Game three – Win or go home. The victor between the Marist Red Foxes and the Canisius Golden Griffins would earn the right to face off against the best team in the MAAC: Fairfield. In a wild quarterfinal game, the Red Foxes lost a heartbreaker 10-7, eliminating them from the MAAC tournament and ending their season.
The long ball played a critical role in this game for both sides, with the first inning immediately getting things off to a riveting start. Graduate student Tyler Kapuscinski, who was named All-MAAC First Team, hit a leadoff home run on the second pitch of the game to give the Red Foxes the early lead. This was followed by another solo home run off the bat of junior left fielder Brian Hart later in the inning.
“He’s [Kapuscinski] one of the best players in our program’s history. And nobody I trust up at bat more than him,” head coach Chris Tracz said. “He’s as clutch as they come.”
Marist held a three-run lead entering the third inning, however sophomore Jack Keenan had trouble putting away the Canisius hitters during his second time through the order. After allowing one run earlier in the frame, he loaded the bases with just one out. The southpaw struck out senior Jacob Martin to get the second out of the inning, but with a 3-1 count on redshirt junior Mike Mazzara, the catcher blasted a booming grand slam to left field to give the Golden Griffins a 5-3 lead.
“Jack has the ability to get guys off the barrel. He just left one over the middle of the plate and got beat,” Tracz said.
With the demoralizing hit only taking place in the third inning, the Red Foxes had plenty of time to recover. After a couple of lifeless innings offensively, the Marist bats reemerged in the sixth. Sophomore Dylan Hoy, who reached base four times, jump-started the inning with a single, followed by a walk and a run-scoring single by Kapuscinski. Then, with two runners on, Hart slashed a ball down the right-field line for a two-run triple to take back the lead.
“He [Hart] did a really good job today at being on the barrel and being on time,” Tracz said. “Brian can really really hit and he showed that.”
Football is usually the sport referred to as the game of inches, but on Friday, this theme was prevalent in this quarterfinal baseball game. In the seventh inning, Canisius hit a pop fly single after Hoy lost the ball in the sun, scored a run on a line drive to right field that redshirt senior Matt Rubayo just barely missed on a sliding attempt, and hit multiple ground balls that snuck through the infield to score three runs in the inning.
“It was a little bit self-inflicted – it’s just kind of tough luck,” Tracz said. “We had struggled at times to keep the big inning under control. And this was another one that kind of jumped on us.”
Marist attempted to make another rally in the eighth inning. The Red Foxes were able to plate one run to cut the deficit to two thanks to some clutch two-out hitting by the middle of their lineup. However, the bench was upset with the home plate umpires’ strike zone after Marist had multiple borderline pitches called against them.
“It’s kind of just part of baseball, you agree with some and you don’t with others, but overall those guys did a great job this weekend,” Tracz said.
After Canisius tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Marist had one more opportunity to try and stimulate a comeback attempt. But after graduate student Ben McNeill singled, the Red Foxes met their end in one of the most crushing ways possible. Kapuscinski, one of the best players of the day, lined into a game-ending double play at first base.
It was not the ideal way the Red Foxes envisioned their season-ending, but considering all the hardships this team had to endure throughout the year, it was a successful season.
“I really believe what they went through and how we responded in the last month and a half has been pretty special. I just told them I loved them and appreciated their work to keep the program together.”
A bittersweet end for all the players and coaches who gave their all in this pandemic plagued year.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics