Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
The Holy Cross baseball team will kick off its season this weekend in Waco, Texas, as the Crusaders prepare for a four-game series against #15 Baylor. Holy Cross, who finished fourth in the Patriot League last year and fell to Navy in the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament, has ambitions of returning to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Patriot League in 2017.
The Crusaders travel to Texas to take on a ranked opponent on opening weekend for the second consecutive season. Last year, Holy Cross split a pair of games against Houston, No. 24 in the country at the time, before dropping the rubber game in extra innings. HC will rely on that experience in this four-game set against the Bears.
Holy Cross was picked to again finish fourth in the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll. Army and Navy, who squared off in the Patriot League Championship last May with the Black Knights sweeping the best-two-of-three series against the Midshipmen, were selected to finish first and second, respectively. They were followed by Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lehigh, and Lafayette. The top four teams qualify for the Patriot League Tournament, the winner of which advances to the NCAA Tournament.
Two Crusaders made the Patriot League Preseason All-League Team. Junior Chris Rinaldi was the representative at the shortstop position, while junior center-fielder Austin Masel was one of three outfielders selected to the team. Rinaldi and Masel, both First-Team All-League selections as sophomores in 2018, paced the Crusader offense last year. Rinaldi, who started in all 44 games he played in, hit .320/.398/.453 while scoring 29 runs and stealing 13 bases, both team-highs. Masel, who started 40 of 43 games, batted .322/.408/.477 with four home runs and 25 RBIs while manning centerfield error-free.
On the pitching side, Holy Cross will rely on two senior right-handers to steady its rotation, hoping each can make at least a dozen starts. Pat McGowan started all 12 games he appeared in last year, posting a 3.22 ERA and a stingy .192 batting average against over 72 ⅔ innings. Declan Cronin appeared in 13 games, 12 of them starts, notching a 4.12 ERA across 67 innings. Sophomores Liam Dvorak and Garrett Keough, who combined for 12 starts last year, could assume larger roles in the rotation. Senior Danny Barlok, a unanimous First-Team All-Patriot League selection who led the Crusaders with 20 appearances out of the bullpen and a 1.71 ERA in 52 ⅔ innings in 2018, underwent Tommy John surgery after tearing his UCL last summer and will serve as student manager this year.
Before kicking off conference play against Navy on March 23, the Crusaders will travel to Alabama to take on UAB and to Louisiana, where they will face Nicholls State, McNeese State, and SEC powerhouse LSU over spring break.
Photo Courtesy of GoHolyCross.com