It's been a bit of a disappointing season for the St. Bonaventure baseball team. A year after winning the Atlantic 10 title, the Bonnies are fighting for a conference playoff spot.
A bit of pride and momentum were restored Wednesday night as Bona won the second annual Big 4 Baseball Classic with a 12-3 victory over Canisius.
About 100 fans braved the cold and wind in Dunn Tire Park as the Bonnies (20-20) took advantage of nine Canisius errors, which tied a program record.
"You know, some day (Canisius coach) Mike McRae is going to look on this as one of his best coaching jobs," Bona coach Larry Sudbrook said. "He inherited a program that needs to be rebuilt, and he's got a team that can cause a lot of problems for you. We went small ball with our game and pressed them defensively, and that's where our runs came from."
Since 1997, Bona is 27-0-1 against Canisius.
Bona started taking advantage of the Griffs' defensive miscues in the second inning, when it widened the lead to 4-1. Matt Mardeusz walked to start the inning, advanced to second on a passed ball and went to third on a balk. He scored on a sacrifice by Craig King.
Then, with two outs, Shane Sudbrook singled, advanced to second on an error by the left fielder and took third on a wild pitch. He scored on an RBI single by Jake New.
In the third, Brian Pellegrini reached first on an error. As he was stealing second base, the pickoff attempt went into the outfield. The ball was then booted by the center fielder, allowing Pellegrini to score and give the Bonnies a 5-1 lead.
Bona opened an 11-2 lead with six runs in the fourth inning, thanks in large part to three Canisius errors and one wild pitch.
The Bonnies got an impressive outing from junior John Zinnicker, who earned the victory. Zinnicker gave up four hits and two runs in five innings. He walked three and struck out five.
Bona committed just one error.
"We have been struggling defensively as of late, and when you have a young pitching staff it's difficult on them if you don't make outs," Sudbrook said. "It's nice to get these two wins rolling into Massachusetts this weekend. I'm still crazy and optimistic enough that we can get into the playoffs."
The Bonnies are 10th in the conference, and the top six make the playoffs.
Pellegrini drove in three runs, while New and Kieran Malone (2 for 5) each drove in two.
Gabe Baida and Wade Roslowski each had two hits for the Griffs (8-25).
In the consolation game, the University at Buffalo jumped out of its offensive slump to earn a 10-3 win over Niagara (13-22).
UB freshman Tony Kurtz (Newfane) had one of his most solid outings of the season, giving up two earned runs in eight innings. Kurtz gave up five hits and struck out six.
The Bulls (12-21-2) had been winless in their last seven games but had an offensive breakthrough with 14 hits. Dan Quinn went 2 for 4 while driving in three runs, and Andy Wengert went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
"It couldn't have come at a better time for us. We've been struggling offensively the last 11 games," UB coach Bill Breene said. "Our pitching staff has been holding teams to about five runs a game, which should give us a chance to win. We broke out a little bit today, and that was the difference."