WORCESTER, Mass. – Junior righty John Colella (Herndon, Va.) tallied a save in game one and then earned the win on the mound in game two as the No. 2 seed Holy Cross baseball team swept No. 3 seed Navy in the Patriot League semifinals at Fitton Field. The Crusaders won game one, 1-0, and then game two, 4-2, to advance to their second Patriot League Championship series in three years. With the day's decisions, the Crusaders tally a 32-20 overall record while Navy completes its season with a 23-29 record. The Holy Cross pitching staff allowed just two earned runs on the day as Navy scattered seven hits total.
Senior southpaw Nate Koneski (North Dighton, Mass.) got the start in the first game and did not allow a hit for the first three innings of action as the Crusaders and Mids were locked in a scoreless tie. After playing two more scoreless innings, the Holy Cross offense connected for the game's lone run as senior Steve Tkowski (Bourne, Mass.) doubled with one out. Sophomore Brandon Cipolla (Abington, Mass.) sent the senior home on a follow-up double, boosting the Crusaders to a 1-0 lead. Koneski returned to pitch the seventh inning and kept the Mids from scoring.
Sophomore Mike Ahmed (East Longmeadow, Mass.) relieved Koneski in the top of the eighth and collected one out before Navy earned a walk and a single to put two runners on. Colella was called upon to pitch with the runners on and struck out the first batter he faced before getting the final batter to ground out. Junior Jordan Enos (Stockton, Calif.) collected the Crusaders' final hit of the day but did not score in the bottom of the eighth. Colella returned to the mound in the top of the ninth as Navy threatened to score with runners on the corners and two outs. Colella came back to strike out the game's final batter as Holy Cross took game one, 1-0.
Koneski combined for the shutout and earned the winning decision, improving to 7-2 on the season. He shut down the Mids for seven full innings, allowing just two hits and struck out six. Navy's starter, Preston Gainey took home the losing decision, completing his season with a 3-3 record. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out nine batters. Colella tallied the save, his 11th of the season. He struck out two of the seven batters he faced.
The team's played three scoreless innings again in the second game as freshman Donny Murray (Walpole, Mass.) started on the mound, allowing just one hit. Senior Chris Sintetos (Bethesda, Md.) put the Crusaders on the board first in the top of the fourth, sending home Enos on a single up the middle. Sophomore Andrew Barry (Puyallup, Wash.) sent home Tkowski, who had been hit by a pitch, for the team's second run, singling through the right side. The Crusaders collected two runs on three hits in the inning to take a 2-0 edge.
Navy knotted the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, knocking out a two-run home run to left center off Murray. After a scoreless sixth inning, senior Matt Croglio (Fayetteville, N.Y.) took over pitching duties for Murray in the bottom of the seventh as Navy went down in order. The Crusaders loaded the bases in the eighth but remained scoreless as Croglio sat the Mids in order once again in the bottom half of the inning.
The Mids loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth as Holy Cross implemented two pitching changes. Colella came in with one out and two runners and on and walked the first batter he saw before striking out the final two batters, keeping the Mids from earning any runs as the score remained 2-2 heading into extras. Holy Cross worked to retake a 4-2 lead in the top of the 10th, loading the bases on a wild pitch, a single by Tkowski and a walk. Junior Patrick Puentes (East Greenbush, N.Y.) drew the first RBI walk to make it a 3-2 game and was followed by another RBI walk from freshman Evan Ocello (Camarillo, Calif.) to earn the two-run advantage. Colella finished out the final half inning with a fly out, ground out and strike out swinging to boost the squad to the sweep as the Crusaders won game two, 4-2.
Colella pitched the final 1.2 innings and earned the winning decision, improving to 5-1 overall. He did not allow a hit and struck out three. Navy's reliever, Joel Rinehart, picked up the losing decision and finishes his season at 5-5. He pitched 2.1 innings, giving up two runs on one hit.
On the day, Holy Cross scored five runs on 13 hits while leaving 22 base runners stranded. The Midshipmen scored two runs on seven hits, leaving 14 runners on base. Ahmed led the offense on the day with four hits in nine at-bats.
The Crusaders will next play No. 1 seed Army for the 2012 Patriot League championship in a best-of-three series on Monday and Tuesday, May 21-22. All games will be played in West Point, N.Y. as times will be announced at a later date.