Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Perseverance, hard work keep Holy Cross going in NVL baseball, softball tournaments

The Holy Cross baseball and softball teams both faced tough situations in their NVL semifinal games on Monday at Naugatuck High School.
On the baseball diamond, the Crusaders trailed the Wolcott Eagles 5-1, then were down 8-5 with just three outs left in their NVL postseason. 
As for softball, Torrington put Holy Cross in a quick 3-0 hole.
In both cases, the Crusaders came back to win in walk-off fashion, baseball by a 9-8 tally and softball by a 4-3 margin.
Here's how both Holy Cross teams pulled it out:

BASEBALL
Many teams fold under pressure. The Crusaders are the opposite.
"Our guys thrive on it," Holy Cross head coach Mike Phelan said.
One guy who didn't feel the pressure was freshman Tim Zupkus. Zupkus was 3-for-4 with a solo home run, a two-run single, and a double to the wall. Zupkus also scored two runs.
Holy Cross' Tim Zupkus (18) gets congratulations from his teammates after his solo home run on Monday
against Wolcott in a NVL baseball semifinal game at Naugatuck High School.
"He's a very confident player because he's a good player," Phelan said.
Phelan also had this to say: "Timmy's swinging a hot bat. You wouldn't think he's a freshman."
What did Zupkus have to say about playing under pressure?
"I feel like we feed off that," Zupkus said.
When Holy Cross got to within 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning and Matt Bonvicini came up with two runners on, Zupkus felt good.
Holy Cross' Matt Bonvicini puts a swing on the ball early in Monday's NVL semifinal against Wolcott. Bovincini later hit
a critical three-run home run to bring the Crusaders all the way back from a 5-1 deficit.
"When he stepped up to the plate, I had no doubt in my mind he was the right man for the job," Zupkus said.
Bonvicini launched a three-run homer to tie the game. The Crusaders had been down 5-1 to begin the inning, but they had new life.
A rough top of the seventh for ace pitcher Fran Phelan saw Holy Cross fall behind Wolcott 8-5. Coach Phelan had a message for his team as they got ready to hit in the bottom of the inning.
"One swing's not going to win it," Mike Phelan said he told his team. "We got to get a couple baserunners."
Fran Phelan was hit by a pitch to open the inning. Bonvicini followed with a walk, then Don Mangini singled to load the bases. Zupkus came up and ripped a two-run single down the left field line to make the score 8-7. Michael Keating was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, then Mangini scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
After a flyout for the first out, Adam Razza stepped to the plate. Razza got into a 2-2 count, fouled off a pitch, then took balls 3 and 4 for a walk-off walk and a stunning 9-8 win.
"Adam's last at bat, he fouled a couple balls off," Mike Phelan said.

SOFTBALL
How were the Crusaders able to respond to an early 3-0 deficit against Torrington?
They did so by relying on what got them there all season.
"I think that throughout the season, they've worked hard," Holy Cross head coach Meg Dwyer said.
Holy Cross softball was able to regroup after falling behind 3-0 to Torrington in the second inning
of Monday's NVL softball semifinal at Naugatuck High School.
Dwyer said the team kept its focus and determination for all seven innings, something it has done in other close wins this season. 
Pitcher Sarah Lawton settled down after a three-run second inning.
"She refocused and she got better as the game went on," Dwyer said.
The comeback began in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hannah Brown singled to lead off, then Allie Brown walked. Both advanced a base on Lawton's grounder to second, then Hannah Brown scored on a groundout by Alexandra Lombardo. With Val Nobrega at the plate, Allie Brown scored on a wild pitch to make the score 3-2.
The game stayed at 3-2 until the bottom of the seventh. Torrington standout pitcher Ali DuBois got a groundout and called third strike to put the Lady Raiders one out away from the win.
Sophomore Nicole Strielkauskas had other ideas. Strielkauskas, who brought home the first run of last year's state championship game with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt, doubled to keep her team alive.
"She's the go-to player in those situations," Dwyer said.
Up stepped Aubry DeFoe, and the count reached 2-2. DeFoe lined a homer on the next pitch over the center field wall to give Holy Cross a shocking 4-3 win. 

From all but done to the NVL championship game. It happened not once, but twice, for Holy Cross on Monday. Both teams take their shot at a NVL title on Wednesday, and they can thank their hard work and perseverance for that.

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