Friday May 17, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A baseball season, like a baseball game, is fraught with ebb and flow.

Over the course of a season, there are winning streaks and losing streaks. The idea, according to the late Casey Stengel, is to "make sure your team has more of the former than the latter."

The St. Joseph baseball team has so far accomplished this.

The Crusaders are 12-5 following recent dramatic victories over Taconic and Mount Greylock. With only a handful of games left, the squad is looking forward to the Division III Western Massachusetts tournament.

"Last year, we were 9-11 and we got a No. 3 seed," said the Crusaders' Jon Bianchi. "So this year, we're hoping to do a little
better."

Speaking of doing a little better, Bianchi is one of the key performers for the 2013 Crusaders. He leads the county in home runs with five. Last year he had none. He has hit for the cycle and last week, hit two home runs in a single game.

"I'm a lot stronger this year," he said. "From last year to this year, it's no contest. And I think it's a matter of confidence, too."

Both are products of the hard work Bianchi puts in on a regular basis. After smacking a walk-off home run in extra innings against Mount Greylock on Wednesday, he retired to a local gym to work out until about 11.

"I will say this about Jon," said Crusaders coach Dennis Murphy. "In terms of hard work, he leads by example. If we have an optional workout, he's there.


Advertisement

He's in the gym constantly. In my experience, Jon is one of the hardest-working players I've ever seen in the history of St. Joseph's baseball. And as you know, that is a long and very distinguished history."

But both Murphy and Bianchi believe that the Crusader team and coaching staff have worked together to fashion the record they have.

"We're a unit," said Zach Neary. "We come to work every day. We support each other And the coaching staff has done a great job."

"Our pitching has improved," said Connor Lein. "And we are closer as a team than last year."

"We definitely have better team chemistry," said Devon Johnston.

And, said Murphy, Doyle Field hasn't hurt. This is the first year the Crusaders have called Doyle their home. Previously, they played most of their home games at Wahconah Park.

"The city was gracious enough to allow us to use Wahconah," said Murphy. "But scheduling was an issue. And this is no disrespect to anyone in City Hall. We were grateful. But now, we have a place we can meet and practice every day. It's been a huge help."

The Crusaders have navigated one of the toughest schedules in Division III. Murphy downplays the potential for a No. 1 or 2 seed in the postseason. But he and the team clearly like their chances.

"We'll see," he said. "We have to play the regular season first."

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile