May 23, 2008
Trenton, N.J. - Siena willed itself into Saturday's MAAC Championship with a 5-2 do-or-die win over co-regular season champion and #1 seed Canisius here at Waterfront Park Friday night. Junior Will Hassett tossed seven strong innings and classmate Nick Messinger broke a 2-2 tie with two-run home run to left in the sixth.
"I think between games, we said: `hey we are still playing, and there are a lot of teams that aren't playing,' so it was a positive thing to still be playing," head coach Tony Rossi said. "I think the kids were happy to still be playing, win or lose the first game. I like the position of being an underdog anyway."
Hassett was stellar against the top offense in the league. The Griffs (41-13) entered the game batting .322 as a team, but managed just six hits. Hassett allowed just two runs and struck out five.
"That was probably the game of my life," he said afterward. "I knew we would come back and hit, so I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes. I thought I did a pretty good job of hitting my spots and mixing it up."
Freshman Dan Lazzaroni hurled two perfect innings of relief to pick up his sixth save of the season.
"Canisius is a good ball club," Rossi said. "They're an offensive-minded team. Will did such a great job and Danny came in and shut it down. It was a lower scoring game than I thought going in. We took three of four from them this season and should have won all four."
Siena got on the board in the second when Rick Seltzer scored on a wild pitch with two outs, breaking a 10-inning scoreless drought for the Saints who were shutout 3-0 by Rider earlier in the day.
Kevin Mahoney tied the game in the bottom of the second for Canisius with his 12th home run of the season.
The Saints regained the lead on an RBI single by Jacob Willis in the third. It was the seventh hit of the Tournament for the MAAC Player of the Year.
The game turned in the fifth when Canisius' leadoff man Ryan Asis launched a fly ball over the head of centerfielder Jason DeFilippo. Although Alec Cabello scored the tying run on the play, Asis was gunned down at the plate trying for an inside-the-park home run. Right fielder Anthony Giansanti threw a strike to Chris Klepps who executed a perfect relay that kept the game tied.
Messinger broke out of a 1-for-10 Tournament slump with the biggest hit of the season for the Saints in the sixth, a long home run that also plated Seltzer. His RBI double in the eighth accounted for the 5-2 final.
"I was frustrated on the bench and I was asking my teammates what I had to do, and they said: `keep hacking, you're squaring the ball up, and your time is going to come', and fortunately it did," Messinger said. "(Goemans) left a fastball up, and I kept my hands in, and I just knew (it was gone). I threw my bat, and thrust my hands up. It was a great feeling.
"This is how we've been playing all year. We've been playing loose, so losing the first game wasn't a factor. We shook it off after 10 minutes."
Freshman Kevin Quaranto joined Messinger and DeFilippo with two hits in the win for Siena. Six different Griffs hit safely.
The Saints reach the MAAC Championship for the first time since 1999. They play host school and #4 seed Rider at 1 p.m. needing two wins over the Broncs to claim the title. Rider, now 2-0 in Tournament play, can wrap up their first MAAC Championship with a victory in game one.