Billy Fitzpatrick ‘20
Chief Sports Editor
After a difficult nonconference schedule, the Holy Cross Baseball team (19-27 overall, 13-8 Patriot League) has hit its stride heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The Crusaders find themselves in second place in the Patriot League standings, a game ahead of Army and with a five-game cushion for making the four-team conference tournament. While first-place Navy has its top-seed locked up, Holy Cross can secure the two-seed and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a few wins this weekend and help from other teams. The Crusaders travel to Pennsylvania this weekend for a doubleheader against fourth-place Lafayette on Saturday, and another two-game set against fifth-place Lehigh on Sunday.
Holy Cross kicked off April with a 16-10 win over Dartmouth in a midweek nonconference affair. Five Crusaders picked up multiple RBIs on the day, led by four from junior centerfielder Austin Masel. A five-run second inning gave HC the lead for good and the offense. First-year right-hander C.J. McKennitt picked up the win for Holy Cross.
The following weekend, HC dropped two of three on the road against conference-leading Navy. In Game One of the Saturday doubleheader, a 3-1 victory for the Midshipmen, a solid outing from senior Pat McGowan (three runs over six innings) kept the Crusaders in the contest, but the offense could only muster one run on four hits. Junior catcher Riley Livingston drove in the lone run with a sacrifice fly. In Game Two, Navy again narrowly topped HC, 4-3. Holy Cross held the a 2-1 lead entering the fourth thanks to two RBIs from Masel, but Navy rallied for three runs to take the lead. The Crusaders got one run across in the eighth and had the tying run aboard in the ninth, but the Crusaders were unable to tie the game. On Sunday, HC got one game back with a 4-1 win. Sophomore DH Evan Blum (3-3 on the day) and junior shortstop Chris Rinaldi recorded two RBIs apiece while sophomore hurler Liam Dvorak threw 7 ⅓ innings of one-run ball to shut down the Midshipmen. Sophomore Eric Lopes got five outs in relief to seal the deal for HC.
The Crusaders then picked up another midweek nonconference victory over Rhode Island, 7-3. Rinaldi led the charge, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and four RBIs, while first-year outfielder Ben Malgeri went 2-for-4 and picked up an RBI.
The following weekend of April 13-14 saw Holy Cross travel to Lewisburg, Penn., and pick up a three-game sweep of Bucknell. In Saturday’s Game One, a 13-6 victory for HC, the Crusaders got five runs across in the first inning and never trailed, although the Bison kept within striking distance throughout. Senior infielder Alex Gionis and sophomore infielder Andrew Selima each notched four RBIs (career-highs for both) to lead the Crusader offense. Game Two, a 6-3 win for Holy Cross, saw Rinaldi and Masel continue their hot streaks with two RBIs each. Masel’s sacrifice bunt in the seventh gave HC a 4-3 lead and Rinaldi tacked on another with a two-out triple to extend the lead. Lopes pitched three scoreless innings in relief to earn his fourth save of the season. In Sunday’s game, HC never trailed and notched another 6-3 win. Masel paced the offense with two triples, while Gionis picked up two RBIs. Meanwhile, sophomore catcher Evan Blum went 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored to extend his bases-reached streak to 19 games.
The Crusaders had their five-game winning streak snapped with a midweek loss at Army on April 17, 8-5. HC held a 4-3 lead after three innings, but the Black Knights battled back in the fourth with three extra-base hits that gave them a 6-4 lead. After Army added two more runs to take a 8-4 lead, Masel did all he could to lead the HC comeback by robbing a homerun in the bottom of the sixth and homering to lead off the seventh. However, that would be all the Crusaders could muster as Army picked up an important win.
Over Easter Weekend, Holy Cross took two games of three in an important home series against Lafayette. The two teams split Sunday’s doubleheader. Lafayette took Game One by a score of 9-6 in a back-and-forth affair. Both teams traded home runs over the course of first five innings, stealing the lead from one another. Junior third baseman Alex Volpi hit a solo shot to tie the game at 3-3 in the third, and later sophomore left fielder David Kale hit a two-run home run to give HC a 5-4 lead in the fifth. However, the Leopards responded with five runs in the sixth to take the lead for good. HC bounced back with a 10-5 win in Sunday’s Game Two, led by a huge game from Masel (4-for-4, two doubles, one home run, 4 RBIs). Lafayette took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Holy Cross responded immediately with four runs of its own in the bottom half of the frame. Masel’s homer came in the fourth, after a solo shot from Gionis to extend the HC lead to 7-3. Sophomore Luke Dawson pitched three scoreless innings in relief to pick up the save. In Monday’s rubber game, Holy Cross took the series with a 5-1 victory behind another dominant outing from Dvorak (6 IP, two hits, one run, 10 Ks). After a Lafayette solo homer in the second, Volpi issued the HC response with a two-run double in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. In the fourth, the Crusaders tacked on a run via an RBI double from Rinaldi. In the sixth, Volpi capped off his big day with a two-run home run to extend the HC lead to 5-1.
After a midweek 12-6 home win over Hartford, the Crusaders took three out of four games at home over Army last weekend in a series that will have a big impact on seeding for the PL Tournament. HC took both games of Saturday’s doubleheader. In Game One, Volpi powered the Crusaders to a 4-2 victory with three RBIs. The game was tied at two in the fifth when Volpi smacked a two-run double to give the lead for good, as the bullpen held on to close out the affair. In Game Two, stellar pitching, opportunistic baserunning, and timely hitting contributed to a 4-3 win for the Crusaders. After eight innings, HC held a 3-2 lead, all three of the runs coming off Army errors. However, the Black Knights rallied in the ninth to tie the game. Sophomore catcher Zach Buck singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and was replaced on the basepaths by sophomore Kyle Johnson, who advanced to second on a well-placed sacrifice bunt from Rinaldi. Masel then played hero when he sent a ball into deep center that easily scored Johnson and gave Holy Cross the win. Army responded in Game One of Sunday’s doubleheader with a 3-0 shutout. Army took the lead in the first inning with a two-run homer, and the Crusaders could only muster three hits as Black Knights starter Sam Messina dominated. In Game Two, HC secured another narrow 4-3 win behind seven strong innings from McGowan. On his Senior Day, Gionis recorded two RBIs to help HC push past a resilient Army team that got all three of its runs across in the eighth inning with a late comeback effort. Army threatened again in the ninth, but first-year reliever Frank Spano protected the 4-3 HC advantage and delivered the Crusaders a series win and possession of second place in the conference standings.