A pair of pitching gems lifted a pair of old rivals into the Georgetown Cup championship series.
Senior Matt Matre tossed a two-hit shutout as St Joe’s knocked off red-hot St. Francis, 1-0, and sophomore Richard Miller countered with his own five-hitter for Canisius in a 2-1 win over regular-season champion St. Mary’s of Lancaster before an estimated 500 at the Northtown Center on Saturday.
The defending champion Mauraders and Crusaders, each with 17 wins, will renew their rivalry beginning with Game One of the best-of-three series on Tuesday at Coca-Cola Field. Canisius won both regular-season meetings, 7-5 and 6-2.
Matre, a power-throwing right-hander that has signed with Canisius College, has the Red Raiders’ number this season, winning all three matchups. He was particularly dominant in this one, notching nine strikeouts against a team that had won 14 straight games coming into the contest.
“He’s only give up six hits all year in three starts against St. Francis,” St. Joe’s coach Paul Nasca said. “That’s why he’s our horse, no doubt about it. And today he was absolutely fantastic.”
The Red Raiders’ biggest threat came in the top of the seventh inning when Matt Unger led off with a walk. Thomas Anderson-Distefano laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Unger to second before Drew Bassini smoked a low liner toward right field. Out of nowhere, though, St. Joe’s second baseman Jared Baldinelli, a St. Bonaventure signee, dove and snagged the one-hopper before throwing Bassini out at first. That stopped Unger at third base and allowed Matre to get Adam Gora to pop up for the game’s final out.
“If Jared doesn’t make that play, there’s probably a play at the plate and who knows what happens,” Matre said.
Nasca added, “I’ve hit fungos for the last four years to,” Baldinelli, “and I’ve seen him make that same play 1,000 times. It was a game-saving play by a special kid.”
The only offense the Maruaders would need against hard-luck loser Andrew Krakowski came back in the second inning when University at Buffalo-bound Donny Killian led off with a walk. He took second on a passed ball and then third on a wild pitch. Ultimately, Killian would score on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Matt Ruggiero.
Meanwhile in the opening game, Miller led a gutsy effort by the Crusaders, who trailed, 1-0, heading into the sixth inning. Kyle Liszewski led off the frame with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Jack Trotman. Miller then ripped a double into deep center, scoring Liszewski and tying the game, 1-1.
Two batters later, after Miller had stolen third base, John Conti’s perfectly-placed single drove home the hurler and gave Canisius the lead. From there, Miller seemed to get stronger, retiring the Lancers in order the final two innings. The right-hander finished with eight strikeouts, several of which came courtesy of a nasty breaking ball.
“Once we got the lead, I didn’t want to be the guy to lose it,” Miller said. “I got pretty pumped up and had a little more life on my fastball those last two innings.”
Crusaders coach Bryan Tenney said the win shows just how competitive the Monsignor Martin was this spring.
“We were the underdog by record, but we went into that last game with a chance to tie for first,” he said. “That left us with a little chip and also the confidence knowing that we could play with anybody. These kids have really bought into the team concept and rallied around each other.”
Lucas Schaefer took the loss for St. Mary’s, whose only offense came in the fifth when Brett Helmbrecht singled in Schaefer.