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Crusaders on a mission to return to finals



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The hard-working Nick Walsh will lead the Crusader pitching staff in 2014. File Photo. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2014
LITTLETON — When the Littleton Crusaders' baseball season came to an abrupt end in the finals last season, some would say there was a sour taste left over from the loss.

However, with a new season now at hand, the Crusaders have the opportunity to return to the big stage and make right on their mission for a championship. But with key players gone, it will be up to the youth of the team to fill the gaps of a baseball program that is back on the rise.

The first factor that has played a large part in the Crusaders' off-season was the dreadful field conditions left behind from the large amounts of snow. Although the sentiment around the league was that the season was going to be condensed or pushed back over spring break, Mother Nature has decided to reward the patience of those in the north country with a bit of warm spell. It is that warm spell that has melted the majority of snow ice from Remich Park as the season is just days away.

"Yeah I was worried about the chances of getting all the games in," Littleton head coach A.J. Bray commented. "But we got a break. Now we just need the infields to dry out, which with the dirt we use can take a bit of time."

Though the team has not been able to practice on a diamond yet this preseason, Bray is still confident in his team's ability come opening day.

The Crusaders pitching should be solid once again. For starters, the Crusaders return Nick Walsh to the rotation. Walsh was a stud all of last season. He pitched in several crucial games during the season and pitched in the Crusaders' championship loss. So now with some key experience under his belt and after a long hard-working off-season, the junior will be set to lead his team in key situations from the hill.

Tyler Brown will be another important arm in the Crusader arsenal this season. The sophomore hurler "has been working all winter and is the kind of player that just loves the game," Bray explained. "Like Nick Walsh, Tyler is a hard worker and would play 365 days a year if he could."

Rounding out the Crusader pitching staff are the likes of Danny Brammer, Kuba Kubkowski, Mike Miller, Matt Horne, Cy Kezerian and Mike Rodriguez, all of which "could see significant innings" this coming season.

On defense the Crusaders should remain a top talent in Division Four. The anchor of the defense is the steadfast leadership behind the plate in Gavin Cook. Cook has been a staple behind the plate the past couple of years and has a tremendous amount of chemistry with their star pitcher, Walsh, which is paramount to the duo's success.

Ethan Ellingwood is also a key player for the Crusader defense. Ellingwood last season took a bit to earn a starting gig at second base. However, when given the chance Ellingwood made himself known with a tremendous nose for the defensive aspects of the game.

"Overall our defense is going to be very deep," Bray started. "Like all of the other aspects of our team we are extremely athletic. We can throw a number of different combination on the field and get the job done."

Bray fears only one thing with his young team, "I really think we just have stay focused. These kids have been well coached since they were nine and 10 years old so I'm confident they will be fine."

In terms of the team's thought process this season the Crusaders are all business.

"I honestly think the guys feel like they have some unfinished business," Bray explained referring to the championship loss. "Everyone in the town has been talking about it since it happened. The guys are putting all of their effort in and so far they are doing what they need to do to get back to the big game."

With the season only days away it sounds as though the excitement has reached a tipping point. The Crusaders are ready to begin their big mission to return the finals and hopefully bring a banner back to Littleton.

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