WATERBURY – A year ago, Holy Cross was beaten by Oxford in the Naugatuck Valley League championship game. One of the Crusaders’ goals this spring was to get back to the title game and win it.
Holy Cross junior righthander and tournament Most Valuable Player Fran Phelan allowed just three hits as the Crusaders (22-1) defeated Seymour, 3-1, at Municipal Stadium for its first NVL baseball championship since 2014.
“It means a lot because we wanted it bad last year,” Phelan said. “This year, we wanted it even more.”
Each team had plenty of opportunities early in the game, but each could only score once. The Crusaders took a 1-0 edge in the bottom of the second when Adam Razza plated Will Marshall with a ground out. However, Holy Cross left the bases loaded in both the first and second innings.
Seymour left four runners on base of its own in the first two innings, but tied things up in the top of the third. Ethan Szerszen singled to lead off the inning. Zach Edwards sacrificed him to second, but when Szerszen took off for third, Holy Cross first baseman Matt Bonvicini threw the ball away as the run scored.
“We talk all year about being mentally tough. We left nine guys on and made four errors,” Holy Cross coach Mike Phelan said. “Most teams would be trailing there, but we were fortunate to be tied.”
Holy Cross broke the deadlock off reliever Christian DeJarnette in the bottom of the fourth. Razza singled and stole second. One out later Bonvicini legged out an infielder grounder to put runners on the corners. Tim Dupkus followed with a double down the left field line to score Razza. Bonvicini scored when Connor Goggin singled on the first pitch to make it 3-1.
“Getting the runs gave me confidence,” Phelan said.
And it showed as he settled down as he retired the minimum number of batters in getting the final 15 outs, despite allowing a leadoff hit to Edwards in the top of the sixth inning. After stealing second and moving to third on a ground out, Edwards was gunned down at the plate by Zupkus trying to score on a fly ball to right on a controversial play at the plate. Holy Cross catcher Will Marshall dropped the throw, but Edwards was ruled to have missed the plate as he slid by and Marshall tagged him after he picked up the ball.
“He said he got the plate,” Seymour coach Jeff Gilbert said. “But the umpire didn’t make a call, while my kid was going to the dugout. It didn’t matter as we lost by two runs.”
Phelan retired the final three batters in the seventh on three easy ground outs.
“I saw it in his eyes in the seventh inning,” Mike Phelan said. “He just said we’re not losing this game – I’m taking it.”
Seymour, which upset both defending champion Oxford and St. Paul on its way to the title game, is 13-10, going into next week’s state tournament.
“It’s nice we got some momentum going,” Gilbert said. “But I believe we could have won the game as easily as we lost it.”
HOLY CROSS 3, SEYMOUR 1
Seymour 001 000 0 — 1 3 0
Holy Cross 010 200 X — 3 8 4
Austin DeRosa and Zach Edwards.; Fran Phelan and Will Marshall..
WP: Fran Phelan (). LP: Christian DeJarnette (). 2B: (HC) Tim Zupkus.. RBI: Tim Zupkus, Adam Razza, Connor Goggin (HC);
Team records: Seymour 13-10; Holy Cross 22-1.
Comments: Holy Cross won its first NVL title since 2014.