November 9, 2010

Summer Catch

By Katie Nugent
Special to goholycross.com

As the Crusaders wrap up the fall baseball season and look towards the 2011 season, summer could not seem further away. However, it was just a couple of months ago that senior outfielders Jack Laurendeau (Sudbury, Mass.) and Nick Ciardiello (Edison, N.J.) and junior pitcher Nate Koneski (North Dighton, Mass.) were representing Holy Cross in summer baseball leagues across the country.

"The experience of a lifetime," Laurendeau says about his summer playing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League. Laurendeau played for the Oahu Paddlers, one of the six teams in the league. Living at the University of Hawaii and playing daily games against college athletes from across the United States is what Jack describes as "two months of paradise." Laurendeau was in good company with Ciardiello also playing for the Paddlers this summer. Both Laurendeau and Ciardiello followed in the footsteps of former Crusader Tim Hughes `09, who had played for the Hawaiian league during his junior summer as well. 

Laurendeau emerged as one the top offensive players for the Paddlers, a team that consisted of athletes from some of the strongest collegiate baseball programs - including University of Southern California, University of Oregon, and University of Texas. He batted an outstanding .343 average over the course of the season, leading the team. He remembers his walk-off hit in the last regular season game that clinched the Paddlers' number one seed in the playoffs as one of his most memorable moments from the summer. And he especially enjoyed a baseball schedule without the pressures of school. "It's just you and the game," said Laurendeau. "All I needed to worry about was winning."

Ciardiello was also a familiar face in the Paddlers lineup, playing mainly as an outfielder along with Laurendeau. Starting in 31 of 32 games, Ciardiello tabbed a .230 batting average, collecting 23 hits, including five doubles and 11 RBI. One of his best games came when the team needed him the most, as he went 2-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two RBI in a crucial game of the HCBL Championship Tournament.

"It was the perfect way to spend my last collegiate summer," says Laurendeau as he reflects on his four years at the Cross. Holy Cross was an easy choice for him, who loved the balance between athletics and academics that Holy Cross offered and who also wanted to carry on his family legacy. Laurendeau's father graduated from Holy Cross in `79 and was a member of the Holy Cross football team. After Holy Cross, the economics major's future is bright. He plans on working in the financial services industry. As he begins to imagine his life away from Mount Saint James, he says, "I will miss my teammates, coaches, and all the support I've gotten from the Holy Cross community." 

While Laurendeau and Ciardiello were in Hawaii, Koneski was playing closer to home for the Falmouth Commodores, a team in the elite Cape Cod League. Koneski was invited back this year to play, after Holy Cross head coach Greg DiCenzo had set him up with the opportunity the previous year. He joins the list of elite Holy Cross players in the Cape Cod League, including former player Matt Perry `10, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 2010 draft.

"It's a fun way to spend the summer, but definitely required hard work to keep up with my teammates," says Koneski, who played with athletes from some of the best collegiate baseball programs in the country - University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and University of Florida to name a few. He recalls his first game of the year, "I was nervous because coming from a small school people don't expect much," said Koneski. However, he was able to pitch well, giving him the confidence he needed for the rest of the summer. His overall record was impressive,playing in nine games and finishing the season with a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings of work ERA and . Although the chemistry major still has two years left to play at Holy Cross, his dream is to play professional baseball after graduation.

Although the group had different summer baseball experiences, their strong performances will hopefully carry into the 2011 season, as they all have high hopes for the spring. "I'm hopeful that I can carry over my success from the summer into the spring season," says Koneski. Laurendeau remembers last year's devastating end to the season, a loss on their home field in the Patriot League Championship, and said, "that's the motivation for this season."