After a 1-8 start to the season, the mantra around the Canisius baseball team is that they are continuing to look for complete performances on both sides of the ball.
Four of the team’s eight losses, four of them to Winthrop, three to UMass-Lowell and one to West Virginia, have come by one run, which means the Griffs have lacked clutch hitting and relief pitchers coming in and getting outs when they need to.
That started in the third game of the season on February 15 against UMass-Lowell, where the Griffs held a 2-0 lead heading into the sixth of a seven-inning game and lost 4-3. On February 23 against Winthrop, the Griffs held a 2-0 lead heading into the eighth inning, let up three runs in that inning and lost 3-2. They also had lost a 6-5 decision in 11 innings against the same Winthrop team two days prior.
“We lose three one-run games on the weekend, and then you get a little bit of faltering on the back end of the bullpen which ended up biting us in the butt but that’s a microcosm of not having defined roles back there,” head coach Matt Mazurek said.
The team’s lone win so far was in the first game of a doubleheader on February 15, where they put up 20 runs on 16 hits to beat UMass-Lowell 20-7.
When it comes to pitching, the starting pitching has been a bright spot. Four Griffs have started games on the mound this season, with Kyle Warner seeing the most success. In two starts, he has thrown 13 innings to the tune of a 2.08 ERA and was named the MAAC Pitcher of the Week for his start against Winthrop, where he threw seven shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out seven. Andrew Fron has also started two games and has a 2.45 ERA across 11 innings.
The bullpen has been the main source of the pitching issues. Out of the five pitchers who have thrown at least four innings, the one with the lowest ERA is David Yankowski, at 4.50. The team even tried outfielder Jake Burlingame, who had not pitched since high school, and he allowed four earned runs over 1 2/3 innings against UMass-Lowell.
“He’s always been asking us to throw a bullpen so we’ll let him throw a bullpen. Throws one, he’s 88, 90, 92 with some running sink, so we said maybe we’ll use him as a back-end guy. But I think the role we brought him in weekend one with a two-run lead and six outs to get, not the best timing for his first college appearance and I think he felt like he needed to get six outs for us, and it was a heavy load for him,” Mazurek said.
The offense has seen some bright spots as well, with Andy Leader leading the charge with a batting average of .353 in 34 at-bats, and Burlingame hitting .333 in 33 at-bats with a pair of home runs. Mike Mazzara has also gone 6-15, good for .400 in a smaller sample size. However, the issue with the team on offense has been striking out, which they have done 91 times in the nine games they have played, opposed to 64 times for their opponents, which will be something to work on both in their away series against Marshall this weekend, as well as the rest of the non-conference schedule.
“We just haven’t put it all together. We’re getting the hitting, not getting the pitching. We’re getting the pitching, we don’t get the hitting with runners in scoring position,” Mazurek said. “There’s still areas we need to clean up.”