December 15, 2005

Crusaders Gear Up For 2006

Dec. 15, 2005

WORCESTER, Mass. - The Holy Cross baseball team has concluded its unofficial Fall season and is now gearing up for the 2006 campaign, which begins in less than three months. Led by second year head coach Craig Najarian, the 2006 Crusaders are looking to improve on their 13-23 (5-11 Patriot League) mark from a year ago with hopes of making the post-season Patriot League Tournament in May.

"We have a great group of senior leaders who have set a tremendous example for our nine incoming freshmen," said Najarian. "We are a deep and seasoned team and we expect big things this coming season."

The Crusaders posted a 7-3-1 record this Fall, after matching up with the likes of talented Division II programs Bentley, UMass-Lowell and Saint Anselm, and Division I schools Northeastern, and UMass-Amherst. They also hosted Wheaton College of the Division III NEWMAC League.

Three weeks of non-stop rain forced the cancellation of the program's annual alumni game and a doubleheader with Brown in the first two weeks of October, but the Crusaders had a strong finish to the Fall season, highlighted by a three-game sweep of Northeastern and a strong UMass-Lowell team in the Lowell Tournament at the end of September. And with 21 letterwinners returning and 11 gifted newcomers, the Crusaders have high hopes for the upcoming season.

The ball club will be led by two-time All-Patriot League and two-time team most valuable player, Tucker Frawley. Last season, Frawley finished the season ranked 17th in the nation in batting average (.409) and was one of just two players in the Patriot League to hit .400 or better. The New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) Division I First Team selection led the team in batting average (.409) and hits (45) and drove in 16 runs. Defensively, Frawley had a .984 fielding percentage while recording 68 assists and 56 putouts.

Over the summer, Frawley was also named to the 2005 New England College Baseball League All-Star team and started the all-star game at second base for the North Division. Frawley led the Concord Quarrydogs in at-bats (115) and tied for first on the team in doubles, while his .313 batting average was good for second on the team and ninth in the league.

Senior Tom Potvin is also a player to watch in 2006. Last season, the Worcester native started all 36 games in centerfield and led the team in runs scored (23) and triples. He finished second on the team in batting average (.373) and hits (44) and third in runs batted in (13), while tying for third in doubles (four). Defensively, Potvin owned a .966 fielding percentage, including 82 putouts, which was third best on the team.

Fellow senior Andrew Sweeney will return as the Crusaders' starting shortstop. The fourth-year player started 26 out of 28 games last year and finished the season second on the team with 71 assists. He owned a .910 fielding percentage, including 30 putouts. Offensively, Sweeney hit .221 with 17 hits, four runs batted in and eight runs scored.

"The seniors have been able to set a tone that has carried through our entire program," said Najarian. "They all lead in very different, but effective ways and you can never underestimate the power of that."

Offensively, the Crusaders are also expecting a big year from junior left fielder Jamie Aldrich. Aldrich was given the team's Ray Dobens Award last season, as the team's most improved player. After starting nine games and batting just .188 as a freshman, Aldrich started 35 of the Crusaders' 36 games in left field in 2005 and finished with the fourth highest batting average on the team. He contributed 34 hits, 12 runs batted in and 12 runs scored, including four doubles and a home run. Aldrich owned a .909 fielding percentage and was also a threat on the bases, successfully stealing nine times in 10 attempts.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Crusader nine is expected to have a strong year, due primarily to its seasoned pitching staff, consisting of two seniors, seven juniors and four sophomores. "Our pitching staff is as deep as it has ever been which is paramount on any baseball team, but especially with the schedule that we play," said Najarian. "I expect big things from this staff because they are no longer young and un-tested. This is a veteran group, with just one freshman."

Leading the way on the mound are juniors Rob Oteri, Mike Miller and Scott Hampe. Senior Jim McCloud is also expected to be back in top form after missing a majority of last season following Tommy John surgery, while fellow classmate Keith Simard is looking to be one of the team's top relievers out of the bullpen.

The 6-foot-3, 185 pound Oteri started seven games for the Crusaders last season and led the team in earned run average (3.11) and opponent batting average (.236). He also finished the season second on the team in strikeouts (29) and complete games (2). The right hander from Massachusetts played for the Newport Gulls of the New England College Baseball League (NECBL) over the summer.

A Patriot League Pitcher of the Week (Mar. 28) this past season for the Crusaders, Miller appeared in 10 games and made nine starts. He led Holy Cross in wins (four), complete games (four), strikeouts (46), innings pitched (51.0) and starts (nine), while finishing second on the staff in earned run average (3.88) and third in opponent batting average (.256). The Minnesota native worked as both a starter and reliever for the Mankato Moondogs of the Northwoods League over the summer.

Hampe appeared in 16 games as the team's closer last season and finished the year with five saves, which was second best in the Patriot League. He was fourth on the team with 26 strikeouts and a 4.76 earned run average.

The 2006 Crusader freshman class is made up of five infielders, two outfielders, one catcher and one pitcher. The infielders consist of Ryan Anderson, Eric Catalanotti, Jake Gorman, Joe Moore and Tyler Stampone. The outfielders are Billy Cupelo and Steve Soldi. Tim Hughes will fight for time behind the plate and Dan Seip will look to work into the pitching rotation. "Our freshmen had an outstanding fall season," said Najarian. "Each one of them has been all business since they arrived here in September. They have all been very productive and I have been extremely pleased with the way that they have gone about things. They will give us tremendous depth throughout our roster which I expect to be a major strength of this team."

Holy Cross is also excited about its new-look coaching staff this year, as Najarian has welcomed Wayne Mazzoni (pitching coach), Steve Simoes (hitting coach) and HC alum Jeff Miller ('00) to the dugout for 2006.

Mazzoni spent the last six seasons as head baseball coach and assistant athletic director at Post University (Conn.), while Simoes spent the last 12 seasons as head coach at Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, Mass., where he led the team to three Tri-Valley League Championships (2001, 2004, 2005), and a Massachusetts State Championship (2004).

Miller returns to Mount St. James after serving as assistant baseball coach at nearby Wachusett Regional in Holden, Mass., for the past two years. Miller was a two-time First Team All-Patriot League selection (1999, 2000) and earned Second Team Northeast Region All-America honors and in 2000. The former Crusader shortstop holds the all-time Holy Cross baseball records for career at-bats (534), career runs (109), and career assists (374), and is tied with HC great Ronnie Perry for the single-season record for total bases (99). Miller also stands second in program history in games played (153). Following graduation from Holy Cross, Miller played professionally for the Tubingen Hawks Baseball Club inTubingen, Germany from 2001-2002.

Holy Cross will start the year with six games in Bradenton, Fla., from March 5-11. The spring break schedule includes games with Bowling Green, Duquesne, Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, Villanova and Yale (twice). The Crusaders then travel to Albany on March 15, before their home opener on Thursday, March 16, which will be a 4:00 p.m. showdown with cross-town rival, Assumption College.

The Crusaders will play their home games at the newly renovated Fitton Baseball Field this year. The field had a multi-million dollar face lift last Spring and forced the team to play a heavily-slated road schedule. The facility, which served as the home field of the Can-Am Independent League's Worcester Tornadoes over the summer, is complete with lights, dugouts, locker rooms and a press box, and has a capacity up to 3,000, including almost 2,000 chair back seats.

For all the latest updates on the baseball team or any of the College's 26 other varsity sports, log on to www.GoHolyCross.com.