in the loss to Quinnipiac on Thursday in the first round, Canisius closed out the tournament by scoring 46 runs over the next five contests … Since beating Niagara 14-4 back on May 14 at home, Canisius has won eight of its last nine and the team has scored a total of 90 runs in those games … Stevenson made two starts and earned two wins in the tournament this year – the freshman also picked up the win on the bump in Thursday’s win over Marist … Canisius is the seventh MAAC program (among active league members) to win multiple MAAC baseball championships.