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Canisius baseball opens NCAA Tournament against No. 14 Minnesota

CANISIUS COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Baseball at NCAA Minneapolis
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The 2018 MAAC Baseball Champion Canisius will open the Minneapolis regional of the 2018 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Friday against regional top-seed and host No. 14 Minnesota.

Opening pitch for Friday's game, the first between the schools in program history, is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. The contest will be broadcast live on the WatchESPN App.

LEADING OFF
• The Canisius baseball team, the 2018 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champions, return to the field this weekend, as the Golden Griffins take part in Minneapolis Regional of the 2018 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.
• The Griffs are making their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last six years. Canisius also played in the national postseason in 2013 and 2015. 
• The Griffs travel to the Minneapolis Regional with an overall record of 35-20. The team is currently on an eight-game win streak, the program's longest since 2016. 
• Canisius is scheduled to open regional play June 1 against No. 14 Minnesota. UCLA and Gonzaga round out the regional field.
 
MAAC CHAMPS
• The Griffs earned their third MAAC Tournament championship in program history in convincing fashion last weekend after the team went 4-0 in the 2018 MAAC Baseball Championship in Staten Island, N.Y.
• Canisius won the MAAC crown by defeating top-seed Monmouth 11-0 in the title game May 26. That victory over the Hawks stands as the first shutout in a MAAC Championship final in league history.
• Canisius is tied for fifth in MAAC history with Iona, Manhattan and former league member Fordham with its three MAAC baseball crowns.
• Since 2009, the Griffs have competed in seven league championship games, which are the most for any conference member over the last decade.
• Senior southpaw pitcher J.P. Stevenson (10-1), the 2018 MAAC Championship MVP and 2018 MAAC Pitcher of the Year, began and ended the championship for the Griffs, as he went seven innings and struck out six batters in the team's win over Niagara before pitching the final inning of the championship game. 
• In the team's four tournament games, junior outfielder Mark McKenna led the offense with his .647 batting average (11-for-17), including a double and a triple, seven RBI and five runs scored.
 
ALL-CONFERENCE STAFF
• The 2018 Canisius pitching staff became just the third staff in MAAC history, and first since Marist in 2015, to claim both the MAAC's Pitcher and Relief Pitcher of the Year honors.
• Senior left-handed pitcher J.P. Stevenson was named the 2018 MAAC Pitcher of the Year. He enters the national postseason with a league-leading 10 wins, while ranking first in innings (95.2) and strikeouts (92). He also led all MAAC starters with his 2.54 ERA. 
• Senior closer Tyler Smith was named the 2018 MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year. 
• Smith has 10 saves on the year, the most in the conference. He's racked up 40 punch outs in 34.0 innings of work, holding with a 1.06 ERA.
• Stevenson is the third starter in program history to be named the MAAC Pitcher of the Year, while Smith is the third reliever in Canisius history to be recognized as the MAAC's top relief pitcher.
 
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM 
• Seniors John ContiTyler SmithRyan Stekl and J.P. Stevenson, along with junior Mark McKenna were named to the 2018 MAAC Baseball All-Championship Team. Stevenson was voted as the Championship MVP, as well, making him the first Canisius pitcher to earn the honor. 
• At the plate, the Golden Griffins swung the bats at a .329 clip with 46 hits and 34 runs scored in four games. The team did not hit a home run in the MAAC Baseball Championship, making this year's edition of the Griffs the first league tournament champion without a homer since Siena in 2014. 
• As a pitching staff, Canisius allowed just 11 total runs, while striking out 26 and holding opponents to a .189 batting average. 
 
GRIFFS IN THE NCAA TOURNEY 
• This will be Canisius' third trip to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship with the two previous appearances coming in 2013 and 2015. The Griffs are 0-4 all-time in the national postseason. 
• Most recently, the 2015 squad finished with a 34-30 overall record going 0-2 in the Springfield Regional, with losses to host Missouri State and Oregon. 
• Six current Griffs players – seniors Nick CapitanoJohn ContiCyrus SeniorTyler SmithRyan Stekl andJ.P. Stevenson – all saw action in the 2015 regional round. 
• In the 2013 tournament, the Blue and Gold entered the Chapel Hill Regional with a school-record 42 wins and dropped both contests to No. 1 overall seed North Carolina and Florida Atlantic. 
 
MAAC HISTORY IN NATIONAL TOURNAMENT 
• Canisius enters this year's NCAA Division I Baseball Championship looking to become the first MAAC representative to win a national postseason game since Siena in 2014. 
• In 2014, Siena beat Dallas Baptist 9-8 in 10 innings in an elimination game before getting bounced from the Fort Worth Regional by Sam Houston State. 
• Siena's win in 2014 ended an eight-year drought for the MAAC. In 2006, Manhattan won two games in the Nebraska Regional, including a 4-1 win over the host Cornhuskers. Manhattan lost in the regional championship round to Miami. 
• Marist leads all MAAC schools with three regional round wins. The Red Foxes' last postseason victory came in the 2003 regional round when the team eliminated Long Beach State in Palo Alto, Calif. 
 
CANISIUS VS. NCAA QUALIFIERS 
• The Blue and Gold squared off against four teams – Campbell, Kent State, Ohio State, and NC State - that will be appearing the 2018 NCAA Baseball Championship, coming away with a 3-3 record against those four foes. 
• Canisius opened the season against Ohio State at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. The Griffs lost to the Buckeyes 6-4 Feb. 16, before bouncing back to earn a 5-4 victory Feb. 17. 
• A trip to North Carolina March 2-4 saw Canisius beat Campbell 9-5 on the road before closing out the road swing down south with a 3-2 win over then nationally-ranked NC State. 
• A month later, Canisius and Kent State began a home-and-home series that saw the Griffs drop games by scores of 13-11 and 10-1, on April 11 and April 25. 
 
SCOUTING MINNESOTA 
• Minnesota (41-13) enters the NCAA Tournament on a nine-game winning streak. 
• The Golden Gophers are 49th in the nation in total runs (367), averaging 6.79 runs per game, and the team boasts a batting average of an even .300 for the year. 
• Junior infielder Terrin Vavra leads the way offensively for Minnesota with his .385 batting average to go with 11 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and 55 RBI. 
• Fellow junior outfielder Ben Mezzenga is hitting .381 with 30 runs scored, eight doubles and 26 RBI, while senior outfielder Alex Boxwell leads the Golden Gophers with his 19 stolen bases on the year. 
• Sophomore right-hander Brett Schulze leads Minnesota's pitching staff with nine wins this year to go along with a 2.22 ERA and 42 strikeouts. 
• Freshman closer Max Meyer is 1-2 with 16 saves and a 1.45 ERA in 24 appearances out of the bullpen. 
• Friday will mark the first time in school history where Canisius has played Minnesota. 

CANISIUS ALL-TIME vs. THE BIG TEN 
• Canisius is 3-23 all-time against current members of the Big Ten Conference. 
• The Griffs claim wins over Maryland (1-3), Ohio State (1-9) and Penn State (1-4). 
• Canisius has also played four games in its history against Michigan State, with the Spartans winning all four games. 
• The Blue and Gold is 0-1 all-time against Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers, respectively. 
 
RECORDS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN 
• Four Canisius seniors have combine to set eight new program records in 2018, with two more likely to be broken by season's end. 
• Senior Ryan Stekl leads the record breaker efforts, as he is the program leader in games played (228), games started (225) and at-bats (866). 
• Entering the NCAA Championship, Stekl is four hits away from breaking the program's all-time hits record (259), and two RBI shy of setting the school's new career RBI mark (185). 
• Senior Liam Wilson, who has only spent three seasons in a Griffs' uniform after transferring in after his freshman season, is the program's all-time leader with 59 doubles. 
• This season, Wilson has amassed 27 two-base hits, a program and MAAC record for a single season. He starts this weekend third in the nation in doubles. 
• Senior closer Tyler Smith has appeared on the mound in 88 games in his career, the most for a Canisius pitcher in school history. He currently holds the highest strikeout per nine-ratio with 11.88 punch outs on a nine-inning scale. 
• Senior left-hander J.P. Stevenson is the all-time leader in career strikeouts (266) and shutouts (three) and is second in wins (28). 
• With one more full inning pitched, Stevenson will become just the fourth Griffs hurler to amassed 300-plus innings on the hill in a career. 

STOPPER OF THE YEAR WATCHLIST 
• In 2017, Tyler Smith filled in admirably in his first full season as the Griffs' closer, posting a career-year with 11 saves and an 0.30 ERA. 
• This season, Smith picked up right where he left off with 10 saves, tops in the MAAC, and was honored as the 2018 MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year for his efforts. 
• Aside from being the team's top closer, Smith has a sparking 1.06 ERA this year. 
• Smith has garnered national acclaim as he was named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List earlier this season. He has been on this list each of the last two years. 
• The recognition also marks the third-straight season a Canisius closer has been named to the list as former Griffs' closer, Iannick Remillard, the 2016 MAAC Reliever of the Year, received the honor in 2016. 
 
STEVENSON, WILSON EARN ALL-AMERICAN ACCOLADES 
• Canisius senior pitcher J.P. Stevenson and senior first baseman Liam Wilson were named to the Collegiate Baseball NCAA Division I All-American Third Team, publication officials announced Thursday morning. 
•Stevenson and Wilson are the seventh and eighth players in school history to be named All- Americans byCollegiate Baseball and the first since Brett Siddall garnered third-team distinction back in 2015. 
• Stevenson, the 2018 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Most Outstanding Player and All-MAAC First Team selection, enters the national postseason following a stellar regular season that saw him pacing the conference in wins (10), innings (95.2) and strikeouts (92) while leading all conference starters with a 2.54 earned run average. The New Glasgow, P.E.I., native was also picked as the 2018 MAAC Pitcher of the Year, becoming just the third starting pitcher in program history to receive the honor. 
• Wilson, who started the season as a Preseason All-MAAC honoree, earned All-MAAC First-Team honors for the second-straight year after pacing the Griffs in batting average (.360), runs scored (52), hits (77), doubles (27), total bases (137) and slugging percentage (.640). 
 
EIGHT IS GREAT 
• Canisius is riding an eight-game winning streak coming into the 2018 NCAA Baseball Championship, its longest win streak since the 2016 season. 
• The streak includes a three-game sweep to close out the regular season, followed up by a four-game sweep at the 2018 MAAC Baseball Championship. 
• This current win streak is tied for the fourth longest for the program in the last 10 seasons. 
• Canisius' longest streak came in 2013 when the Griffs won 14-straight games en route to a program-record 42 victories for the year. 
• During this current streak, junior Mark McKenna has lead the offensive charge, hitting .560 (14- for-25) with nine RBI and six runs scored. He recorded 11 hits in the MAAC Championship last weekend. 
• Senior John Conti, who had a two-out, two-run game-winning single in the team's win over Monmouth May 24, has tallied eight hits during the winning streak, crossing the plate for a team-high 10 runs. 
• As a team, the Blue and Gold are hitting at a .321 clip over their last eight games, outscoring their opponents 64-32. 
• On the mound, two Griffs' starting pitchers – senior J.P. Stevenson and junior Andrew Kneussle – have picked up two wins apiece, with both completing exactly 15.0 innings and recording 13 and 10 strikeouts, respectively 
• Sophomore reliever Will Frank has earned two victories out of the bullpen in seven innings of work over three separate appearances. 
• As a staff, Canisius holds a 3.47 earned run average during the eight-game streak, holding its opponents to a measly .205 batting average 
 
DIRTY THIRTY 
• The Golden Griffins have tallied 30 or more wins in 11 seasons, and in seven consecutive seasons, since 2007. 
• During the steak, Canisius has recorded three 40-plus wins campaigns, including a program-best 42 victories in 2013. 
• The 35 wins this season are tied for the sixth most all-time in school history. 
 
LEADERS OF THE MAAC 
• Canisius leads the MAAC in eight major offensive categories, including, on-base percentage (.398), runs scored (390), hits (537), walks (278), and stolen bases (70). 
• The Griffs also rank second in the league in batting average (.283), slugging percentage (.418), doubles (108), home runs (38), total bases (793). 
• On the mound Canisius leads the conference in ERA (4.30), opposing batting average (.238), innings pitched (475.2), strikeouts (422), and saves (14). 
 
TOP-20 NATIONALLY 
• As a team, Canisius ranks in the top-20 in three offensive categories. 
• The Griffs ranks eighth nationally in hit by pitches (99), and 16th in both on-base percentage (.398) and runs scored per game (7.1). 
• Individually, the Blue and Gold tote four players in major statical rankings. 
• Senior J.P. Stevenson boasts the sixth most wins (10), 12th best WHIP (0.95) and the 18th lowest hits per nine innings (5.83). 
• Senior Liam Wilson's 27 doubles are the third highest in the nation this season. 
• Redshirt senior Christ Conley has worked his way to the 17th most walks in the county as he has been issued 50 free passes. 
 
PLENTY OF WALK-OFFS 
• The Blue and Gold have tasted victory in walk-off fashion twice this season, with both coming in the final two regular season contests on a wild pitch and a two-run single. 
• On the flip side, Canisius has been soured by six walk-off defeats coming in five different ways and in back-to-back contests on two occasions. 
• Canisius lost on walk-off singles versus Liberty (Mar. 11), West Virginia (Mar. 16) and Manhattan (May 12). 
• The Griffs fell victim to a walk-off two-run double at Cornell on Apr. 4. 
• On April 28 at Rider, Canisius allowed seven runs in the bottom of the last frame, capped off by a walk-off grand slam, giving the Griffs a one-run loss. 
• A three-run triple by long-time rival Niagara on May 1 spelled defeat for the Blue and Gold. 
• Lastly, the rare walk-off passed ball May 13 at Manhattan handed the Griffs for a loss. 
• Canisius knows plenty about walk-off wins, with the team boasting 22 walk-off victories since 2007. One of those walk-off wins came in the 2013 MAAC Baseball Championship game, allowing the Blue and Gold to earn its first MAAC title and NCAA Tournament appearance. 
 
CONLEY AMONG NATION'S TOP CATCHERS 
• In March, senior Christ Conley was named to the 2018 Johnny Bench Award, one of 79 Division I back stops to be recognized as a top collegiate catchers. 
• The Derby, N.Y., native ranks fifth on the Canisius roster with his .291 batting average, and his 50 walks this year ranks 17th in the nation. 
• Conley has reached base safely in 12-straight games entering this weekend's action, the longest active streak among Canisius players this season. His .481 on-base percentage this year currently ranks 23rd in the nation. 
• Conley has started 37 games behind the plate this year for Canisius, and his .986 fielding percentage is the second-highest among all Canisius players who have started more than 30 games for the Blue and Gold this season. 

EARNING FIRST THE HARD WAY 
• As a team, Canisius enters the NCAA Tournament ranked eighth in the nation in bit-by-pitch, with the Griffs drawing a total of 99 free passes to first after getting plunked. 
• Senior Christ Conley is one of three Canisius players to rank among the top-150 nationally in being hit-by-pitch. Conley led the MAAC and ranks 77th nationally after being hit-by-pitch 14 times. 
• Fellow seniors Liam Wilson (13 HBP) and Gage Lanning (12 HBP) rank 111th and 148th, respectively in the nation in hit-by-pitch. 
 
STEVENSON RANKS AMONG NATIONAL WINS LEADER 
• Senior J.P. Stevenson starts this weekend with 10 wins, which ranks sixth-best in the nation. 
• Stevenson is the fifth pitcher in program history to post double-digit wins in a season. The last Griffs' hurler to win 10-or more games in a single season were former Griffs Rohn Pierce and Alex Godzak, who won 11 and 10 games, respectively, in the 2014 season. 
• The program record for wins in a single season is held by Shane Davis, who won 12 games in 2008. That year, he became the first pitcher in MAAC history to be named both the MAAC Pitcher of the Year and the MAAC Rookie of the Year. 
 
NEW MAN IN CHARGE 
• Long-time Canisius assistant coach Matt Mazurek was officially named the program's head coach Sept. 6, 2017 after former head coach Mike McRae left the College to join the staff at VCU. 
• The Silver Creek, N.Y., native spent the previous 12 seasons as an assistant coach with the Canisius baseball program. He is just the fourth head coach for the Griffs in the last 40 seasons. 
• The 2006 Canisius Male Athlete of the Year, Mazurek hit .355 with 22 doubles, nine homers, 57 runs scored, 85 RBI and 25 stolen bases during the 2005 and 2006 seasons at Canisius. 
• Mazurek is the just second first-year head coach in MAAC history to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament. 
 
CANADIAN CONNECTION 
• With Canisius' campus location just 15 minutes from the U.S.-Canadian border, it makes sense that the Blue and Gold's roster is filled with Canadian-born players. 
• In this year's NCAA Tournament field, Canisius is one of 13 programs to have at least one Canadian-born player on its roster. 
• Canisius' roster claims 10 Canadian-born players, the most of any team in this year's field. Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Washington each have two Canadian-born student-athletes. 
 
PLENTY OF WESTERN NEW YORK FLAVOR AS WELL 
• While Canisius draws a lot of attention for the number of Canadian-born players on its roster, the Griffs also have plenty of Western New York talent as well. 
• The 2018 Canisius rosters includes 17 players from within a 40-mile radius of the school, which is located in the northern piece of the City of Buffalo. 
• Included in the count of 17 locals is head coach Matt Mazurek and assistant coach Brandon Bielecki. Both Mazurek and Bielecki played their college ball at Canisius. 
 
MLB LIKES DRAFTING GRIFFS 
• The Griffs have made a name for themselves when it comes to the Major League Baseball Draft. 
• Over the last nine years, Canisius has had 12 players drafted, including two separate occasions (2011 and 2015) where the team had three players taken. 
• The 2015 MLB Draft marked the second time in MAAC history where three players from a conference program had been drafted in the first 13 rounds. 
• Former Griffs Conner Panas and Devon Stewart were both selected in the ninth round by the Blue Jays and Indians, respectively, while the Athletics took Brett Siddall in the 13th round. 

• Last year, 2017 MAAC Player of the Year Jake Lumley was taken in the 33rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Oakland A's. 
• Canisius graduate John Axford is the first, and only former Griff, to make a Major League Baseball roster. Axford, a current member of the Toronto Blue Jays, pitched his redshirt senior season at Canisius in 2006.