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Bryan Tenney asked just one thing of his Canisius baseball team before the start of Monday’s game against St. Joe’s.

“I just told the kids you keep swinging the bats. That’s what I kind of gave them as a theme – swing the bats, get your good pitches, drive the ball and that’s what they were doing,” said Tenney.

The Crusaders connected for eight hits to beat their rivals, 3-2, in the opener of the Georgetown Cup championship series at Coca-Cola Field.

Canisius (19-7) and St. Joe’s (18-8) return to the Bison ballpark today starting at 4 p.m. to play a doubleheader if necessary to complete the best-of-three series.

St. Joe’s kept it interesting to the end rallying in the bottom of the seventh. Tyler Howard and David Maher reached on back-to-back solid singles with one out. But Canisius starter Connor Ryan (7-1) struck out the last two batters looking to end the contest.

“I wasn’t worried, I was just telling them give me the ball, let me go back on the mound. I was kind of tired, I was heaving, but I just kind of battled it out,” said Ryan.

Ryan was stingy throughout, taking a one-hitter into the seventh inning and had 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth and sixth. He finished with 10 strikeouts, three walks in what was a three-hitter.

“All my pitches were working pretty well, I just had to find my spots,” said Ryan.

“When I found my spots, I just kept hammering them. My changeup wasn’t working starting off, so I kept throwing a fastball and they couldn’t hit it.”

St. Joe’s beat Canisius twice during the regular season, 9-5 in eight innings and 2-1. The Crusaders looked like they were going to avenge those losses in a big way early after they loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. But St. Joe’s starter Chris Falk got out of the jam with a flyout, strikeout and inning-ended forceout at second base.

“That can be a little deflating, and I’m sure it was a pick-me-up for St. Joe’s,” said Tenney. “Even going into the game we were like – let’s put the bat on the ball and make good contact. Don’t get down we’re going to keep tagging them.”

St. Joe’ s scored the first run of the game in the second inning after Howard drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on a two-base error.

Canisius took the lead for good in the third inning with three runs, the big hit coming on a one-run triple to the warning track from Andrew Skomas. Colin Tenney and Dan Dallas also had RBIs.

St. Joe’s made it a one-run game in the fifth when Howard drew a walk, stole second and alertly took third and home while the Canisius infield was kicking the ball around. But the offense didn’t show any real signs of life until the seventh.

St. Joe’s had the tying run on second base in the fifth inning with one out, but couldn’t push it across.

“We didn’t make enough plays, we had a tough day,” said St. Joe’s coach Paul Nasca. “Canisius played terrific, they played very well, they earned the victory, they hit the ball, their pitcher threw a heck of a game. And you know what? When you put that few hits on the board, and you make those mistakes defensively, you’re going to have some trouble – and we did.”

St. Joe’s, winners of the Georgetown Cup the past two seasons, will send Howard to the mound today. He drew two walks, singled and scored both runs on Monday.

Canisius will counter with either lefty Dallas or Richard Miller. Tenney, who is also the league chairman for baseball, explained why the teams may play two today.

“We saw that the weather was pretty iffy for Wednesday, so based upon that, if we can’t play here than where can we play?” he said.

“Actually, the Bisons are the ones who came forward with it and said hey do you want to play a doubleheader tomorrow? So I talked to coach Nasca and the ADs talked and that’s what we’re going to plan on doing.”

email: mmonnin@buffnews.com