In winningest baseball season, Niagara cleans up MAAC awards

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The winningest season in team history has put Niagara University’s baseball team among the favored contenders in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference playoffs and landed the Purple Eagles an armful of awards.

Niagara’s head coach Rob McCoy during the first game of an NCAA college double header baseball game, against Siena Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Loudonville, N.Y. Siena won 17-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Among six Niagara players receiving All-MAAC accolades, first baseman Eric Rataczak was named MAAC Player of the Year, and Zach Cameron was selected as MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year, the league office announced this week. In addition, skipper Rob McCoy earned MAAC Coach of the Year honors for the first time in his 16 seasons leading the Purple Eagles dugout.

Niagara begins the postseason with a 35-15 record, setting the program record for wins, and claimed a share of the MAAC regular season title at 20-4 in conference play. Over the past decade, only three teams have achieved 20 or more victories in a 24-game MAAC schedule.

Rataczak, a redshirt junior from Circle Pines, Minnesota who played for University of San Diego and Arizona Western before transferring to Niagara, led the MAAC and ranks in the top 20 nationally with a .400 batting average. His 15 home runs are one away from the school record set last season by Max Giordano, and Rataczak has set a Niagara record with 65 runs batted in.

The only unanimous selection to the All-MAAC team, Rataczak is the MAAC Player of the Year from Niagara since 2018 when the award went to Greg Cullen, who would be drafted in the 15th round by the Atlanta Braves and is currently playing for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in the Baltimore Orioles farm system.

Cameron is the first Purple Eagle to win MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year. The graduate student right-hander from Hamilton, Ontario leads the MAAC with 10 saves in is second in the league with eight pitching wins. Both figures are tied for school records. Cameron’s 25 career saves are a Niagara record.

Outfielders Nick Groves and Nick Monile and pitcher Ryan Minckler were second team All-MAAC selections with Cameron, and catcher Rees Kozar joined Monile on the All-MAAC Rookie Team. Niagara has not had this many All-MAAC selections since the 2006 season.

McCoy, who enters the MAAC playoffs with 296 career victories, is the first MAAC Coach of the Year pick from Niagara since Mike McRae in 2003.

As the No. 2 seed in the double-elimination MAAC playoffs, Niagara plays No. 3-seed Rider at 3 p.m. Thursday at Clover Stadium in Ponoma.

No. 5-seed Canisius, with West Seneca native Jackson Strong making the All-MAAC team as an outfielder, lost 3-1 against No. 4-seed Mount St. Mary’s and will play an elimination game against No. 6-seed Marist on Wednesday night.


Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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