BUFFALO, N.Y.-In a few months, Canisius' Connor Ryan and St. Francis' Matthew Minnick will be college teammates. For now, however, they will continue to be league rivals in opposite dugouts.
While the starting pitcher for Canisius has yet to be announced, St. Francis head coach Paul Bartell is "90 percent sure" Minnick will get the start for the Red Raiders as they take on Canisius in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association semifinals on Tuesday for the right to advance to the Georgetown Cup.
Either way, it will most likely be the last time Ryan and Minnick are on different teams, as two of the better pitchers in the MMAA will both play for Division II Mercyhurst after graduation.
If Minnick does in fact take the mound for St. Francis, he may have his hands full.
"We're pretty diversified," Canisius head coach Bryan Tenney said. "John Conti starts things for us. He has great speed on the bases and in the field. He's a great contact hitter."
Tenney also said Richard Miller provides a big bat, and seventh hitter Andrew Skomra "provides a real spark in the batting order."
Bartell gave credit to Canisius' defense and pitching, and said the Red Raiders need to cash in on any opportunities they have.
Ryan Stefaniak, returning second team All-Western New York, leads St. Francis in hits (17) and stolen bases (8). Catcher Tom Anderson has been performing well at the plate lately, hitting .381.
Defensively, Steve Mazzone has patrolled the middle of the field admirably, Bartell said.
St. Francis will try to change the ending to this matchup after losing both regular season games against Canisius, 5-2 and 4-1.
"The games against Canisius have been tough," Bartell said. "We necessarily haven't really improved since we last played them, since we actually out hit them in one of the games. It's just about swinging the bats."
This past season has been tough for every sports team in Western New York. The spring weather has caused erratic scheduling, but every team has had to fight through it.
"We can't find any continuity," Bartell said. "The more we play, the better we are. Lately, we have had so much time between games, so this game will be interesting."
Similar to Bartell, Tenney said putting the bat on the ball and making St. Francis earn its outs is important, but playing a clean game is imperative.
"I tell all the kids this time of year, 'We're done teaching everything,'" Tenney said. "'Just play smart and don't make errors. Whoever plays smart baseball will probably win the game.'"
Bartell echoed that statement.
"The team that makes the least mistakes, errors and walks will win," he said. "We need to capitalize on opportunities and get guys on base. It will be a close game."
Game time is 4:30 pm Tuesday at Delaware Park.