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Canisius pitcher Megan Giese's two no-hitters propel Griffs into MAAC softball tournament

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Canisius softball pitcher Megan Giese

Megan Giese from Orchard Park has thrown two no-hitters as Canisius heads to the MAAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed.

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It’s not an easy feat for a pitcher to throw a no-hitter, let alone two in one season. In fact, the accomplishment isn’t even solely based on the efforts of a pitcher.

It takes a convergence of factors to keep an opponent without a hit over the course of a game, whether it's seven innings or five. It takes sound defense, communication, timely plays and the help of a catcher who knows what pitches to call. And a little luck.

Megan Giese, a right-handed pitcher on the Canisius softball team, has found this out twice in the last five weeks.

Giese recorded her first no-hitter April 10, striking out 12 batters in the Golden Griffins’ 6-0 win at Monmouth. It was the first seven-inning no-hitter for Canisius since March 25, 2005. Then, the sophomore from Orchard Park struck out six in a 9-0, five-inning win Sunday against Niagara in the first half of a doubleheader, which helped the Griffs win the MAAC regular-season championship.

“I didn’t even know I did it until I came off the field after the fifth inning,” said Giese, who is 11-8 in 46 games, including 26 starts, this season. “You don’t really think about it until it happens, because I think that when you overthink it, then it’s not going to happen. You kind of have to stay in the moment.”

Canisius (29-16) is the top seed in the six-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, which opens Wednesday. The Griffs begin the double-elimination tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday against either No. 4 Rider or No. 5 Marist at the Demske Sports Complex.

The winner of the MAAC Tournament will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA softball tournament. The 64-team field will be announced at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2, and the regionals begin May 20.

Canisius aims for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009.

“That’s been the goal, this whole season,” said Giese, who was named the MAAC pitcher of the year this week.

The Golden Griffins enter the MAAC Tournament on a nine-game winning streak. Last year, Giese worked primarily as a reliever for the Griffs, who reached the championship game of the MAAC Tournament, losing 6-3 to Manhattan. Still, they were picked to finish sixth in MAAC preseason softball poll.

“I think they were slighted by that,” Griffs coach Kim Griffin said. “In that moment, that week when the preseason polls came out, they were fired up. But they’ve talked a lot about being so close last year, and they know they have the ability to get to and win the championship game. There’s always going to be nerves, but they’re going into this tournament with championship-game experience. That is definitely a driving factor for this team.”

Last season, Giese appeared in 61.1 innings over 19 games, striking out 72 batters and finishing with a 2.17 earned-run average and two shutouts. She moved into a starting role this season, and is part of a rotation that includes Williamsville North graduate Emily Nicosia and Alexis Churchill. Giese enters the MAAC Tournament with a 1.67 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 27 games, including 19 starts and 14 complete games.

Part of Giese’s success this season, she said, comes from her relationship with Griffs catcher Gianna Fazzolari, a Sacred Heart graduate and Giese’s roommate. Fazzolari, Griffin explained, understands not only Giese’s pitching tendencies, but what pitches to call, and knows when to call a timeout and address her teammate’s hesitation or over-aggressiveness.

“We have a strong relationship already, and when we play together, it’s even stronger,” Giese said. “We know each other’s tendencies. We know what we can do, and she works hard for me back there, and she doesn’t get enough credit, I don’t think, especially for things like calling a game during a no-hitter.”

Early in the season, Griffin and her coaching staff used Canisius’ pitchers in different roles, trying to figure out where each would fit best. In a four-game span from Feb. 22-26, during the Griffs’ trip to North Carolina for games against UNC-Wilmington and North Carolina Central, Giese allowed six runs on eight hits, walked two batters and struck out 24 in 18 innings, including a 10-strikeout game in the Griffs’ 8-0 win Feb. 25 against North Carolina Central.

“It didn’t take us long to figure out Megan would be a starter,” Griffin said. “We knew she was going to be in the top three, but once we got through that North Carolina trip, she just dominated teams. Then, when we went to Florida (March 18-22), she moved into the starting role.”  

That transition meant taking on a bigger workload. She’s doubled her pitching workload from 2021; she has pitched 129.2 innings this season.

“We’re getting into the playoffs, having played so many games, so it’s about going to the training room every day, making sure we get the treatment we need, so that we’re ready to go during our games, when it really counts,” Giese said.

“My teammates talked a lot about this, because they’ve been through this already. They tell you, ‘Make sure you’re taking care of your body. Know your limits and make sure you’re ready to go when it matters.’ ”

Griffin, who is in her eighth season as Canisius’ coach, has placed an emphasis on recovery and on mindfulness for her team.

“That’s the biggest thing we’ve worked through, recovery,” Griffin said. “Giving all of our players adequate recovery. It’s days off, or practices where we don’t need to go a full 2½ hours. We want to be efficient and focused in practice, and we’re going into recovery lifts instead of moving big, heavy weights like we do in the fall and winter. We’re doing more mobility, recovery and movement.

“We’re also managing going into a conference tournament and finals week, because our players have a lot on their plates right now. Any tools we can give them so that they come into the tournament with their best.”

By virtue of winning the MAAC regular-season title, the Griffs get to stay at home, rather than riding a bus to a tournament site, as well as an extra day to rest and to focus on final exams before they open the tournament Thursday.

“Days off are crucial for us right now,” Giese said. “We’ve had a long season and we’ve played a lot of games, so getting that extra day off is definitely an advantage for us, getting the extra treatment we need and getting extra reps, whether it’s hitting, fielding or whatever that is to be ready for Thursday.”

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College/high school sports enterprise reporter

I'm a college/high school sports enterprise reporter at The Buffalo News. I've worked in sports journalism since 1997 and I have covered everything from college football to the Stanley Cup playoffs, high school sports and the NCAA Tournament.

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