28 Canucks, led by Griffs off to NCAAs

 Connor Panas has played third, first, left, centre and DH was the MVP MAAC conference tourney winning five straight to make the NCAA field of 64.

Connor Panas has played third, first, left, centre and DH was the MVP MAAC conference tourney winning five straight to make the NCAA field of 64.

By Bob Elliott

For the season opener on Feb. 14 at Conway, S.C. he played third base, one of his six starts this spring.

Then he was mostly in either left field or first base -- 26 starts each -- and once at DH.

And when the Metro Atlantic Conference championship began he was in centre for one of his nine starts,

He is Etobicoke’s Connor Panas of the MAAC champion Canisius College Golden Griffs, the former Toronto Mets infielder.

And when the NCAA regional begins Panas will play somewhere as the Buffalo school faces the Missouri State Bears Saturday afternoon in Springfield, Mo.

Panas is one of 13 Canucks on coach Mike McRae’s Team Canada-like roster and one of 28 Canadians on the roster of the 64 schools still alive on the road to Omaha. That’s one more than 2013 and more than twice last year’s total of 12.

Windsor’s Brett Siddall was voted conference player of the year hitting .353 with 24 doubles, 12 homers and 63 RBIs. He had a 1.009 OPS.

Panas earned MAAC tourney MVP honors hitting .500 (13-for-26) with 12 RBIs and 10 runs scored from the lead-off spot. On the season, Panas has 17 doubles, seven triples, 10 homers and 67 RBIs. He has an 1.109 OPS to go with 19 steals in 24 tries. 

Making his first start as a lead-off hitter on April 29, Panas moved to centre when Mike Kirsche of Langley, B.C. went down with a leg injury.

“He has power and can run,” McRae said, “he can drive the ball out of the yard which is a nice thing when you get back to top of the lineup. He’s done a remarkable job for us. He’s aggressive and was among the leaders in outfield assists. He attacks the ball.”

Two years ago when the Griffs won the MAAC they headed into the team room at Griffin athletic center, Canisius was placed in the first grouping at Chapel Hill, N.C. When they headed into the same room to watch the selection show on Monday McRae told his team “not to blink.” 

When Canisius was named to the final pool hosted by eighth seeded Missouri State the Griffs jumped up and down.

McRae is respected and feared as the top college recruiter on Canadian sandlots.

“Are we the SEC? No, but some kids go there and don’t play for two years,” McRae said. “What I tell Canadian players is that we have an excellent program with good kids, we will have a chance at the post-season, player here have a chance to get drafted, they’ll have a chance to play in the NCAAs and if you’re from Ontario parents can drive to home games.”

Right-hander Devon Stewart, of Maple Ridge, B.C. and Panas, both seniors, could go on the second day of the June 8-to-10 draft. Perhaps Siddall too, a junior with the rarest quality in college ball: power.

Two years the Griffs lost the first round game to No. 3 ranked North Carolina State 6-3, loading the bases with one out in the eighth before their threat ended. Next came a 14-6 loss to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic.

McRae, in his 11th season took over a team that won four games in 2004 now has a 338-275 record, had to manage his staff in the championship after losing the opener to the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

He told Stewart, scheduled Game 2 starter, he would not pitch until Game 3, as to win it all he would need his second-game pitchers to work again on the weekend. He turned to the 3-Inning Krew, (spelled with a backwards K for a called third strike).

“We were short at times this season and we had a few guys with different looks, so we’d run them out there for short periods, once through the order,” said McRae. “They got into it, had t-shirts with 3-Inning Krew on it.”

J.P. Stevenson of Hunter River, PEI, Brampton’s Zachary Sloan, Josh Shepley of Tecumseh, Ont. and Iannick Remmillard of Valleyfield, Que. were part of that group, before Remmillard took over as the closer, saving 10 games. 

“We pieced things together, we had to in order to win five straight,” said McRae as his Griffs beat the Marist Red Foxes, Rider Broncs, Quinnipiac and the Siena Saints twice.

One other Canuck is headed for Missouri. Mason McRae, the coach’s son who is grade seven, was not there for the opening game loss.

But Mason was on the scorebook for the five wins. He’ll have a spot in the dugout too.

Canucks hoping to get to Omaha
Springfield Mo. Regional
Canisius (34-28)

Names AVG  HR RBIs
Connor Panas, Toronto .378 10 67 
Brett Siddall, Windsor, Ont. .353 12 63 
Jake Lumley, Windsor, Ont. .328 3 39
Michael Krische, Langley, B.C. .244 0 10 
Cyrus Senior, Kirkland, Que. .181 0 15
Nick Capitano, Bolton, Ont. .151 0 6

Names ERA W-L S
Devon Stewart, Maple Ridge, B.C. 3.65 7-6 0
J.P. Stevenson, Hunter River, PEI 4.20 7-3 0
Iannick Remmillard, Valleyfield, Que. 4.32 1-4 10
Zachary Sloan, Brampton 4.57 5-1 1
Josh Shepley, Tecumseh, Ont. 5.74 3-2 0
Tyler Vavra, Calgary 7.36 0-1 0
Blake Weston, Oakville NA
Coach Mike McRae, Niagara Falls, Ont. 

Missouri State (45-10) 
Names AVG  HR RBIs

Joey Hawkins, Whitby .272 2 27

Oregon (37-23)
Phillippe Craig-St. Louis, Gatineau, Que. .294 2 37

Iowa (39-16) 
OF Austin Guzzo, Brooklin, Ont. .217 0 7

Champaign Ill. Regional
Illinois (47-8-1)

Kelly Norris-Jones, Victoria B.C. .143 0 4 

Ohio (36-19) 
Christian Botter, Vaughan, Ont. 2-1 2.86 0

Coral Gables Fla. Regional  
Florida International (29-29) 

INF Mitchell Robinson, Surrey, B.C. .220 0 8

Fort Worth Regional 
TCU (43-11) 

Jeremie Fagnan, Calgary .287 3 18

Stony Brook (34-14-1) 
Toby Handley, Whitby .324 0 33
Cole Peragine, Belle Ewart, Ont. .302 0 26
Johnny Caputo, Toronto, Ont. .257 1 18

Fullerton Calif. Regional 
Arizona State (34-21) 

LHP Ryan Kellogg, Whitby, Ont., 8-2, 3.67

Houston Regional
Houston (42-18) 

INF Robert Grilli, Mississauga .348 0 2

Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Virginia (34-22) 

Daniel Pinero, Toronto .311 6 28

Louisville Regional
Morehead State (38-20) 

Chris Robinson, Uxbridge, Ont. .412 9 69

Stillwater Regional 
Oral Roberts (41-14) 
Emmanuel Forcier, St-Hyacinthe, Que. .221 0 8

Canucks advancing through the years
2014: 12 (Led by Cal Quantrill, Stanford, Jordan Mountford, Bryant)
2013: 27 (Rob Zastryzny, Missouri, Sasha LaGarde, Mercer, Brendan Hendriks, San Francisco, Jose Torrealba, Jon Fitzsimmons, Canisus)
2012: 10 (Maxx Tissenbaum, Tanner Nivins, Jasvir Rakar, Stony Brook)
2011: 17 (Carter Bell, Oregon State, Tyler Patzalek, Alex Calbick, Maine; Sean Bignall Arkansas Little Rock)
2010: 15 (Carl Moniz, Ryan Fleming, Georgia State, Chad Marshall, Stony Brook.)
2009: 18 (Jason Chatwood, Grant Kveder, Gonzaga, Terrance Dayleg, Western Kentucky, Guillaume Dupont-Duguay, Sam Houston, Christian Kowalchuk, Arkansas, David Narodowski.)