May 28, 2011
For the first time since 2008, and the sixth time in program history, the Siena baseball team will play for the MAAC Championship. Sophomore Justin Brantley and junior Ryan Poplawski combined to shutdown Canisius 3-2 in an elimination game Saturday in Trenton's Waterfront Park. The Saints advance to play nemesis Manhattan at 6 p.m. tonight in the Championship Round.
Siena will need to beat Manhattan tonight, and again tomorrow at 1 p.m. to claim their first title since 1999. The Jaspers can win the title tonight since they advance from the winner's bracket after topping the Saints 8-7 last night.
For a moment it looked like Siena might be looking at its second straight heartbreaking loss, as Canisius put its first two men on in the bottom of the ninth, chasing Brantley from the game. Poplawski took over, and without throwing a pitch, made the play of the game. Siena put on a wheel play in apparent defense of an anticipated bunt, but Poplawski spun on a dime and fired to Dan Paolini at second to catch Canisius' Drew Pettit off guard for the first out of the inning. Poplawski then got Chris Gruarin to fly out, and after a single by Andrew Russo, struck out Ryan Coppinger looking to end the game.
Siena scored all three of its runs in the first inning, and then held on for its playoff life. Kevin Quaranto's ground rule double off the warning track brought home Vincent Citro with the game's first run, Mike Fish singled home the second, and Adam Guinn flied out to deep right to make it 3-0. That was the end of the day for Canisius starter Alex Tufts, but Tim Sell delivered a masterful relief effort to make the game very interesting.
Sell tossed the final seven innings and did not allow a run, sacrificing just four hits. Fortunately for Siena, Brantley was just as tough.
The talented sophomore fired eight strong innings, allowing single runs in the third and eighth to pick up his sixth win of the season. He allowed just six hits and struck out three, staying in complete command with an overpowering fastball and capable breaking pitch.
Ken Kirshner made the most of a spot start at first, joining Fish with two hits for Siena. Pettit had his fourth multi-hit game of the season against Siena to lead the stubborn Griffs, who finish their season 26-32.
Manhattan has defeated Siena five straight times dating back to last year's 18-17 season-ending setback in Riverdale.