BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb plated two runs in the first and used strong defense to lead from start to finish in a 5-3 win over Canisius Friday afternoon at Varsity Field.
The Diamond ‘Dogs (3-5) won their second in a row, and used sharp glovework and arms to keep the visitors down for much of the day. The game marked just the second time this season that GWU had not committed an error – with the other coming in a 1-0, 12-inning heartbreaker to Maryland on Feb. 10.
Starting pitcher Nate MacDonald (1-0) threw hard on Friday, but was wild, walking four and hitting a pair of batters. The lone run MacDonald allowed came on a wild pitch in the top of the second, as he hung zeros until leaving after 6.0 complete.
The Raleigh, N.C., senior, a converted catcher making just his fourth career mound start, scattered four hits and fanned three in the victory.
Wes Cogdill came on two work the final 3.0 innings for his first career save.
Gardner-Webb went up 2-0 in the first by using its legs. Brock Miller was plunked, Joey Testa singled up the middle and Jamaal Kinard easily beat out an infield bunt single to load the bases. Miller darted home for the game’s first run on a double play groundout, and Josh Drewery followed with a sharp RBI single to right to plate Testa for an early cushion.
MacDonald’s wild pitch gave Canisius (0-4) its first run in the top of the second, but the Griffins would not score again until the eighth. Kinard – the Bulldogs’ strong-armed right fielder – gunned down a pair of Griffins at the plate to keep MacDonald’s early control problems off the scoreboard.
Canisius starter Alex MacKenzie kept GWU’s bats cool with an array of offspeed pitches, but Testa put GWU up 3-1 in the third after belting a two-out triple to right, and scoring on a wild pitch.
Neither team would score again until the Griffins plated a run, using an infield hit, a wild pitch and a two-out hit by Perry Silverman to cut the lead to 3-2.
Gardner-Webb went to its speed game again to add its final cushion. A Jeremiah Lokken single and a Matt Rizzuto walk got GWU back in business in the bottom of the eighth, with the pair advancing a base each on a sacrifice bunt by Shea Harris. Lokken stole home for the Bulldogs’ fourth run, and Miller provided a nicely placed squeeze bunt to drive in Rizzuto for a 5-2 margin.
Canisius got its final run in the ninth, with Cogdill experiencing a brief bout with bad control. A one-out walk, a single and a passed ball allowed Connor Burke to cross the plate – before Cogdill got a lazy pop up to second and a ground ball to end the game.
Testa led Gardner-Webb’s six-hit offense with a pair of safeties, going 2-for-4 at the plate. Canisius managed seven hits on the day, with Silverman and Branson Joseph each collecting a pair.
MacKenzie (0-2) was saddled with the loss, allowing five earned runs and six hits through 7.0 complete. Mike Bax worked the rest of the eighth inning for the Griffins.
Gardner-Webb and Canisius will tangle in a doubleheader on Saturday, with the opener set for a 12 noon start. That twinbill will wrap up the series, with the Diamond ‘Dogs set to travel to top-ranked North Carolina on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 27.