Russo Looks To Use Cape League Experience To Help Lead Holy Cross
By R. Max George
Special to GoHolyCross.com
In Division I baseball, there is no real off-season. Senior Thomas Russo is no stranger to this routine, as he spent part of his summer playing for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Russo has been connected to the CCBL since he was eight years old, serving as a batboy for the 2006 Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox championship team that featured future Major League stars such as Buster Posey and David Robertson. After connecting with coaches through his time at Boston College High School and three seasons as a Crusader, Russo played for coach Rick DeAngelis of the Lexington Blue Sox for two summers before he was scouted and eventually called up to the CCBL midway through last summer. Thrilled by his call from the assistant GM of the Harbor Hawks, Russo described it as a “really surreal experience” knowing that he would be playing in the league he was a batboy for all those years ago.
Russo proceeded to play infield for the Harbor Hawks, seeing the field in 15 games. The CCBL is widely considered an elite summer league, inviting some of the best young baseball players in the country. Reflecting on his teammates and competition Russo added, “To be involved with the powerhouse conferences such as the ACC and SEC, just to be around those guys who play at such a high caliber. You take notes and you try to incorporate their skills into your own play, it was really beneficial.” Specifically, Russo feels he has grown as a hitter after studying the technique of his teammates during batting practice. He described the players he encountered as incredibly talented college athletes with powerful arms, talented fielding skills and elite batting ability. Now with another Holy Cross season on the horizon, Russo looks to utilize his summer experience in the cape league to help lead the Crusaders to another successful year. Head Coach Greg DiCenzo knows that he’ll be ready to take on the challenge this season. “Russo has become one of the best leaders on the team,” said DiCenzo. “He works exceedingly hard on a daily basis, and is always willing to help the team no matter what role he plays.”
The Crusaders roster has a different look this year, as 15 freshmen will enter the rotation after many key seniors graduated this past season. “Every year is the same, the best players will play regardless of class year.,” said DiCenzo. “This year is no different. Opportunities are aplenty with each new season.” With so many new pieces, the team’s upperclassmen will look to play as an integral part in team performance and take on leadership roles for the new additions. “We’re going to have to do everything right to get to where we want to be this year,” Russo had to say about the upcoming season. While the newcomers look to make an impact in their first season, the veteran players of Holy Cross are looking to build off last year’s historic program success. “We know what we have to do in order to get to that point again.” After winning their first-ever Patriot League Championship and defeating #25 Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament last year, it’s safe to say that the expectations are high for this year’s team.
Crusaders Open Season At Houston Friday
The Crusaders are set to open their season on Friday, Feb. 16 as they play the first of three games at #24 Houston. This year’s roster features 18 returning players from the 2017 Patriot League Championship season, and 15 newcomers in the freshman class. Holy Cross had 13 seniors graduate in 2017, including four positional starters and six pitchers that saw starting time during the season.
Returning in the outfield is sophomore Austin Masel, who had a stellar season for the Crusaders last year which earned him Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors. He started all 53 games at center field and posted a .290 batting average with a team-leading 37 runs scored with 27 RBI and 12 extra-base hits. The infield will see the return of seniors Cam O’Neill and Russo along with sophomore Chris Rinaldi. Russo earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors while playing third base in 2017. All three players appeared in evey game for the Crusaders last season. Junior Kellen McCormick also returns to the lineup after a strong year at designated hitter. In 47 appearances, he batted .279 while adding 20 runs and 18 RBI. Some of the top returning pitchers from last season will include juniors Declan Cronin, Pat McGowan and Danny Barlok. McGowan and Barlok each made 16 appearances during the season, while Cronin made 19 appearances.
Holy Cross is set to play three games at Houston this weekend to start the season, with two games slated for 7:30 p.m. eastern on Friday and Saturday, and the final game for 2:00 p.m. eastern on Sunday.