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Niagara baseball keeps postseason hopes alive, ends losing skid to Canisius

Niagara kept hope alive for qualifying for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament in baseball by doing something it hadn't done in six years.

Beat Canisius.

The Purple Eagles split a doubleheader with their rivals Thursday, winning the first game 4-3. The host Golden Griffins won the nightcap, 5-2. Players with local ties led the charge on both sides.

NU scored thrice in the first inning of the opener, with Peter Battaglia (Williamsville North) belting a two-run homer for the Purple Eagles (24-23). Owen Dziados' fourth-inning homer made it 4-0 as they held on to snap a 17-game losing streak to Canisius.

In the nightcap, Andrew Sipowicz (Orchard Park) and Nolan Hunt (Westfield) combined on the six-hitter with Hunt getting the final two outs for his second save. Christ Conley (Lake Shore) hit a two-run double during the Griffs' four-run third inning.

The three-game set with the teams concludes at 1 p.m. Friday at Canisius.

Should Niagara triumph, it would secure fifth seed and a spot in the tournament it hosts next week at Sal Maglie Stadium with a 13-11 conference record. Should NU lose, then it becomes a little dicey.

It's possible five teams will be vying for the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds, the last two spots in the tournament, and they could all finish with identical 12-12 MAAC records which would lead to a complicated multi-team tiebreaker.

Rider already finished its conference slate with a 12-12 mark. The others in the hunt include Quinnipiac (11-12), Manhattan (11-12), Siena (10-12) and Monmouth (10-12). None of these teams plays the other to conclude the regular season.

Canisius (33-20, 15-8) has already clinched a spot in the tournament.

UB loses via walk off

Baseball is a funny game.

Two days after the University at Buffalo won in euphoric, walk-off fashion in its final home game the Bulls lost in tough-to-stomach walk-off fashion to open their final Mid-American Conference road series. Western Michigan took the first of three games by rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to take a 6-5 decision from UB. The comeback happened after the Bulls broke a 4-4 tie in their half of the ninth.

The second game of the series is at 3 p.m. Friday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Phillip Tomasulo's sacrifice fly plated Brian Dudek to give UB the lead. The Broncos (21-27, 10-12) responded when Connor Smith singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth. After a flyout, he scored on a double by Nate Grys. Jesse Forestell drove him in with a single up the middle.

Tomasulo went 3 for 3, while Dudek went 3 for 4 for the Bulls (17-32, 8-14) – which stranded 16 runners on base.

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