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Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Football Preview: Young players already experienced in winning move into key roles at Notre Dame

post by Howard B. Owens in football, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

 

With each turn of a new generation of football players at Norte Dame, Head Coach Rick Mancuso usually finds a way to mold the young players into a winning unit.

Mancuso, of course, stops short of making any predictions for the Fighting Irish in 2014, but he does say he has a good group of young men who have been working hard and putting in the time to get ready for another season.

"Last year, our JV team had a successful season, so they're coming in and they had a lot of experience last year towards the end," Mancuso said. "We pulled up some kids for sections who got some playing time, which is a big advantage for them. Hopefully, we can keep them motivated and learning every day."

The offense will now be in the hands of junior Connor Logsdon, who led that JV squad last year to its undefeated season.

He steps into the shoes of record-setting QB Tim McCulley, but Mancuso said Logsdon is now his own man with his own offense to run.

"We're not asking him to fill anybody's shoes," Mancuso said. "We're asking him to execute the offense and do what he can do. Everybody's got to do their 1/11th."

Not much about the offensive scheme will change from recent seasons. Notre Dame will run and it will pass and work at setting up scoring opportunities.

"Unless you've got all the horses up front, you can't run the offense one way or the other," Mancuso said. "We're going to mix it up. We'll pretty much run the offense we've been running right along. We won't be spread as much as we were. We'll be spread sometimes, but we've got the full confidence in this team being able to execute what we put in."

The Irish are coming off a 6-2 season that ended jarringly with a 28-0 loss to Alexander in the first round of Class D sectional play. 

Notre Dame opens the season at home against Oakfield-Alabama on Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

"We've got a great group of guys," Mancuso said. "I think everybody is going to do their best to make the team successful."

Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 12:14 am

Notre Dame out of sync in state championship semi-final in Binghamton

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

Things really didn't go Notre Dame's way in what turned out to be the baseball team's final game of the season.

Nobody wanted it to end this way, with a 7-1 loss to Smithtown Christian in the Class D semi-final game for the state championship, but Coach Mike Rapone said he told his players to hold their heads high.

"I tried to joke with them that if I told you the first day of practice that, 'you know what, we're going to lose in the state semi's,' I think you might have signed up for it," Rapone said.

Starting pitcher Alec Covel agreed. Clearly pained by the loss, he said he still recognized the Fighting Irish accomplished a lot this year, more than they might have thought possible at the start of the season.

"It's been fun," Covel said, not at all sounding like it has been fun. "I'm going to tell my kids about it someday. It's something to look back to."

Covel clearly had a reason to be disappointed. The ace of the staff, and a big reason Notre Dame made it this far, Covel struggled with his control all afternoon.

He walked the first two batters he faced. Both would score, because of throwing errors, even as Covel recorded all three outs in the inning on Ks.

"I was battling the whole time, pitching from behind and it showed," Covel said.

After the top of the first, Covel went with a coach into the bullpen to throw more.

"I was working on a drill to get over my front side," Covel said. "The mound was flatter than usual and I couldn't get over my front side and I was leaving pitches up."

Catcher Andrew Mullen said he thought Smithtown's hitters did a good job of not letting Covel establish a rhythm.

"The took their time in there, like any good team would," Mullen said. "I think that shook him up and then after that, things really didn't go our way, so he couldn't get comfortable."

Mullen thought Smithtown's starter, Jack Palma, who threw a complete game, threw harder than pitchers Notre Dame has faced recently, but he wasn't unhittable.

In fact, Notre Dame put a lot of balls into play, just not too many of them were hit hard or turned into hits.

"Anything in the infield they would chew up and it was an out for them," Mullen said. "That definitely helped them."

Rapone said Palma wasn't at all overpowering.

"All he threw was a fastball and a change up, but he was keeping us off balance," Rapone said. "We only hit the ball hard but a few times, so you've got to give him credit. Whatever he was doing was working."

Even though Covel walked four, he struck out six and Rapone said he pitched well enough that Smithtown should not have been able to put seven runs on the board.

"If we made some plays behind him, it's a lot closer game," Rapone said. "But they're a good baseball team. They didn't make too many mistakes. They were patient at the plate. They didn't help us out with anything, and we threw the ball around a little bit, misplayed a ball in the outfield we probably should have caught, and that's what happens. When you get to this level, the team that executes better wins. They executed better, so they won."

A team that has been relaxed all year may have found it a little harder to get loose for such a big game, Rapone said.

"I was surprised that, as loose a group as this has been all year, they were a little tight before the game, and then they started playing that way," Rapone said. "I think if we could have gotten out of the first inning, as we probably should have, without giving up anything, maybe we would have relaxed a little bit."

Mullen agreed with Rapone's assessment.

"We were a little nervous coming into this," Mullen said. "It was a lot of pressure on us. We had been really relaxed to this point, but I think being in the final four finally caught up to us. I think a little bit of nerves got to us, and he (Palma) was a good pitcher."

In the final, Smithtown beat Hancock 7-3 to take the state's Class D title.

We'll have a slideshow of more photos available in the morning.

Notre Dame supporters, reminder, it would be a big help with the expense of this coverage if you joined The Batavian Club.

Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Notre Dame drops first-round game in baseball state championship

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, high school sport, Notre Dame, sports

Smithtown Christian celebrated a first-round victory over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame this afternoon at Broome Community College in Binghamton. Smithtown won 7-1, eliminating Notre Dame from the state championship series.

We'll have a game story and photos later (long drive back to Batavia before I can work on it).

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 9:06 am

Notre Dame rallies for baseball team as it heads off to play for a state championship

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

Notre Dame High School held a rally this morning in support of its baseball team before the team left for Binghamton and a shot at a state championship.

Tomorrow, in a final four match, the Fighting Irish play Smithtown Christian High School. The winner will play either Hancock or Heuvelton Central. The Batavian will bring you full coverage or ND's run at the title. This is only the second time in the school's history that the baseball team has played for a state championship.

Photos submitted by Joseph Scanlan.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Notre Dame advances to state champion semi-final behind one-hitter by Covel

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

The lore of the ace is the guy who can take the big game on his shoulders and simply dominate. Once again, Notre Dame's Alec Covel showed he's that kind of guy.

He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced in today's regional championship game in Jamestown against North Collins. If not for some mental lapses in the 4th -- when the Eagles scored two runs without a hit or even a knock into the outfield -- Covel would have completed the game with a one-hit shutout.

Instead, the Fighting Irish advance to the state championship games at Broome Community College next Saturday with a 9-2 win over the Section VI champs.

"I knew he'd pitch a strong game for us," Head Coach Mike Rapone said. "I didn't know it would be that strong. He was really overpowering.

"He was vintage Covel today, that's for sure," Rapone added. "This is what you expect of a big time player in a big time situation and he came through."

The Eagles looked in over their head against Covel from the start of the game. They couldn't catch up with his fastball, and Covel knew it, and curve after curve caused knees to buckle.

"I was feeling really good (during the first three innings)," Covel said. "Everything was working. They weren't catching them, so I just kept throwing fastballs and blowing it past them."

The fourth inning got a little weird and it became easy to imagine the team that looked so dominate minutes earlier could let things get away from them.

Covel hit the first batter he faced in the 4th. The next hitter drew a walk on four pitches.

Catcher Andrew Mullen tried a pick-off play at first and the ball sailed wide of the bag. First baseman Tyler Stroud snagged the errant throw. The Eagle base runner on second was already half way to third and Stroud tried to make the throw. It skipped past Louis Reynolds and North Collins picked up its first run.

Rapone thought Stroud should have just eaten the ball and let the runner advance.

The second run came on a throwing error by Reynolds (Reynolds did not make the throw) off a grounder from the next North Collins hitter.

"Alec's going to get you out of it," Rapone said. "Instead we threw the ball around and allowed those two guys to score."

With the threat of the wheels coming off and North Collins putting together a big inning, Rapone gathered his team on the mound.

"These guys don't get down, but I was afraid they would get a little rattled," said Rapone, who has more than 600 wins as a basketball coach. "It's a little like a timeout in basketball after the other team goes on a little run. You take a timeout and say 'hey, boys, slow down. We've got this. Relax. Take a deep breath.' "

The team got the message and Mullen ended the inning -- a bit of poetic justice -- with a pick-off at first.

Mullen -- who nearly came out of his shoes trying to hit the ball all the way back to Batavia on his first two swings in his next at bat -- would also help tie the game with a bases loaded single, giving Notre Dame a lead, at 4-2, it wouldn't relinquish.

The Irish were confident they could hit the North Collins starter, who had little velocity. His big side-arm curve was easy to pick up and dropped across the plate in a consistent groove. They hit him hard in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before driving him from the game.

Cal Tygart sparked the Irish offense, leading off in three separate innings and scoring all three times. He was 3-5.

"Cal's been strong for us all year long," Rapone said. "He kind of gets lost in the shuffle with the other guys that we have, but he's really done well for us."

Tygart said it was all about having fun and backing the ace.

"We just needed to give Covel the room he needed to work," Tygart said. "He was pitching really well so we needed to come out and give it our all and give him the room to work with."

Covel finished with 11 strikeouts and only one hit allowed.

The most unusual stat of the game was the eight hit batters on the Notre Dame side. Stroud was hit four times.

Notre Dame's state semi-final championship game will be against Smithtown Christian, from Long Island. The winner of the 10 a.m. game Saturday will advance to the final at 4 p.m. in Binghampton.

To purchase prints, click here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 8:06 am

Notre Dame downs Whitesville 14-3 to advance to Far West Regional Championship

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

A favorable post-season schedule and a duo of dominant pitchers have certainly helped Notre Dame make a championship run, Coach Mike Rapone said after the Fighting Irish beat Whitesville in a Class D consolidation game 14-3.

In years past, by this time Section V and Section VI would already have played their regional championship game, but for Notre Dame, that game won't come until Saturday in Jamestown.

The spread schedule has allowed Rapone's pair of aces -- Alec Covel and Tyler Stroud -- to get plenty of rest between starts.

"They've been dominate all year," Rapone said. "Teams are hitting .100 or less against both of them. Covel's ERA is under one and Tyler's is a little over. You come to expect, I mean, I hate to say it, but you come to expect that you're going to get a well-pitched game. You just hope our defense and hitting keeps up."

Stroud took the mound in Dansville yesterday and gave a command performance through five innings. He struck out seven through five and didn't give up a hit until the fifth, when a Whitesville runner reached base on a close call at first.

"Really, I try not to think about it (the no-hitter), but it's there a little bit," Stroud said. "It's in the back of your head, so of course when I give it up, it's like, ah."

That squib of a hit put two runners on (Stroud had hit the prior batter).

Whitesville's first solid knock would come two batters later when their hitting machine, Cole Tracy, would lace a line drive to right field.

Stroud surrendered two runs in the fifth.

It helped, Stroud said, to have his offense jump to an early lead. The Irish scored a run in the first and then six in the second. 

Covel lead the offense with four hits and three RBIs. Andrew Mullen added two hits and knocked in three runs. Jarrod Wall also had two hits.

Mullen, the team's catcher, now hits clean-up for the Fighting Irish and over the course of the season has become an offensive force. He's playing more relaxed, he said, which has improved his approach at the plate.

"I've realized finally now, it's just a game," Mullen said. "It's fun. After this, it's probably over for me playing baseball, so it's fun to be with the team for three years now and it's all fun from here."

Notre Dame doesn't know yet who its opponent will be Saturday in Jamestown, but Rapone said he's confident the team is ready for the challenge.

"We've played good all year," Rapone said. "We've lost 3-2, 6-4 and 2-0, so we've been in every ball game. You just hope to continue to keep playing and see what happens."

For Notre Dame, all of the seniors are now high school graduates. That means no more classes, no more regular routine, the potential to lose focus.

"That's something you worry about," Rapone said. "It's not the same routine. They used to get up, go to school, then go to practice or a game. Now they're home. Who knows what time they're getting up. Some of them have jobs, so they're already working. That's always a concern this time of year."

How do you keep them focused?

"I just tell them to get up," Rapone said. "Get out of bed. But I'm not there to make sure they do it."

Mullen said that as a graduate, you know this is the last hurrah and that's what keeps you on task.

"It's a little scary to see how fast it flew by, so that's one thing that keeps you focused," Mullen said. "You realize the end is near, so just getting up every day and doing the normal routine, not sleeping in until 3 o'clock, and going straight to the game."

This is a team, Mullen said, that will get the job done.

"We're pretty relaxed," Mullen said. "The team camaraderie is pretty good. We can mess around together. We can get serious together. We always keep each other on task or focused and when it comes to game time, we have all the same goal in mind."

Whitesville's first hit. Ruled safe at first.

As white fluffies fell on the field, Stroud was lifted in the sixth after giving up two hits. Stroud was having a little bit of hip pain, which affected his control and velocity. Even so, Stroud was unhappy about coming out of the game. "I don't like to watch," Stroud said. "I like to be out there."

To purchase prints, click here.

Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

Photos: Notre Dame HS graduation

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, education, Notre Dame, schools

Notre Dame High School held its graduation service Saturday evening outside on the north side of the campus. Bishop Richard Malone spoke at the commencement ceremony.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Elba upset Notre Dame in girls softball sectional playoff

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, Notre Dame, softball, sports

The Elba Lancers softball team scored four runs in the top of the 7th inning to upset the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a Class D Section V playoff game played at Genesee Community College on Friday.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

Covel, ND shut out Fillmore to advance to DD semis

post by Nick Sabato in baseball, Notre Dame, sports

Sometimes in sports a star player can get rolling and it’s hard to stop him.

That’s what happened as Alec Covel started off hot on the mound and never looked back as Notre Dame blanked Fillmore 5-0 in the Class DD quarterfinals at Dwyer Stadium.

Covel started out the game hot, as he struck out his first five batters and he dominated the Eagles all night long.

“He was strong tonight, he had good stuff,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “His last couple starts, he’s pitched well, and actually he’s pitched well all year. He has good command of the strike zone, he doesn’t walk many people. When you don’t walk anybody, it’s hard to score.”

The senior right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 13 batters to improve his record to 4-1 on the season, with an astounding 0.55 ERA.

“I threw real well tonight,” Covel said. “I’ve had a lot of time off to get ready for this game, and I’ve got a week if we make it to the finals.”

Notre Dame got off to a solid start from the plate after Cal Tygart scored on a sac fly from Louis Reynolds in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead.

The Fighting Irish would score two more in the third on a 2-run triple from Andrew Mullen, before adding two more in the fifth on an RBI double from Tygart and an RBI single from sophomore Tyler Prospero.

“We had some nice hits,” Rapone said. “We got the ball up in the air too much, we’ve got to keep the ball down a little bit more, but we didn’t strike out so that’s good.”

The only time that Covel appeared to be in any danger, was in the sixth inning after loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter with one out. He quickly dug himself out of the hole, picking off Joe Mullen at second base, before getting a strike out to end the inning and preserve the shut out.

Notre Dame (13-3) appears to have a double-headed monster on the mound with Covel and Tyler Stroud, who is 3-1 with a 1.11 ERA.

“It’s a big advantage having two pitchers,” Rapone said. “We didn’t have to space Covel out tonight, say when we want to pull him out and get somebody else in, because he’s not going to pitch Tuesday, Stroud is.”

The second-seeded Fighting Irish will play Tuesday as Tyler Stroud takes the mound with a chance to advance to the Class DD finals.

Kyle Redman allowed five runs on seven hits while striking out four batters for Fillmore.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

Notre Dame announces $5 million capital campaign

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, education, Notre Dame, schools

Press release:

Notre Dame High School will publically launch a $5 million capital campaign on Tuesday evening at Stafford Country Club. This will be the most significant capital campaign in the school’s 62-year history. The "Faith in the Future" capital campaign will allow the school to invest in facility improvements, technology upgrades, and endowment fund growth.

“We are excited to be investing not only in our school, but in the lives of many students from the Western New York area,” said Joseph D. Scanlan, Ph.D., principal. “Providing a world-class education is costly. As our building ages, there is an increasing need for repairs and improvements. This holds true for the physical structure, building utilities and internal technology capabilities.

"Additionally, for an increasing number of families the cost of a Notre Dame education remains challenging and tuition assistance funded by an endowment can often be the deciding factor in a student enrolling.”

Co-chairpersons Don and Joan Bausch, Thomas and Lynn Houseknecht, and Jerry and Carmela Reinhart, along with Major Gift chairpersons Bill and Terry Fritts, are also pleased to announce the significant progress made toward the $5 million goal. During the early phases of the campaign, the school has been successful in securing more than $2 million due to the generosity of friends and alumni of the school.  

The capital campaign will be a five-year effort with the active portions of the campaign running through the end of the year. Notre Dame will be asking for support from the school’s family, friends, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and the general community.

Notre Dame High School has been named as Buffalo Business First’s  #1 Private Catholic Co-educational High School in Western New York; #1 Academic High School in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties; and ranks in the top 15 percent academically for all Western New York high schools for the last six consecutive years.

For more information on the capital campaign and how you can support Notre Dame High School, please contact Gloria Snyder in the school Advancement Office at 585-343-2798.

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