Carrying On A Legacy
By Andrew Rumney
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2017 Holy Cross baseball team has had quite the spectacular year. After winning the Patriot League Tournament championship for the first time in program history, the Crusaders have earned their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1978 and will take on No. 1 Oregon State on Friday, June 2 at 11:00 p.m. on ESPNU. The game can also be viewed online at ESPN.com/watch or with the Watch ESPN app.
For members of the 1978 team, it is rewarding to see the Crusaders back in the NCAA Tournament. “I am very proud of what this team has accomplished,” Glenn Verrette ‘80 stated. “They have competed against some of the best programs in the country, and I am certain coach Greg DiCenzo will have them ready to compete.”
Ron Perry ‘80 made the trip to Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field for the Patriot League Championship series and was ecstatic when the Crusaders pulled out the victory. “It was great to see them win it,” said Perry. “I was thrilled for the team and for Holy Cross, and I was quite happy for coach DiCenzo. It was the product of a lot of hard work and it's exciting for all of us.”
Peter Colombo ‘79, who attended the semifinal series of the Patriot League Tournament against Army West Point, expressed his excitement for this year's team. “I'm thrilled for the team and I will be following the tournament,” said Colombo. “It's great for the school and great for the team.”
The 1978 team appeared in the NCAA Tournament defeating St. John's
The Crusaders also look to earn their first NCAA Tournament victory since the 1978 squad defeated St. John's, 5-3. The ‘78 team played exceptionally well and posted an impressive 27-14 record. “We just played together,” said Colombo. “We had great pitching, great speed and great defense. We started winning close games and people found their role.”
Perry also noted how everyone on the team played a significant part in their success. “We were a special team,” Perry stated. “We got contributions from a lot of people which was great. We had good leadership and a dedicated coaching staff. I think all of those things came together and we had fun playing.”
The tradition of success for the Holy Cross baseball team has been carried on throughout the years since the 1952 team won the College World Series. The Crusaders have made 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and have posted a 22-16 record in those games. They have also earned a bid to the College World Series four times. The 1978 team carried on that legacy when they earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and the 2017 team has secured a spot in the history books with their various achievements this season. With the continued tradition of accomplishments throughout the years, it is certain that a lot of pride is taken in representing the purple and white. “A successful athletic program creates a prideful connection,” Verrette stated. “It is one that students, alumni and friends of Holy Cross can rally around.”
Success was the story for the 1978 Crusaders baseball team and has been the story for this year's team, but it doesn't come without remarkable chemistry on the diamond. Both Verrette and Perry were sure to point out the importance of having chemistry and how it made their team special. “What made us very good was our ability to play for each other,” said Verrette. “No one wanted to let down a teammate and there was tremendous support for everyone on the team. We were very unified.”
Perry was also careful to point out how the team's chemistry set them up for success during the 1978 season. “The chemistry on that team was fantastic,” stated Perry. “We loved playing together. We won a lot of tough and close games that year and it's because we had a competitive spirit.”
Similar to the team from the late ‘70s, this year's Holy Cross baseball squad emphasized how their chemistry has propelled them to the NCAA Tournament. “The chemistry has been great all year,” senior George Capen pointed out. “This is the closest group of guys I've played with, and being able to trust them on the field when it matters is definitely really important.”
Senior Bill Schlich also feels that the team's closeness has resulted in their success this year. “It's one of the biggest factors,” said Schlich. “We're unbelievably close and without our chemistry we wouldn't be where we are today.”
The support from the alumni has not gone unnoticed by this year's student-athletes, as they all show appreciation for the encouragement they have gotten throughout the year. “The support from the alumni has been huge,” said Capen. “They have our backs 100%, and knowing that people care and are supporting us is massive.”
Senior Josh Hassell was also sure to mention the support the team has gotten. “The alumni are always so supportive,” he said. “They're sending us emails and text messages and encouraging us every day. They're always there for us.”
It is no doubt that the Crusaders would not be marked by this year's success without head coach Greg DiCenzo at the helm. DiCenzo has consistently impressed and has led the team to eight Patriot League Tournament appearances in his 10 years as the head coach. “I love what he's doing with the program,” Colombo stated. “They're playing great teams early and shooting for the stars, and I love it.” Perry has also acknowledges DiCenzo's hard work leading the team. “I saw a change when he came to the program,” said Perry of coach DiCenzo. “They're competitive, doing well in the league, and getting better each year.”
Coach DiCenzo, who has coached the team since 2008, feels very grateful for all the support he and the team have received. “Our alumni have been awesome,” said DiCenzo. “The guys that have worn this uniform have become some of my best friends in baseball and in life, and to me that's everything. For those guys to be so happy and so proud makes it all worthwhile. That's why I coach here. They bleed purple and that's what it's about.”
The Crusaders have impressed throughout the season with superior play and an effective attitude, and they have reached historic measures because of it. Being the first team to reach the NCAA Tournament in 39 years was a result of hard work and has come with a lot of good words from coach DiCenzo. “I'm just so happy for our guys,” said DiCenzo. “They compete their tails off every day and that's really what it's been about. For me, it's taking a step back and letting them compete. They've persevered, they're tenacious and they're resilient more than any other team I've had.”
Perseverance, hard work, team chemistry and pride are distinct qualities that have defined Holy Cross baseball throughout the years. The 2017 team has consistently represented all it means to be a Crusader as they continue the legacy left behind by past teams. As coach DiCenzo leads the team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since coach John Whalen, he highlights the most important aspect of being the head coach of Crusader baseball. “I coach here for that logo on the front of the jersey and what it means for everybody that wears it,” he said. “And our guys understand that.”
Be sure to not miss the Crusaders take on Oregon State in the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 39 years on Friday, June 2 at 11:00 p.m. on ESPNU. The game can also be viewed online at ESPN.com/watch or with the Watch ESPN app. Oregon State is currently the No. 1-ranked team in the nation by D1Baseball.com. The other two teams selected to the Corvallis Regional were No. 21 Nebraska and Yale.
The first round of the tournament features a double elimination format, with one team from each of the 16 regionals advancing to the super regionals.
Vote Critelli for Senior CLASS Award
Senior first baseman Anthony Critelli was one of 10 student-athletes in the nation to be named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors a student-athlete who demonstrates notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
Click here to read his announcement as a finalist.