Written by Vinny Messana Friday, 28 March 2014 00:00
Levittown ball player takes team to a new altitude
Baseball might be a game of inches, but not for Levittown outfielder Jon Cruz, who is looking to launch the Dowling College Golden Lions up a couple of light-years. Recently named ECC player of the week, Cruz said that his ideal career would be to become an astronaut. How’s that for a lofty goal?
Dowling is off to a terrific 9-6 start, much of it due to Cruz’s torrid hitting. Through 15 games, Cruz is leads the Golden Lions, with a with a .404 average [18 hits in 45 at bats], and is second in the entire ECC. He also has an unbelievable .491 on-base percentage to accompany it, which he attributes primarily to one improvement he has made.
“My work ethic has really improved,” said Cruz. “I started to take baseball more seriously. High School to college is a big jump and I really focused on improving the mental part of my game,” he added. Thus far it is working as planned; Cruz, who was a standout player at Division High School, earning him the distinction as All-County in his junior year, is proving how much maturity can benefit a player.
Last year the Golden Lions scuffled and finished with a 22-20 record. Much of that was due to the team’s .236 cumulative average. Only one player finished with over a .300 average. It was surprising considering the level of talent on the team. Dowling fell to St.
Thomas Aquinas in the 2013 ECC conference playoffs. They had won the tournament the previous season, and won 31 games.
This year, the team is feeling confident and is playing well against strong teams. Dowling has already beaten perennial powerhouses in LeMoyne, Southern New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce and the up-and-coming Stonehill. For that reason, the team has big aspirations.
“Our goal is to enter the conference tournament and make a statement by winning it,” said Cruz. “We have a very knowledgeable coaching staff and a very talented team,” he said. He did not stop there, mentioning that the team wants to win the regional tournament as well.
The first order of business would be to begin the conference schedule. The Golden Lions will take on Molloy this weekend in a big three game showdown. They will face Bridgeport the following weekend.
They will have a chance to be in every game with a strong rotation that features three senior pitchers; Tyler Badamo, Tom Bammann and JJ Bessell. It is for that reason the team can play with anybody, although it doesn’t hurt to have two players batting over .350 in the lineup as well.
Cruz, despite his great start, is not satisfied. “There is always room for improvement,” he said. “I still need to work on my mental part of the game. I need to stay focused and as positive as possible. It doesn’t matter if we’re up by 10 or down by 10,” he added.
Keep an eye on Cruz and the Golden Lions as the season progresses. Despite the parity in the ECC, they remain a potent team under the guidance of Head Coach Tom Caputo.