Mother Nature has not been kind to Canisius baseball and the rest of Western New York this spring.
Four consecutive rainouts in early May forced the Crusaders to remain within the confines of the Kennedy Fieldhouse. The team repetitiously took part in batting practice, infield drills, and other activities. But any baseball player knows that the hardwood gym floor can be quite limiting compared to being outdoors.
Once the weather cooperated, Canisius was undoubtedly anxious to return to the diamond. These jitters seemed to disappear quickly during a string of victories versus league rivals. To an outsider, it didn't appear that the team had gone almost two weeks without any game experience. A dominant doubleheader effort against Bishop Timon and a close finish against St. Joe's propelled the Crusaders to a second place standing in the Monsignor Martin League.
"Getting these big wins is all about gaining momentum entering the thick of our schedule," said Mike Mazzara '17. "It's about building that confidence when we really need it."
In the first game of the doubleheader, strong pitching and an offensive outburst led the Crusaders to an easy 12-2 victory in six innings. Right hander Jack Collins '18 went the distance, allowing only three Bishop Timon hits while striking out ten. At the plate, Will Lawrence '17 led the charge with four RBIs.
Lawrence picked up right where he left off in the following game. He padded his offensive stats with three more RBIs, while three hits from Alex Kurdziel '18 helped drive home three more runs for Canisius. A complete game performance on the mound from Brian Herrmann '19 gave the Crusaders an 11-2 win, their second of the day.
Canisius' busy week was capped off with a come-from-behind victory against St. Joe's. Using a big fourth inning, the team turned a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 advantage. As they clung to a two-run lead entering the top of the seventh inning, the Crusaders quickly found themselves in trouble. St. Joe's had loaded the bases with no outs, a frightening scenario for any team. Yet Canisius refused to wither under pressure.
Battling a rising pitch count, starting pitcher Mitch Rosati '17 fired a 3-2 fastball right by a Marauder hitter for the first out of the inning. Canisius then handed the ball to Jake Podlas '18 to close out the ballgame. Podlas showed poise beyond his years, forcing two huge groundouts to give the Crusaders an 8-7 victory.
"I tried not to think too much about it... I knew my team had my back," said Podlas. "I just took it one pitch at a time and focused on hitting my spots."
Even with the Crusaders recent success, the team must remain focused: another challenging week awaits. Three more Monsignor Martin matchups are in store for Canisius, beginning Monday (5/15) in another contest against St. Joe's.
Asked how the team maintains a healthy balance of confidence and humility on the baseball field, third baseman Vinny Ventura '18 said, "It's all about that chip on our shoulder... We've become confident on the ballfield without becoming complacent with our success."
Later in the week, the two teams atop the Monsignor Martin League standings will face off. Canisius will host St. Francis on Wednesday (5/17) at Delaware Park, then will head to Athol Springs for another game against the Red Raiders on Friday (5/19). First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 PM in both contests.
Said pitching coach Jon Lilley: "St. Francis has become our rival over the last couple of years. We'll be ready for them."