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Abington’s Brandon Cipolla thrives at Holy Cross

Brandon Cipella stars in the Crusaders’ outfield.

Peter Cooke/Holy Cross

Brandon Cipella stars in the Crusaders’ outfield.

Abington’s Cipolla
at bat for Holy Cross

Holy Cross baseball coach Greg DiCenzo scours the country every year for hidden gems that big Division 1 schools often overlook. He found just what he was looking for in Abington’s Brandon Cipolla.

The junior center fielder was lightly recruited out of BC High in 2010, and signed on with Holy Cross after his first visit to the Worcester campus.

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“At Holy Cross we can’t always hone in on the no-doubt, blue-chip guys because they’ll be offered athletic aid from some other institutions,” said DiCenzo, a Duxbury native in his sixth season at Holy Cross. “For us, we need to look at how a player projects over the long run. Brandon has certainly exceeded our expectations and he’s still got a ways to go.”

Cipolla has developed into a solid .300 hitter over his career at Holy Cross and is the centerpiece of the Crusaders’ outfield. After seeing limited playing time (25 at bats) as a freshman, Cipolla moved into the starting lineup last year, starting in 54 of 55 games. He batted .323 with five home runs, 10 doubles, and 28 RBIs and led the team with a .491 slugging percentage.

This season Cipolla is batting .318 for the Crusaders (6-13). He has three doubles, one triple, and 10 RBIs and has drawn a team-high nine walks. While Cipolla has yet to find the long ball, the 21-year-old right-handed hitter is certain his power is about to return.

“A lot of my hits have been line drive singles and hard ground balls so you don’t see a lot of power numbers there yet,” said Cipolla. “But I feel my swing is headed in the right direction. Last year the home runs didn’t come until the second half of the season and they came in bunches when I let my swinging ability take over.”

Cipolla was a Catholic Conference all-star as a senior at BC High, where he was a member of BC’s Division 1 state championship teams for baseball and football in 2009. Despite batting .400 for his career over two seasons, he was lightly recruited.

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“I wasn’t the guy getting all the D1 offers coming out of high school and I honestly liked that,” said Cipolla. “I’ve always had to work hard. I got to Holy Cross and I knew I’d have to work really hard to get where I wanted to be. I knew if I put in the effort I could be just as good as the other guys.”

DiCenzo said Cipolla is the best defensive outfielder he has coached in his half-dozen years at Holy Cross. Last year he handled 135 chances without making an error.

“He’s got good speed and gets a great jump on the ball and creates extraordinary angles with his footwork,” said DiCenzo. “Offensively, I feel like he has the ability to play at the next level. He’s a kid who has made huge gains from when we recruited him in high school to where he is now and that’s a testament to how hard he’s worked. He’s made huge strides so it’s been fun to watch.”

As a junior, the 6-foot, 190-pound Cipolla is eligible to be chosen in the major league baseball draft in June. Pursuing professional baseball after his career at Holy Cross is high on his list.

“It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to and obviously something I’d like to pursue,” said Cipolla. “I think it’s similar to where I was in high school. I developed quite a bit as a junior at BC, and I feel like I’m in the same situation now. All the aspects of my game are coming together at the right time.”

Leaning on pitcher

Sophomore Donny Murray of Walpole has quickly become the go-to man for the Holy Cross pitching staff. “If we have a big game, he’s getting the ball,” DiCenzo said of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander from BC High. “He’s quickly become a guy we lean on out on the mound.”

Murray has pitched a team-high 31 innings, making four starts and two appearances in relief. He has a 1-2 record with a 6.68 ERA due to some difficult outings early in the season. Murray had a no-decision in Saturday’s 7-6 win over Yale. Murray gave up only one run through six innings but was charged with four runs in the seventh. He fell just short of a complete game victory in an 11-5 decision over St. Louis, allowing four earned runs in 8.1 innings to pick up his first win of the season. Murray posted a 4-1 record with a 3.12 ERA during his freshman season.

Finishing strong

Weymouth’s Jake O’Brien saw his collegiate career come to a close when Temple dropped a 58-52 decision to No. 1 East seed Indiana in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. O’Brien played a major role in the Owls’ second round victory over North Carolina State, scoring 18 points and adding five rebounds. O’Brien shot 7-of-9 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. O’Brien was held scoreless in the loss to Indiana.

The 6-foot-9 graduate of BC High averaged just under 10 points per game and 3.3 rebounds for the Owls this season. O’Brien converted 43 percent of his 3-point attempts. O’Brien, who has undergone two foot surgeries, gained his release from Boston University this summer when the Terriers became ineligible to participate in the America East tournament after announcing their decision to move to the Patriot League, a move that made it highly unlikely that BU would qualify for the Big Dance. With one year of eligibility remaining, playing in the NCAA tourney was a major goal for O’Brien, who was injured when BU qualified two years ago.

Marissa Daly is back

Marshfield’s Marissa Daly has picked up where she left off last season for the St. Anselm lacrosse team. Last year’s Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Year was named NE-10 Player of the Week after scoring 13 goals and adding an assist in a pair of victories for the Hawks (5-1). Daly had the game-winning tallies in both victories. She leads the NE-10 in goals with 27.

John Johnson can be reached at jjohnson49@comcast.net.

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