October 24, 2013

Holy Cross Baseball World Series Connection

By Jim Sarkisian
Special to GoHolyCross.com 

Tonight, the Boston Red Sox will look to go up two games to none over the St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of the 2013 World Series. In order to grab the 2-0 series lead, the Red Sox will have to face 22-year old St. Louis righty Michael Wacha, who was drafted 19th in the 2012 MLB amateur baseball draft. The young prospect came to the Cardinals after a stellar career at Texas A&M and with being so young, no Red Sox batter has ever faced him.  

Go back to February 24, 2012. Then Holy Cross freshman outfielder, Evan Ocello (Camarillo, Calif.) was playing in his first collegiate baseball game and toeing the rubber for the opposing team was Texas A&M's ace, Wacha. After flying out in his first career at-bat, the Holy Cross right fielder was not fazed the next time he went to the plate.

"I remember the atmosphere and what it was like to play at Texas A&M in my first career game," Ocello said. "I went up with the approach to hit the ball hard and hit it to left center."

And that is exactly what he did in his second at bat. Ocello drove the ball into the left center gap for his first career base-knock and one of only two hits Holy Cross had off the righty. Wacha pitched seven scoreless frames versus the Crusaders and struck out 11 batters. He would not earn the victory, however, as the Crusaders rallied in the ninth inning to force extra innings. The Aggies, however, pushed a run across in the 11th to claim the 3-2 victory.

Holy Cross head baseball coach Greg DiCenzo saw Wacha's ability first hand that evening and knew that he was a special player.

"You could tell that Wacha had the "stuff" to climb the professional baseball ladder at an incredible rate," DiCenzo said. "However, I do not believe that anyone expected these types of performances with such regularity, except for maybe Wacha himself. That is the beauty of this sport. If you get hot at the right time, you have the opportunity to beat the best no matter how old you are. It is always exciting to see a young player advance at such a rapid pace."

Dicenzo, also thinks that the Red Sox will face a similar pitcher tonight that Holy Cross saw back in February of 2012.

"As for the type of pitcher he has become, he's not much different than what we saw less than two years ago," Dicenzo said. "He has a hard and heavy fastball with a very good change-up. He reminded us a lot of Kevin Gausman (LSU/Baltimore Orioles), who is a physical pitcher that we would need to attack early in the count if we were to have any success against. Although Wacha did not pick up the win against us, he is one of those rare pitchers that you knew (barring injury) would be pitching at the big league level."

"It's awesome to see Wacha pitching in the big leagues and doing so well," Ocello said. "It's cool to think that a couple of us got to face him less than two years ago."

Tonight the Red Sox will have a tough task to push this series to 2-0 and DiCenzo wishes for a different outcome than they had against Wacha in 2012.

"Let's hope the Sox can be a little better than our 11 strikeouts and two hits against Wacha," DiCenzo said.