Catholic Baseball Ride Supports The Brand Name College World Series

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Wally Beebe and Brian Cashman are Catholic University’s most famous baseball alumni, but no one has had a greater impact on the program than longtime coach and Washington native Ross Natoli. Natoli has racked up more than 700 wins during his 37 years at Northeast Washington School, and this season he led the Cardinal to their first appearance in the Class III World College Series.

“Our goal each year is to take our program further than we have ever been, and we give credit to the players on this team for getting it done,” Natoli said ahead of the eight-team tournament. Which begins Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “When you can play baseball in June, it’s very special.”

Natoli, who went to Churchill High School and was a player on George Washington’s team, took up a Catholic position in the fall of 1985 after working as an assistant at GW School and Gonzaga College High. His first season coincided with Cashman’s first year.

Cashman, now general manager of the New York Yankees, was the second fast baseman and pimp hitter to start every game over the next four years. He has remained close to Natoli and kept informed of the program while building four world champions in New York since taking charge in 1998. Cashman addressed the Cardinals during a visit to the campus in early April, when he was instigator To the Catholic Athletics Hall of Fame.

“It seems like they really have a pretty good unit, they’re tight, and they seem to be able to do great things,” Cashman said in a phone interview. “I am very proud of what Ross Natoli and [assistant coach] Bobby Piccardo and this crew have accomplished something so far. They have already opened the eyes of many people and forced the baseball world to pay attention.”

Building on the success of legendary coach Bob Talbot, who coached the team from 1964 to 1977 and later became the school’s athletic director, Natoli the Catholic led to appearances in the NCAA Championships in 2011, 2015 and 2018. He said he had the idea that this team could be special during her journey. Annual to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in March. With Catholic trailing by three and slipping into the final in the first game with a double header against the University of Rochester, Jesse Lessfield, who entered as a defensive substitute in the top half of the inning, Hit on the outskirts of the Grand Slam.

The Catholic (34-14) had one of 19 big attempts for the 60-team NCAA Championship, and the Cardinals’ run to Cedar Rapids was amazing. In the decisive game in Winchester, Virginia, Catholics fell 6-0 in the first half before scoring 13 consecutive points in a 13-10 win over Shenandoah.

Last weekend, the Cardinals dropped their first game of the three regional bests at Ithaca College (New York) before winning twice on Sunday to seal their place in the world championships. Junior Ben Nardi took home five major titles and five RBIs in defeating Catholics 16-2 in a winner-takes-all match.

“I think we really believe in each other, lower tier to upper tier,” said Peter Giumpetti, a designated senior hitter and Division 5 District 5 player who hit .373 with 15 hits, a school record. “There is just faith and belief in each other and that our coaches will put us in the right place to succeed.”

The foundation for the most successful season in Catholic history, including a fitness test called the Cedar Rapids Challenge, was laid in the fall and winter, as always under Natoli’s leadership. Cashman said one of his former coach’s spells, which he preaches throughout the year, set him up for success after graduation.

“When you’re out there and you’re running your reps — whether it’s sprints, whether it’s doing cardiovascular exercise between fall and spring or you’re doing bats, putting balls on — you have to do it a certain way,” Cashman said. “He always said to us: ‘Don’t cut corners, don’t fool yourself, because if you fool yourself here, you will fool yourself in the most important place. It will show itself later in a game. … If you can build that kind of consistent approach, It will serve you well in life.”

Natoli said he has heard from more than 50 of his former players since Sunday’s win, which capped the coach on his back on the field, Enjoy a festive Gatorade cooler shower. One of those players has provided additional motivation for Natoli and the Cardinals this season. Matt Corkjian, older brother of ESPN baseball reporter and Tim Corkjian of Bethesda, was Talbot’s third baseman 1977 Catholic team who advanced to the Division I Championship and had three wins from a trip to the College World Series in Omaha. Last summer Matt Korkjian, who played against Natoli in college and with him on the summer league teams, was also He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosisalso known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

On the same weekend that the Catholic honored Cashman, Natoli arranged for Korkjian to throw his first ceremonial show, with several of his 1977 teammates at his side. The Cardinals have worn the team’s jersey style, with “M. Kurkjian” and his number two number on the back, during the warm-up period this season. Kurkjian couldn’t make a trip to Cedar Rapids, but it wouldn’t be far from Natoli’s mind.

“We kind of devoted this year to Matt,” Natoli said. “He is a special motivation for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with. I feel really fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of teams from the 1970s that raced a special to the NCAA Regional under coach Bob Talbot. We have a lot of support behind us, And there is no greater supporter of our program than Matt Kurkjian.”

The 8th seed Catholic opened the world championships at 11 a.m. Friday against Marietta College, Ohio State (43-5), the top seed. The tournament begins with two-elimination play and ends with a series of best three tournaments. All games can be viewed at

“We’re here for a reason,” said Natoli, who credits many of his successes to “the best coaching staff in the country,” including three of his former players. “We want to enjoy every moment here and at the same time prepare to the fullest because in this baseball game, it’s not necessarily the best team or the highest ranked team that wins the game. He’s the one playing his best when it means the most.”