Crusaders Play For First Patriot League Title Against Bucknell
Game Day Quick
Event: Patriot League Baseball Championship (best-of-three series)
The Teams: No. 3 Holy Cross (25-24, 10-10 PL) vs. No. 4 Bucknell (23-32, 8-12 PL)
Time: 6:00 p.m., Friday, May 21
1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 22 (doubleheader if necessary)
Place: Fitton Field, Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Internet Radio: Bob Fouracre, Paul Pearl;http://www.sportsjuice.com/
SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Bucknell leads, 44-31
Greg DiCenzo vs. Bucknell: 5-7
Gene Depew vs. Holy Cross: 44-31
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, three games
CRUSADERS PLAY FOR FIRST PATRIOT LEAGUE TITLE: The Holy Cross baseball team is making its first-ever appearance in the Patriot League Baseball championship series after winning two out of three games against the No. 2 seed Lehigh in the Patriot League semifinals series. The best-of-three series versus No. 4 seed Bucknell will be held at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass., the home of the Crusaders starting with a 6:00 p.m. night game on Friday, May 21 and followed by a potential doubleheader on Saturday, May 22 beginning at 1:00 p.m. The championship has never been played at Fitton Field and the winner will earn the Patriot League's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, which will begin with the Regionals on June 4-7. Holy Cross, which is the third seed in this year's Patriot League Tournament, looks to earn its first Patriot League title and 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the first since 1978. Holy Cross has played as the No. 3 seed in all five of its Patriot League Tournament appearances, while Bucknell travels to Worcester as the No. 4 seed. The Bison are aiming for their fifth conference crown and second in three years. The team was seeded fourth in the 2008 tournament and went on to win that year's championship.
SERIES WITH BUCKNELL: This weekend's match-up will be the 76th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Bucknell, with the Bison owning a 44-31 advantage over the Crusaders. The teams first met in Holy Cross' inaugural season of Patriot League play back in 1991. Head coach Greg DiCenzo has won five of the 12 contests since taking over the program in 2008. Bucknell head coach Gene Depew, in his 29th year at the helm of the Bison program, is responsible for the 44 wins and 31 losses. Bucknell won three of four games in the first meeting between the two coaches, held on April 12-13, 2008 in Lewisburg, Pa. The Bison are 3-1 when playing against DiCenzo at Fitton Field while the Crusaders hold the edge in this year's meetings. The team won three out of four contests at Bucknell back in April and is currently on a three-game winning streak against the Bison. In the only previous Patriot League Tournament meeting between the two teams, Bucknell defeated Holy Cross, 10-4, in a first-round matchup in 2001 at Navy's Max Bishop Stadium.
CHAMPIONSHIP BITES: After falling in a semifinal game three on the road as the No. 3 seed in each of the last two seasons, Holy Cross found success in its third chance in that situation by winning at No. 2 Lehigh on Sunday. The Crusaders had failed to make the championship round in their four previous tournament appearances overall and are trying to become the first No. 3 seed since Army in 2000 and the second all-time, to win the league title … A fourth team was introduced into the Patriot League Tournament in 2008, and in three seasons the No. 4 seed has a perfect mark in series against the No. 1 … With the top two seeds eliminated, the Patriot League Tournament will produce a champion with a .500 record or worse in League games as Holy Cross finished 10-10 and Bucknell was 8-12. The only team in that category to win the crown was Bucknell in 2008, after the Bison went 10-10 in league action. Bucknell would also be the first team since Navy in 2002 to win the title with an overall record under .500.
THE DICENZO ERA: This will also be the first time head coach Greg DiCenzo has led his team to the conference tournament title series in his three-year tenure. DiCenzo currently holds a 69-79 overall record at the helm of the program while collecting 34 wins and 27 losses in Patriot League contests. He was named Patriot League Coach of the Year in his first season (2008) as his squad qualified for the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2001. Making the tournament has now become a regular occurrence, with the Crusaders marking a 4-5 record in postseason play under his guidance. This year's team has advanced past the first round of tournament play and looks to win the championship for the first time in program history. DiCenzo has also had three players earn major awards by the Patriot League since his arrival. Senior Matt Shapiro (Raynham, Mass.) won the 2008 Pitcher of the Year honor while fellow senior Matt Perry (Sudbury, Mass.) was named the 2009 Patriot League Player of the Year. Freshman catcher Stephen Wadsworth (Wayland, Mass.) was recently named the 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year to round out the awards. Twelve players have been named to All-Patriot League squads at season's end in DiCenzo's three-year term as well.
TEAM TOGETHER: The Holy Cross baseball team concluded the 2010 regular season with an even 23-23 overall record, recording 10 wins and 10 losses in Patriot League play. The Crusaders went 2-1 in the Patriot League semifinals and are appearing in their first Patriot League championship series. The team's current tally of 25 wins is the most wins by a Holy Cross baseball squad since 1978. The 1978 team went 27-14-2 and was the last Holy Cross team to participate in the NCAA Tournament. The current Crusaders have combined for at least 20 wins for the third consecutive season, something that has not been achieved since the 1917-1919 teams did it. This year's team has also registered a program record-high of 1,677 at bats, 349 runs, 535 hits, 108 doubles, 41 home runs, 800 total bases, 322 RBI, 10 saves, 1,213 putouts and 526 assists so far. The team is also batting a collective average of .321 and holds a .477 slugging percentage, which is on pace to break the team records. The squad will also be playing in its 50 and 51st games this upcoming weekend, the most by any Holy Cross baseball program.
WADSWORTH NAMED PATRIOT LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Freshman catcher Stephen Wadsworth was named the 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, as voted by the conference's head coaches. Wadsworth emerged during Patriot League action to help the Crusaders to a third straight tournament berth and was a major offensive factor in the team's semifinals series victory over Lehigh. Wadsworth batted .500 against the Mountain Hawks last weekend to lead the offense, going 4-for-8 at the plate with a double and RBI. On the regular season, Wadsworth led all players with 22 RBI in league games and finished second in batting average at .429. His on-base percentage of .453 and slugging mark of .586 were each sixth in league action. Wadsworth's overall line was nearly as impressive, as he finished with a .341 batting average with 34 RBI and 21 runs scored while playing 40 games in his inaugural campaign in a Crusaders uniform. Wadsworth is Holy Cross' second Patriot League Rookie of the Year winner and first since Tyler Stampone in 2006. Wadsworth also won the team's Ron Soucie award for Rookie of the Year and earned Patriot League Player of the Week honors on April 26.
SIX CRUSADERS NAMED TO ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE SQUADS: Holy Cross' six league selections tied with Bucknell for the most number of players named to All-Patriot League teams as Army, Lehigh and Navy each notched four selections. The team also earned the most All-Patriot League nods in program history as senior Matt Perry and junior Jack Laurendeau (Sudbury, Mass.) were named to the first team All-Patriot League and sophomores Nate Koneski (North Dighton, Mass.) and Steve Tkowski (Bourne, Mass.) along with junior Nick Ciardiello (Edison, N.J.) and Stephen Wadsworth were named to the second team. Perry makes a repeat performance as the first team selection at third base and was a unanimous first team All-League choice. The five other players pick up their first career All-League honors.
PERRY ON TOP: Through 49 games played this season, Matt Perry has etched his name on top of the Holy Cross career records books. So far, Perry has taken over the top spot in at-bats (591), runs scored (131), hits (213), doubles (51) and total bases (307). After the Lehigh series, Perry is also tied for first with fellow senior John Sills (Milton, Mass.) in career games played (163) and is first in games started (156). He is fifth in career home runs (13) and fourth in RBI (96). Perry also has a career-best 50 runs scored this season, which ranks first in the Holy Cross single-season record books, and is hitting .398 on the year, leading the team in batting average for the second straight season. He has also collected a team-high 74 hits and is the team leader in runs scored. The 2009 Patriot League Player of the Year led the way with a .486 batting average and .575 on-base percentage in Patriot League regular season games. Along with his first team All-Patriot League honor, Perry was named one of three 2010 Hop Riopel Award recipients, the team's MVP award, and collected Patriot League Player of the Week honors on April 12.
JUMPIN' JACK FLASH: The team's top leadoff man, Jack Laurendeau, who was named to the first team All-Patriot League as an outfielder, earns the honor for the first time in his career as he has a .367 batting average with seven home runs, 23 RBI, 45 runs scored and 17 steals for the season. His batting average currently ranks second on the team while his 17 stolen bases are a team and career-high, ranking second on the Holy Cross single-season records list. When Laurendeau bats first in the order, the team has recorded a 14-10 record, the best record for any leadoff man. Laurendeau held a 16-game hit streak entering the Patriot League semifinals, dating from April 14 game against Dartmouth until the May 4 game against Massachusetts. The 16-game streak wass the most on the team this season and included 10 multi-hit contests. In all, Laurendeau has had 22 multi-hit games this season and leads the team with four triples.
THE CIARDIELLO SHOW: Nick Ciardiello, in his junior season, has emerged as one of the top offensive and most clutch hitters on the Holy Cross baseball team. A second team All-Patriot League selection, Ciardiello finishes the regular season batting .388, more than doubling his career average of .216. Including the games against Lehigh last weekend, he has totaled 64 hits, 57 runs batted in, 38 runs scored, 20 doubles, 10 home runs and one stolen base. He has broken the Holy Cross single-season records for both doubles and runs batted in, while tying the single-season mark for home runs. Totaling a team-best 114 bases, Ciardiello has a slugging percentage of .651 and ranks within the top 50 players nationally and first amongst Patriot League standings in RBI. He has collected 17 multiple RBI outings and has established himself as the team's cleanup hitter. He also earned team MVP honors and was named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District I first team for the second-consecutive season.
SILLS SHINES IN SENIOR YEAR: Two-time team captain, senior John Sills, has continually proved why he earned the title of team captain for a second consecutive year. Sills, who was the third and final recipient of the Hop Riopel Team MVP award, has put up career-best numbers this season and will leave with his name etched in the Holy Cross baseball career record books. For the first time in his career, Sills was named the final Patriot League Player of the Week on May 10 and led the team with five hits in the Patriot League semifinals series against Lehigh. Sills went 5-for-12 against Lehigh (.417) and scored one run to bring his season total to 59 hits (a career-high) and 33 runs scored. He is batting a career-best .324 through 49 games and has recorded a career season-high with 30 RBI. He has also drawn 21 walks this year and owns a .407 on-base percentage. Sills will also round out his Holy Cross career as the program's record holder in career assists (410) and games played (163) and started (156). Sills has stolen 29 bases in his career, currently holding the No. 4 spot in career stolen bases and needs two more to rank third. He also ties for sixth with 83 career RBI and is eighth with 93 runs scored.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED SIDE OF GEORGE: Senior tri-captain Ryan George (Seekonk, Mass.), who changed his jersey number at the beginning of the season from 26 to 21, has returned and thrived as the team's top closing pitcher this season. For his turnaround, George was honored with the team's Ray Dobens award, given to the most improved player. After entering the 2010 season with a career earned run average of 6.94, George has been one of the toughest pitchers to hit on the team this season. He has posted a 3-4 record with a 3.13 earned run average, six saves and 41 strikeouts in 37-1/3 innings pitched. George has set a school single-season record with his six saves, while his 19 appearances are the fifth-most ever at Holy Cross in a single season. He is also the Holy Cross career-record holder with 13 saves, which also ranks in a tie for seventh amongst Patriot League all-time leaders.
STELLAR SOPHOMORES: Out of the 25 total All-Patriot League selections, four sophomores appeared on the list, with two members coming from the Holy Cross baseball team. Sophomores Nate Koneski and Steve Tkowski proved the “sophomore slump” rumor wrong as they earned second team All-League honors at the end of two very influential second-year campaigns. Left-handed pitcher Koneski has surfaced as the squad's top starter, finishing the regular season with a record of 5-2 and a 3.84 ERA. He led the squad with 42 strikeouts, tied for the most wins and pitched the most complete games (4). Koneski continued to dominate in the postseason, as he threw his first nine-inning complete game in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Lehigh. He then replaced senior Chris Blanchard (Norwich, Conn.) in the bottom of the ninth inning in Sunday's decisive game three. With one runner on, he got the first batter to fly out and then pitched a double play ball to earn his first career save and gave the team its first ever shot at the Patriot League Championship title. Koneski posted an ERA of 0.90 in the series, pitching 10 innings. He allowed one run to score on seven hits while striking out three batters to bring his season total to 45. Tkowski was chosen as the second team All-Patriot League designated hitter and enetrs the championship series with a .333 average, 60 hits, 39 RBI and 35 runs scored. He also ties teammate and second team outfield selection Ciardiello with 20 doubles, a Holy Cross single-season record and second in Patriot League single-season history. Although his batting average is just under his freshman year average of .385, his overall numbers have gone up substantially. Tkowski has started in all but one game this season, an improvement from 17 starts last year. He has scored 21 more runs, has 34 more hits, including 15 additional doubles, and has advanced from 13 to 39 RBI this season.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Crusaders and Bison last met for a four-game series held in Lewisburg, Pa. on April 10-11. Holy Cross took three out of the four games, outscoring Bucknell 32-12. The team lost game one of the series 4-3 before coming back for three straight victories. They won the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, 6-4, and then posted a 7-2 and 16-2 doubleheader sweep on Sunday. Matt Perry and Stephen Wadsworth both batted .467 in the series, as Perry went 7-for-15 with eight RBI and Wadsworth marking seven hits in 15 at-bats with seven RBI. Nick Ciardiello added five RBI, going 6-for-15 at the plate, including five doubles. Ryan George came in for the save in Saturday's 6-4 victory, pitching 2.2 shutout innings, not allowing a hit and collecting three big strikeouts. Sophomore Matt Croglio (Fayetteville, N.Y.) earned his first victory of the season on Saturday while Chris Blanchard also shined on the mound in the 16-2 win, pitching just over five innings on the day. He allowed one run to score in the bottom of the first inning and let up six total hits while striking out three batters to earn his second victory of the season. Matt Shapiro earned the winning decision in game one on Sunday, allowing two runs on two hits and striking out two batters. In all, Holy Cross scored 32 runs on 42 hits, committing four errors while Bucknell scored 12 runs on 25 hits with five errors. The Crusaders batted .321 in four games and had a team ERA of 3.19. The Bison batted .229 and collected a team ERA of 8.16.