Crusaders Set To Compete For 2012 Patriot League Championship Title At Army

Click here for the full 2012 Patriot League Baseball Championship game notes

Watch part one of the PL Championship preview video here

The Teams: No. 2 Holy Cross (32-20, 13-7 PL) vs. No. 1 Army (39-12, 18-2 PL)
Date: May 20-21, 2012
Time: 12:00/2:30 p.m. Sunday & 1:00 p.m. Monday, if necessary
Place: Doubleday Field, West Point, N.Y.
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access, Watch Here
Unofficial Live Statistics: Gametracker
Series Record: Army leads, 55-25-2

The Holy Cross baseball team is making its second appearance over a three year span in the Patriot League championship series, marking just the second time in school history. The Crusaders are turning postseason play into a regular occurrence as they have made four Patriot League tournament appearances in five seasons. On May 12, No. 2 seed Holy Cross topped No. 3 seed Navy in back-to-back games to advance past the semifinal round, winning by scores of 1-0 and 4-2. No. 1 seed Army swept No. 4 seed Lafayette on that same Saturday, winning out 8-7 and 6-3. The two teams will now meet in the best-of-three championship series on May 20-21. Holy Cross has never played as the No. 2 seed and hosted the semifinal round for the first time in program history this past weekend. Army is playing as the No. 1 seed for the sixth time in the history of the Patriot League tournament as this is the first time the two have met in the championship series. The last time the two met in the postseason was the 2009 Patriot League semifinals. The series went to three games as Army won the third game to advance to the championship. The winner of the championship series takes home the Patriot League crown and earns a bid into a NCAA baseball regional.  

RECORD SETTERS: The Crusaders wrapped up the regular season with a record of 30-20 including 13 wins and seven losses in the Patriot League. After winning two games over this past weekend, the team's 32 total victories sets a new program record. The 1921 team held the previous record of 30 wins. The Crusaders 13 conference wins are a program-best while the .650 winning percentage in the league is the best since the Crusaders went 11-4 (.733) in 1991. The squad also finished with an overall winning record for just the second time since 1991 and for the second consecutive season.

THE DICENZO ERA: This will also be the fourth time that head coach Greg DiCenzo has led his team to the conference tournament in his five-year tenure. DiCenzo currently holds a 125-124-1 overall record at the helm of the program while collecting 54 wins and 44 losses in Patriot League contests. His two wins over Navy puts his winning percentage over .500 for the first time in his career. On March 18, DiCenzo collected his 100th victory as the Crusaders' head coach as the squad put together a 4-3 win over Albany. 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 become a regular occurrence, with the Crusaders marking a 5-6 record in postseason play under his guidance. This year's team 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. Former standout Matt Perry was named the 2009 Patriot League Player of the Year, while Matt Shapiro was named Patriot League Pitcher of the Year in 2008. Most recently, current junior Stephen Wadsworth (Wayland, Mass.) was named the 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year. A total of 21 players have been named to the All-Patriot League teams since DiCenzo's arrival, including a program-best seven selections this season.  

SEVEN CRUSADERS NAMED TO ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE SQUADS: As voted on by the Patriot League head coaches,Holy Cross' seven league selections tied with Army for the most number of players named to All-Patriot League teams. The seven honors earned are also the most All-Patriot League nods in program history. Five players, including senior Nate Koneski (North Dighton, Mass.), juniors John Colella (Herndon, Va.), Alex Maldonado (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Patrick Puentes (East Greenbush, N.Y.), along with sophomore Mike Ahmed (East Longmeadow, Mass.) were named to the first team while two players, junior Jordan Enos (Stockton, Calif.) and sophomore Brandon Cipolla (Abington, Mass.) picked up second team honors. Koneski is the only repeat award winner as he earned first team accolades as a sophomore.

LEADING FROM THE BUMP: Holy Cross pitchers are combining to post a 3.97 ERA this season, ranking second in the league behind Army's 3.22 ERA. The 3.97 ERA is the lowest by a Crusader pitching staff since 1991, when the squad posted a league-best 3.63 earned run average. In all, Holy Cross has allowed just 402 hits this season as the team ranks 39th nationally in hits allowed per nine innings. Nate Koneski and John Colella are the team's top hurlers as Koneski leads the team with a 2.12 ERA while Colella follows closely behind with a 2.13 ERA. Koneski leads all starting pitchers in that category, while also ranking third in the league. Junior Tom Marra (Sea Cliff, N.Y.) has also shined this season, ranking sixth in the league with a 3.12 ERA, second best amongst starters.

FIELDING DREAMS: Defensively, the Crusaders are not missing too many beats. The squad's combined .973 fielding percentage is the league's second highest while it also ranks 42nd nationally. The percentage is also on track to break a program record, as the 1955 squad holds the current program record with a .966 fielding percentage. Jordan Enos, who did not play at first base until this season, leads all infielders with a .985 fielding percentage, committing just five errors and leading the squad with 309 put outs. Brandon Cipolla, the team's starting centerfielder, leads the outfield with 127 put outs and has not made one error this season. In all, the Holy Cross outfield has committed just one error while the team has made 50 errors total, compared to 75 errors by its opponents.

CLOSING TIME: Junior right-handed pitcher John Colella has left his mark on the Holy Cross baseball program in all of his efforts this season. Colella, the team's go-to closer, was chosen as a first-team All-Patriot League honoree after boasting a league-high 10 saves during the regular season. After earning a save against Navy in the Patriot League semifinal, Colella now has 11 saves this season. His 11 saves are a Holy Cross single season record, as he broke his own record of nine saves from last season. The 11 saves rank 19th nationally and are eight behind the nation's top closer, Michael Wagner of San Diego. The righty broke the Holy Cross career saves record back on March 31 against Bucknell as he now has 20 saves in his career. He also ranks fourth all-time in Patriot League career records for saves and needs nine to break it. Colella holds a 2.13 ERA, second lowest on the squad, and has made a team-high 27 appearances, breaking the program's single-season record in that category. His 50 strikeouts rank second on the squad as he was named the team MVP after the end of April.

K'EM KONESKI: Senior Nate Koneski is making a statement in his final season on the Holy Cross baseball team. The southpaw rebounded back from a subpar junior season and currently leads the team and Patriot League with 77 strikeouts, tallying a career-best. His 77 strikeouts rank in a tie for seventh on the program's single season record list as he now has 222 career strikeouts, ranking second all-time in Holy Cross baseball history. Nationally, Koneski ranks 35th out of 250 ranked in strikeouts per nine innings. His 7-2 record is a team-best as his seven wins rank second in the conference. He also posts a 2.12 ERA in 12 starts, ranking third in the league and first on the team. He has pitched one shutout and two complete games. A first-team All-Patriot League selection, Koneski also earned the team's first-ever Perry-Colon award, given to the team's top pitcher and was named Patriot League Pitcher of the Week on April 30. 

MALDONADO SPEEDS THINGS UP:  Junior Alex Maldonado racked in his first career All-Patriot League honor this season and did so in style as he was named to the first team for the shortstop position. The third-year speedster added his name to the list of team accomplishments as he broke the Holy Cross career record for stolen bases on April 28 against Army. Maldonado has 14 steals this season, ranking in a tie for third in the conference and now has 44 in his career, breaking the 42 career steals achieved by former standout Michael Neary from 1989-1992. His 14 steals this season rank sixth on the program's single-season records list while his 17 steals from last season rank third. The shortstop was also named to the national Brooks Wallace Award watch list, given annually to the top division one collegiate shortstop. Maldonado has started in all 52 games for the Crusaders this season and leads the defense with 144 assists. At the plate, Maldonado bats .296 with a team-best 60 hits. His 60 hits are tied for fourth in the league as well.

TWO-WAY AHMED: Sophomore Mike Ahmed boosted the Holy Cross baseball team not only at third base this season, but also on the mound. The local-product was named to the first team All-Patriot League for the first time in his career and earned Patriot League Player of the Week honors for the first time on April 30. Ahmed broke out in Patriot League play, as he led all players in runs scored (19), hits (28), home runs (4), doubles (7) and RBI (15) during conference competition. Overall, Ahmed leads the league with seven home runs and ranks fourth with a .508 slugging percentage. His current 38 total runs scored are a team-best and rank fourth in the league as well. Ahmed also spends quality time on the bump for the Crusaders as he has made 12 appearances in relief. He owns a 2-1 record, including his first career win against nationally-ranked Texas A&M. He also has two saves and holds a 3.45 ERA. Ahmed has played in all 52 games for Holy Cross this season and led the Crusader offense with four hits in nine at-bats against the Mids in the Patriot League semifinal. For his efforts his was named the College Sports Madness Patriot League Player of the Week.

SINTETOS SHINES IN SENIOR SEASON: Senior captain Chris Sintetos (Bethesda, Md.) has made a major impact on the team in his final season. Sintetos, who came into 2012 with just 37 career starts has turned around to start in 43 games this season and has played in a career-high 47 games total. The designated hitter and leftfielder has climbed up the offensive charts this season as he leads the team with 30 RBI, ranking sixth in the Patriot League. He's also totaled 29 runs scored and 40 hits, 11 coming as extra-base knocks. His entire offensive production has doubled his previous career bests as he had just 15 career RBI entering the season. Not only is Sintetos a factor at the plate for Holy Cross, but his leadership skills as captain have been a major influence on the talent of this year's Crusader squad.

SCOUTING THE BLACK KNIGHTS: Army completed the 2012 regular season with a 37-12 overall record, marking a league record 18 wins and two losses in conference play. The Black Knights will be playing in the Patriot League championship series for the third time in four seasons and the ninth time overall. It will be Army's seventh appearance in the PLCS since 2000. The Black Knights have won five Patriot League titles previously, with their most recent championship coming in 2009. Army also won conference crowns in 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2005. The squad is led by head coach Joe Sottolano in his 10th season. He boasts a 358-260-5 record since manning the program at West Point and was most recently named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the third time.