Trenton, NJ - Senior co-captain Justin Brantley hit Jose Torralba with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, sending Canisius to a walk-off 12-11 win and its first MAAC Championship Sunday here in Trenton. Siena
had rallied from a 10-3 deficit in the seventh, improbably tying the game on Larry Balkwill’s two-out, two-run home run in the top of the ninth.
“Obviously, a really tough loss that will take some time to get over,” Siena
coach Tony Rossi said. “I’m really proud of the way we battled though. The kids never gave up.”
Balkwill, who also tied yesterday’s wild extra-inning win over Rider with two outs in the ninth, was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Mike Allen (11-for-16, 7 RBI) and Andres Ortiz (7-for-19, 2 HR).
After Canisius took a 10-3 lead with five runs in the sixth, the Saints sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh, and scored six times to pull within a single run.
Connor Panas made it 11-9 with an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, but Brantley got Mike Kirsche to ground into an inning-ending double play in the eighth to set the stage for Balkwill’s heroics.
Ortiz worked a one-out walk in the ninth, but two-time MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year Jon Fitzsimmons struck out MAAC Player of the Year Mike Fish to move Canisius within an out of the title.
Balkwill’s homer was a towering blast off the auxiliary scoreboard in left centerfield that set off a chaotic celebration as the Siena dugout emptied onto the field.
Fitzsimmons, who had allowed just one earned run in 19 appearances all season, recovered to strikeout Brian Fay, and his teammates picked him up in a big way.
Brantley walked Ryan Coppinger to lead-off the bottom of the ninth, but then got Jimmy Luppens to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Brooklyn Foster walked to begin the decisive rally, Panas singled, and Tournament MVP Jesse Puscheck walked to load the bases for Torralba.
The final pitch of the game was a 2-2 fastball that sailed high and tight, hitting Torralba in his left shoulder. The junior threw his hands in the air, and Canisius charged the field to claim its elusive Championship. The majority of Siena’s team stood frozen in their positions, staring in stunned disbelief at their season’s sudden end.
Panas went 4-for-5 with three RBI, Torralba finished 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs, and Puscheck’s two-run homer in the third staked Canisius to an early 5-0 lead.
Allen completed his monster weekend with a 4-for-4 effort Sunday. He drove in three runs, as did Balkwill, who ended his career with a 2-for-5 game that included one of the biggest hits in program history.
John Rooney hit .533 (8-for-15) in the Tournament, and had two of the Saints 16 hits Sunday. The junior co-captain will play a big role if Siena hopes to take the next step next season and capture its first MAAC title since 1999.