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Minnesota Baseball: Previewing Canisius Golden Griffins Baseball

What Minnesota needs to do to beat the Golden Griffins

Christopher Mitchell / Sport Sho

Gopher Baseball takes on Canisius Friday evening to begin their quest of making it to the NCAA Super Regional. Upon hearing the regional opponents, a brief look at each of the teams was posted. But this will serve as a much deeper dive into the Golden Griffins.

Head Coach - Matt Mazurek

It is just his first year as head coach of the Golden Griffins, a stark contrast to the tenure of the man who will be across the diamond from Mazurek. The rookie skipper had spent the past 12 years as an assistant to Mike McRae and was offered the job when McRae left to take over the VCU program.

Mazurek is a graduate of Canisius.

Starting Pitcher - J.P. Stevenson

Stevenson is the best thing Canisius has going for them. The lefty absolutely dominated in his senior season after struggling with a 5.89 ERA as a junior. But the Canadian rebounded this year with a 10-1 record (11-4 team record in his starts), a 2.54 ERA and 92 strikeouts.

This becomes an interesting matchup because Minnesota has a number of lefty hitters. Terrin Vavra, Ben Mezzenga and Luke Pettersen are the team’s top 3 hitters...all lefties. As are Micah Coffey and Toby Hanson. But here’s the interesting thing, Minnesota has dominated lefties this year. The team is 15-2 against left-handed starters. And left-handed hitters Vavra and Pettersen both have been hitting lefties much better than righties. As a team the Gophers have hit .320 against lefties and .270 against right-handed pitchers.

So bring on the lefty...I guess.

In my second dive into specific numbers, I took the time to look at how Stevenson fares when facing higher quality opponents. Fortunately for my research purposes, Stevenson pitched against 3 Power 5 conference opponents and 2 more teams that rank in the top 150 RPI. His overall numbers are quite impressive, but when comparing his RPI top 150 stats to his RPI 200+ stats, it looks a little less intimidating.


opponent ERA K / 9 BB / 9 Hits / 9 Avg IP
opponent ERA K / 9 BB / 9 Hits / 9 Avg IP
RPI Top 150 2.97 7.72 3.26 6.82 6.07
RPI > 200 1.86 8.94 1.01 5.23 6.67

Of course he still managed to beat Ohio State, NC State and West Virginia; but runs can be put up on Stevenson. Particularly if team’s are patient and draw a few walks.

The Lineup

Not knowing exactly what the lineup will be, here was the starting lineup in their MAAC title game. My assumption is that this should be pretty close to what they will put out for game 1 of the regional.

  1. C - Christ Conley - .291 hitter, started 51 games. Conley is leadoff and has 50 walks on the season for an on base % of .481! Also has 7 HRs and 34 RBIs.
  2. CF - Mark McKenna - Hits .325, started 38 games.
  3. 1B - Liam Wilson - Team’s best hitter. Senior who hit .360, started 52 games, 9 HRs and led team with 52 runs scored.
  4. 3B - Ryan Stekl - .301 hitter who started 54 games. Led team with 62 RBIs and 10 HRs also led team with 44 strikeouts.
  5. DH - Gage Lanning - 33 starts, .310 average and 5 HRs.
  6. SS - Conner Morrow - .347 hitter with 50 starts on the season.
  7. 2B - Brett Migliore - I could be way off here, Migliore started at 2B in the MAAC title game but only has 16 starts on the season. Sophomore with a .169 average.
  8. RF - Canice Ejoh - leads the team with 15 SBs. Ejoh hits .238 and started 33 games.
  9. LF - John Conti - 14 starts and 51 at bats on the year with a .333 average.

There is some pop in the middle of this lineup and then there seem to be opportunities for outs in the bottom part of the order.

The Prediction

I feel pretty good about Minnesota’s chances here. Whomever Minnesota puts on the mound should have some breathing room in the latter part of the Golden Griffin’s lineup. This opponent starts quite a few seniors and should be very experienced. Fortunately, this Gopher lineup is as well.

For whatever reason this left-handed dominant hitting team fares very well against left-handed starters. Which makes me less worried about Stevenson, who has had a very good season. At this point of the season, you are always going to be facing quality pitching. Good hitting needs to win out for the Gophers.

Show some early patience at the plate to get basrunners on Stevenson and then manufacture those into runs.

I feel good about game 1.