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Fingers Crossed

Hanover Grad Hopeful He Can Shine in Division I

  • Joe Cravero of Hanover gives a teammate a pat on the back between innings with Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Joe Cravero of Hanover gives a teammate a pat on the back between innings with Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joe Cravero of Hanover takes a swing while on deck for Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall. Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>

    Joe Cravero of Hanover takes a swing while on deck for Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall. Valley News - James M. Patterson
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joe Cravero of Hanover gives a teammate a pat on the back between innings with Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • Joe Cravero of Hanover takes a swing while on deck for Lebanon Post 22 Friday, July 5, 2013. Cravero pitched two no-hitters this spring for Hanover, was named Division II player of the year and will play Division I ball at Holy Cross in the fall. Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>

Hanover — If he’s not careful, he could take a windshield out.

Joe Cravero’s next home sits hard by Interstate 290 in Worcester, Mass. Fitton Field, the baseball diamond at the College of the Holy Cross, requires a 332-foot drive to clear the left-field fence, and the highway bisecting the city of 181,000 is another 70 or so feet beyond. A timely, well-struck ball could provide an unsuspecting motorist a scare.

As if that would ever happen with Cravero on the mound.

A four-year pitcher at Hanover High School, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder stands a fair chance of assuming Fitton’s mound by next spring. Holy Cross baseball coach Greg DiCenzo thinks enough of Cravero that he’s including him in his plans to restock a pitching rotation that carried the Crusaders to the cusp of the NCAA tournament last spring.

That’s heady stuff for Cravero, who’s further honing his skills with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Rob Woodward and the Lebanon Post 22 American Legion program this summer.

“They lost quite a few players; a lot of guys graduated, so it’s up in the air,” Cravero said this week. “It’s up to all of the kids in our (freshman) class to compete for playing time. …

“I’m working out a lot and trying to get ready. I want to be a little bigger. That would help.”

DiCenzo, who enters his seventh year with Holy Cross this fall, is getting a pitcher who he believes already has some idea of what will be required of him.

The right-hander showed it through four years at Hanover, and no more so than in guiding the Marauders to the NHIAA Division II quarterfinals in his senior campaign. His next assignment comes with a Crusader squad that entered last season as a Patriot League championship favorite, but eventually fell to Army in the league finals.

“We will have a lot of depth with guys similar to Joe, in that we’ll have a lot of first-year guys with tremendous talent, skill sets and high upsides who haven’t proven themselves in the Division I level,” DiCenzo said in a phone interview. “We have (several) guys that are steady, that are going to help. We have other guys who have pitched significant innings as freshmen and sophomores.

“We have a good nucleus, but we need — out of seven or eight first-year arms coming in — someone to pitch early. Joe is one we expect to jump on that.”

Longtime Hanover High Athletic Director and baseball coach Mike Jackson can’t remember sending one of his players to NCAA Division I play. Cravero is that special.

Jackson employed Cravero as one of his top pitchers from the start, giving him quality innings as a freshman and anointing him de facto ace as a sophomore. Despite Hanover’s middle-of-the-road standing, New Hampshire coaches chose Cravero their Division II player of the year last month, and the numbers said it all: an 8-1 mark in 13 appearances, a 1.02 earned-run average, 109 strikeouts and just 27 walks in just 62 1∕3 innings and a tiny WHIP (walks and hits divided by innings pitched) of 0.835.

Cravero also threw a one-hitter and two no-hitters and was pulled from a potential third no-no after five innings because of a high pitch count.

“He’s always been a baseball junkie,” Jackson said. “He’s always been a good player, no question, one of the best in his class, but he’s really worked for it. …

“One thing I like about Joe is he’s put his life together in terms of his work ethic. That includes academic work, his life at school, athletics. He works very hard in the offseason to prepare as an athlete.”

Capable of hitting 90 mph with his fastball, Cravero already has an understanding of how to pitch instead of how to throw. It’s an important distinction for a college baseball coach.

“He has a loose arm,” DiCenzo said. “He competes when he’s on the mound. ... To have a guy in high school who can run it up there velocity-wise, those types of pitchers are, more than anything, throwers. He has the ability to pitch while running it up there.”

Cravero comes from both a baseball and Holy Cross background. His father, Joe, is a mid-1980s graduate of the college who also pitched there.

The younger Cravero could have expected significant lobbying from his father when the alma mater joined the mix of interested schools, but he said that wasn’t the case.

“He was surprisingly non-biased when I made my decision,” said Cravero, who received serious looks from Tufts and Boston College as well. “He wanted me to go where I wanted to go. He would have let me go to Boston College if I wanted. Even I was surprised how non-biased he was. I realized that Holy Cross could be best for me, and it just so happened he went there.”

Now it’s the son’s turn.

Cravero will get his first chance to earn playing time this fall, when DiCenzo has a 45-day window in which to work with his roster and formulate a plan for the spring. The season commences in earnest over the winter, and the spring schedule is expected to include a visit to Dartmouth in April or May.

“It means a lot; I worked hard to get there,” Cravero said. “It’s a big honor, but it’s also a big challenge for me. I think coming from Division II in New Hampshire to Division I in college will be a big jump for me, but I’m ready.

“Although high school baseball and Legion is a commitment, it’ll be bigger for me. Four games a week in the spring, practice every day. It’s a huge commitment in the level of play, and quite a big step up.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.