By Emily Iannaconi
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 13 senior baseball student-athletes in the class of 2017 have seen it all. After not making the Patriot League Tournament during their freshman year, the class advanced to the semifinals during their sophomore year and played in the Patriot League Championship last year as juniors. They therefore have invaluable experience that will help them pursue their ultimate goal of winning a Patriot League Tournament championship, which starts on Saturday, May 13 in a best two-out-of-three semifinal series against Army West Point at home at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field at 11:00 a.m.
PURSUING A CHAMPIONSHIP
Beyond the home runs hit and strikeouts thrown, the class of 2017 wants to be remembered for winning when it counts the most. Pitcher George Capen specifically noted the importance of winning. “I hope that our legacy is to be the first senior class to win a Patriot League championship,” said Capen. “There have been a few groups that have come close to that goal and I think that we have all of the right pieces to be the class that finally breaks that barrier.”
Fellow pitcher Joe Cravero similarly believes that the idea of bringing a trophy back to Mount St. James has kept the class focused and motivated. “We have set winning a Patriot League championship as our one goal and let individual statistics, awards and accolades be secondary,” said Cravero. “The guys in our class have worked extremely hard but the focus has always been on helping the team win rather than individual success.”
Pitcher Christian Doughty knows that the team has what it takes to win because of the perseverance they have exhibited as a class over the past four years. “I think we all really appreciate how we stick together through thick and thin,” said Doughty. “I, as well as others, learned how to deal with the successes just as humbly as losses. When you face new challenges, you learn how to become the best version of yourself for those around you.”
13 IS THE LUCKY NUMBER
The senior class is particularly unique because there are 13 of them in total. Head coach, Greg DiCenzo knows that he has a talented group of leaders on the team. "It has been such a pleasure to work with a close-knit group of individuals that are truly committed to each other, to the baseball program and to the College as a whole,” said DiCenzo. “Each of these individuals chose to carry the Holy Cross tradition of excellence both in the classroom and on the field of play...doing so with the utmost passion, determination and resilience."
Each team member has played their own designated role on the team that has helped lead to their overall success. Pitcher Zach Fox understands how helpful it has been to have a large senior class. “There are a ton of seniors, so I think that has made us all find our own roles on the team both as players and as leaders,” said Fox. “It has given us a chance to each take care of our job on the team and then to hold the rest of the team accountable for doing what they need to do to accomplish our goals as a team.”
Pitcher Ben White notes that the class is special because of their desire to improve. “Each guy in the senior class comes to the yard everyday with the goal of bettering themselves and our teammates,” said White.
Pitcher Phil Reese believes that the trust that each guy has for each other off the baseball diamond helps lead to wins on the field. “A big key to our success as a class has been chemistry,” explained Reese. “We are a big class and all have become really close with one another over the four years on the team. Guys can rely on each other and aren't afraid to push each other to be better.”
Throughout their four years, the senior class has shared many special moments together that have helped to define their time on the Hill. Outfielder Bill Schlich identified two exciting wins over Mississippi State. “We beat a highly ranked Mississippi State team in our opening weekend three years ago in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 people,”said Schlich. “That was probably my most memorable.”
Pitcher Brendan King agreed that the wins over Mississippi State have always stuck out in his mind. “Our most memorable win for me was beating Mississippi State 7-6 our freshman year,” said King. “It was a great win where we made a big comeback in the late innings.”
The memories do not stop there, as other players on the team have each had their own unique favorite moments on the baseball field. For catcher Alex Voitik, the opportunity to practice at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. is something that he will not forget. “We were able to see the awesome facilities, as well as meet Pedro Martinez,” said Voitik. “It was a wonderful experience and getting to practice on a replica Fenway Park made it that much better.”
Outfielder Josh Hassell noted that the win against Navy from just this season will always stick out to him. “It was a high scoring game with Cam O'Neill hitting the go-ahead three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth,” explained Hassell. “Our whole dugout went crazy as it was a huge moment so we could split the series.”
ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT
This senior class that has seen it all has some words of wisdom for incoming freshmen as they prepare to leave the Holy Cross baseball program.
Pitcher Jon Escobar has learned to always appreciate the little moments. “Often times we get so locked in on the world around us that we forget to step back and take everything in,”said Escobar. “Over the last four years I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. As it all winds down though, it has been imperative for me to take it all in and enjoy every little moment.”
Spending time with friends is also something that pitcher Justin Finan will miss after he leaves Holy Cross. He encourages incoming freshmen to never take their time playing baseball together for granted. “I'm realizing that this is the only time in my life where I'll be able to live within a few feet of all my best friends,” said Finan. “Going to such a small school you get to know a lot of people really well and you get accustomed to seeing them every day, which is something I will definitely miss after I graduate.”
First baseman Anthony Critelli also knows that the time spent wearing the purple Crusader uniform will fly by quickly. “For incoming freshmen, I would tell them to make the most of every minute,” said Critelli. “These will be some of the best times of your life, so make sure to enjoy it as best you can.”
All of the big wins combined with the small moments have led to four years of baseball that the senior class will never forget. As they prepare to throw some of their last pitches, field their final plays and take their last at bats, they will make sure to soak in every moment.
Their time as Crusaders is winding down, but this senior class is not done yet as they look to lead their team to victory this weekend when they take on Army West Point in the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament. Go here to watch on the Patriot League Network.
Critelli was one of 10 student-athletes in the nation to be named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. He was announced as one of the 30 original candidates for the award in March. Click here to vote for Critelli on the Senior CLASS Award Website.