Feb. 26, 2009
By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross baseball team enters the 2009 season, looking to continue its strong performance from a year ago. Returning at the helm is second-year head coach Greg DiCenzo, whose first season went a long way towards reestablishing the traditions of Holy Cross baseball.
DiCenzo's success as a coach earned him the Patriot League Coach of the Year award, becoming the second baseball coach at Holy Cross to receive the honor in his debut season. DiCenzo led Holy Cross to a 21-28 record in 2008, the first 20-win season since 1980 and an appearance in the Patriot League tournament. The tournament appearance was the third for Holy Cross since joining the league in 1990.
"I think there is a level of excitement that has not been seen in the program in a long time," said DiCenzo. "If you see where the program is heading, it is because of the players. Their hard work is what is going to get Holy Cross to a new level. The biggest goal for us is to get the players to buy into it, and they have. It's been a real welcome sight."
Holy Cross returns 20 letterwinners from the 2008 season, including seniors Billy Cupelo, Jake Gorman, Tim Hughes and Dan Seip. Gorman and Seip as well as junior John Sills have been named this year's tri-captains. The Crusaders also welcome eight newcomers to the team this year.
All of Holy
Cross's starting infield is back this season, showing great promise
to continue the Crusaders' successful defense.
Sophomore infielder Eric Oxford returns to his role as the starter at first base. Appearing in 49 games and making 38 starts last year, Oxford offensively led Holy Cross with a .325 batting average while finishing his freshman season with 154 at bats, 50 hits, 25 RBIs, 16 runs scored, 13 doubles and one triple. Defensively, Oxford closed out the season with a .990 fielding percentage.
Making 41 starts last season, tri-captain Jake Gorman returns as Holy Cross' starting second baseman. He finished last season batting .270 with 148 at bats, 40 hits, a team-high 36 runs scored, 14 doubles, three triples and tied for first on the team in home runs with five. He also drove in 75 runs for the Crusaders. At the end of the season, Gorman finished with a .972 fielding percentage.
Sills returns as the starter at shortstop, following 47 starts in the infield for Holy Cross last year. Sills finished with 164 at bats, 33 hits, 17 runs scored, 17 RBIs, five doubles and two triples. On defense, he finished with a .944 fielding percentage.
Appearing in 49 games and making 47 starts, junior third baseman Matt Perry finished the season ranked fifth on the team in batting average (.285) and had a team-high 186 at bats while adding 53 hits, 32 runs scored, a team-high 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and two home runs.
"We have the
luxury of having all four starters back in the infield," said
DiCenzo. "We're looking at those guys to get better both
offensively and defensively. I like to think that everyone is going
to be better than when we finished the season last year."
Cupelo and sophomores Brendan McCrea and Jack Laurendeau return to the outfield for Holy Cross. Cupelo appeared in 45 games and made 39 starts in the outfield, he finished the season with a .279 average. He also had 140 at bats, 39 hits, 20 RBIs, 11 runs scored, 10 doubles and two triples. Both McCrea and Laurendeau stepped into the starting role during their first season at Holy Cross, with McCrea making 44 starts in the outfield and batting .256 with 129 at bats, 33 hits, 23 runs scored, 16 runs batted in, three doubles, one triple and one home run. Laurendeau made eight starts in his 16 appearances.
"We also have three guys coming back in the outfield with extensive experience," said DiCenzo. "We have Cupelo who's a senior and I'm expecting him to play like a senior. I'm also expecting McCrea and Laurendeau to compete for playing time in every single game.
Tim Hughes will take over the role as Holy Cross' starting catcher after making 16 appearances and batting .280 in the role last year. Junior Mike Galvin and sophomores Eddie Bleiler and Nick Ciardiello will all add depth to the position as well.
"We're very lucky in after the loss of Brendan Akashian (Class of 2008) that we will fill our catcher's position with a senior," said DiCenzo. "Hughes is a senior who we expect to step in and not miss a beat behind the plate. He's been around the block for three years and so he should be able to handle the position."
Junior Matt Shapiro returns for Holy Cross after a stellar season in 2008 after being named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year, the first pitcher at Holy Cross to be ever recognized with this honor. In league play, Shapiro finished with a 3-1 record and 1.78 ERA. He pitched 30 and 1/3 innings and struck out 21 batters. Making 13 appearances and seven starts, Shapiro finished the season with a 4-2 record pitching 47 and 2/3 innings while striking out 33 batters and had three complete games.
Starting all 10 games he appeared in, junior Bobby Holmes also returns to the starting rotation for Holy Cross after closing out last season with a team-best 3.84 ERA and a 5-4 record. Holmes topped the team in innings pitched with 61 and finished second on the team in strikeouts with 41 while tallying two complete games.
Junior Ryan George also returns to the mound for Holy Cross, finishing the 2008 season with 18 appearances and two starts, 49 and 1/3 innings pitched, and a team-high 43 strikeouts. Veteran pitcher Seip made 13 appearances and nine starts last year, finishing ranked second on the team in innings pitched with 54 and struck out 35 batters.
Juniors Tommy Arrigg, Chris Blanchard and Dmitri Seredenko, and sophomores Brian Shapiro and Steve Anderson will return to the Holy Cross pitching staff for the 2009 season. Arrigg finished with a 2-1 record and struck out 11 batters in 27 innings. Serendenko ended the season with a 1-1 record, pitching 24 and 2/3 innings while striking out 15 batters. Blanchard finished the season with 13 innings pitched while Anderson had six and 2/3 innings. Shapiro made one appearance last season, pitching one inning of relief and recording one strike out.
"I'm expecting the guys on the mound to have even better years than last year because of their ability to mature in our system the way that I do things from a pitching stand point," said DiCenzo.
This year's upcoming schedule features some big name schools who will provide a good test for the 2009 Crusaders.
"Obviously, we wanted to upgrade our entire schedule from the last few years. More importantly, however, we wanted to give the players an experience they will carry with them well after they leave The Hill," said DiCenzo. "Improving the schedule undoubtedly aides in our ability to recruit some of the top players in this region of the country and it is clear to see that we are going to play the best teams that college baseball has to offer."
On Holy Cross' non-conference schedule, the Crusaders will play 19 teams including 29-time Pac-10 champion Arizona State. ASU has made 32 NCAA appearances and have finished with five College World Series titles in its 20 appearances. Arizona is on the Holy Cross schedule and has made 15 College World Series Appearances and has won three Pac-10 titles. Loyola of the West Coast Conference has six conference championship titles, eight trips to the NCAAs and made an appearance in the College World Series.
In the Ivy League, Holy Cross will take on Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale. The Crusaders will also play against the Northeast Conference's Central Connecticut and Quinnipiac. America East's Hartford and Maine will also be on the schedule for Holy Cross. Marist and Siena of the Metro Athletic Conference will be on the Crusaders' schedule. Other non league opponents include Boston College, Bryant, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Towson.
The Crusaders will host Lehigh in the Patriot League opener for Holy Cross, followed by traveling to pre-season first place Army. Holy Cross returns to host Bucknell and then will head on the road at Lafayette. The Crusaders will close out regular season play hosting pre-season second place pick Navy.