Feb. 15, 2007
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2007 Holy Cross baseball team returns 24 players and welcomes eight newcomers to a team that will be led by an experienced group of 10 seniors. "This is the biggest senior class we've had since I've been here and we expect that their experience and seasoning will pay dividends through our season and especially when we get into conference play," said third year head coach Craig Najarian. "I expect our seniors to be outstanding leaders and examples to the rest of our program both on and off the field."
These seniors are Jamie Aldrich, Kevin Beglane, Matt Blake, Scott Hampe, Mike Miller, Rob Oteri, Matt Perron, Norm Roth, Patrick Rutherford and Andrew Tenaglia. "We feel that one of our biggest strengths is our overall team depth especially on the mound," said Najarian. "We have a great core of younger players who saw a lot of playing time last year and will be counted on to step up and assume major roles within our program."
With the all important Patriot League season consisting of five four-game weekend series, Najarian stresses to his team the importance of playing hard and consistent every day. "There is a lot of parity in the Patriot League so any team can emerge and win the championship," said Najarian. "The winner will be the team who plays the most consistent baseball and that is what we preach to our team. You can't play at different levels and expect to be successful. We need to be better at three things: limiting our walks on the mound; our strikeouts at the plate and we need to be consistent game to game. If we can do those three things there's no reason why we shouldn't be right in the mix for the playoffs."
The Crusaders will prepare for Patriot league action by playing in three game series with Lamar, Duke and Central Connecticut early in the season. "That schedule is by design," said Najarian. "We expect our experience playing in these series will help prepare us for what lies ahead in conference play."
Another key factor in preparing for conference play will be playing teams like Lamar Duke, Campbell and Davidson. "We're going to be able to stretch out our season, get to some warm weather and play some great teams," said Najarian. "That's going to simply make us a better program."
Seniors Matt Blake and Norm Roth will be co-captains as they both bring strong leadership abilities to the team. "They both have outstanding qualities," said Najarian. "Matt's work ethic is tremendous and I think that rubs off on the younger pitchers we have on our staff. Norm's an outstanding competitor who leads by example every single day."
Junior Kyle Lister is expected to see playing time at first base and be productive at the plate as he is coming off a season which saw him hit two home runs and drive in 18 runs. Sophomore Tyler Stampone, who was the first Crusader in the program's history to be named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, will move from third base to second base where he played all through out high school. A member of the All-Patriot League second team, he started 32 of the 35 games he played in last season, posting a .285 batting average with a home run and 16 runs batted in.
Sophomore shortstop Jake Gorman was named to the All-Patriot League second team last season as he started 17 of the 24 games he played in and totaled 19 hits and 15 runs batted in. Senior Andrew Tenaglia will move from first base to third base as last season he made 27 starts at first base. "Andrew is a former quarterback and has always been a terrific athlete," said Najarian. "Because he's got excellent hands and a strong arm we expect the transition to be a smooth one."
The Crusaders have three senior outfielders in Jamie Aldrich, Norm Roth and Matt Perron that all bring experience and speed to the outfield. Aldrich will be the lead off hitter and is Holy Cross' biggest stealing threat as he led the team in stolen bases last season. He is expected to have a big year offensively as he is coming off a year that saw him rank third on the team in hits (45) and runs scored (25), while he finished fourth in batting average (.306).
Roth received the Ray Dobens Award for the most improved player on the team last season as he played in 39 games with 38 starts. He led the team in runs scored (32), ranked second on the team in hits (46) and doubles (9), and finished third in batting average (.319) and on base percentage (.380). Perron is an outstanding defensive player with a lot of speed who brings a lot of flexibility to the outfield in that he can play all three positions.
Junior catcher Brendan Akashian is expected to have a big season both behind the plate and offensively as he comes back from an injury that occurred last season. In just 17 games last year he hit .333 with 18 hits, four doubles, one triple, one home run and 12 RBI. His .333 batting average ranked second on the team.
Holy Cross' six senior pitchers, Kevin Beglane, Matt Blake, Scott Hampe, Mike Miller, Rob Oteri and Patrick Rutherford, lead a very deep pitching staff of 16. All six pitchers bring solid collegiate experience and have the ability to pitch as a starter or out of the bull pen.
Junior Matt O'Brien, junior Mike Thater, junior Tim Thran, sophomore Ryan Anderson, sophomore Dan Seip, and freshmen Bobby Holmes, Ryan George, Matt Shapiro, Tom Arrigg and Chris Blanchard all add to the outstanding depth which makes the pitching staff an expected strength of the team.
The Crusaders are set to begin the season on February 17-18, when they travel to Beaumont, Texas, to face Lamar in a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday. The Crusaders will then make a trip to North Carolina to take on Duke (March 3-4), Campbell (March 5-6) and Davidson (March 7-8). Holy Cross will return to Worcester to play nine of its next 12 games at home as the home opener will be against cross-town rival Assumption on March 14 at Fitton Field. After a doubleheader at Central Connecticut on March 17, the two teams will play a single game at Fitton Field on March 18. The Crusaders then play a home game versus Siena (March 21), a home-and-home series with Quinnipiac (March 24-25) and then a game against Boston College (March 28).
Holy Cross kicks off Patriot League action when it hosts Navy (March 31-April 1) in two doubleheaders. After two away non-conference contests versus Massachusetts (April 3) and Harvard (April 4), the Crusaders will host Lehigh (April 7-8) for four games. Holy Cross will then hit the road for six games with meetings with Northeastern (April 10), Hartford (April 11) and doubleheaders with Army (April 14-15).
Dartmouth (April 18) will travel to Worcester for a game, while the Crusaders host Bucknell (April 21-22) for four games and a doubleheader with Brown (April 25). Holy Cross then concludes regular season action with doubleheaders at Lafayette (April 28-29) and another meeting with Assumption (May 1) at Fitton Field.
The Patriot League Tournament is slated for May 12-13.