HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Cruz earns SportsCenter Top 10 nod with great catch

Manny Cruz

SNHU athletics

It’s not often you end up on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Cruz, a former Wilby and Wolcott High standout, did. Cruz, a junior at Southern New Hampshire University. reached No. 2 with this spectacular diving catch in short left field on April 16 at home against Assumption College. 
Cruz may have gotten some fame for that snag, but he’s been one of SNHU’s most productive players all season. He paces the Penmen in batting average (.379) and on-base percentage (.487), is first in walks (25) and runs scored (40), second in hits (47) and second in doubles (9).
SNHU has been having a terrific season. The Penmen are ranked fifth in the most recent National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II Poll.
Cruz was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 39th round during his senior season at Wolcott. 

Matt Blandino

Felician Univerity athletics

The former Bristol Central standout has found his footing at Felician University (Rutherford, N.J.) after leaving Central Connecticut State and spending time at Tunxis Community College. Blandino earned an Associate Degree while at Tunxis.
Blandino, a junior, was named Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week on April 5. It was the second time this season that Blandino received the honor.
Since gaining that award, Blandino has continued to pitch well. Blandino has started 10 of the 11 games he has pitched in, and he boasts a 6-2 record with a 2.28 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 68 batters in 67 innings, an average of 9.13 per nine innings of work. He has surrendered just 14 walks and 54 hits in those 67 innings.
Blandino leads the team in starts, wins, complete games (2) and innings pitched. And oh yeah, he has yet to give up a home run this season.
For a little background, Blandino was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 33rd round while in his senior season at Bristol Central. He was one of the state’s most heralded pitchers.
It’s good to see Blandino doing well at Felician.

Lauren Vallee

Bay Path University athletics

Speaking of former Bristol Central standouts, this one is lighting it up at Bay Path University (Longmeadow, Mass.).
Vallee, a sophomore shortstop, was named New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Week after her team went 5-1. In a game against Elms College, Vallee launched a game-winning three-run homer. She hit a ridiculous .586 and slugged 1.105 during those six games.
As far as the season goes, Vallee is hitting a “pedestrian” (hahaha) .446 with a .494 on-base percentage and .743 slugging percentage. The batting average and slugging percentage both lead the team. Vallee also leads the team in home runs (4), RBI (33), doubles (6), triples (2) and runs scored (25). And oh yeah, she’s also the team leader in stolen bases (8 for 9) and has struck out once in 74 at bats.
Vallee was always a threat in Bristol Central’s lineup, but what she’s doing at Bay Path is off the charts. She ranks among the NECC’s best in average, homers and RBI. 

Connor Fitzsimons

CCSU athletics

When looking at CCSU’s best hitters, this former Bristol Eastern star is among them.
Fitzsimons, a senior catcher, is third on the Blue Devils with a .347 batting average. His 18 RBI rank him second, and his five doubles put him in a tie for second. He’s also tied for the team lead in triples (1). As far as getting on base goes, Fitzsimons is the second-most reliable at .427. He’s also tied for second in hits with 35.
On March 23, Fitzsimons helped CCSU upend UConn 8-4 at J.O. Christian Field by driving in three runs. It was the first win for the Blue Devils at UConn since 2010.
Fitzsimons has a 10-game hitting streak going.

Jake Kawiecki

Western New England
University athletics

The former St. Paul star has has been effective when he has been on the mound for Western New England University this season.
Kawiecki, a sophomore right-hander, is 2-0 in four games (17 innings) with a 2.65 ERA. While Kawiecki has given up more than a hit per inning, he has been able to limit the damage.
Kawiecki’s best effort of the season came in a April 13 win over Westfield State. He threw four innings and gave up a single run on two hits. Kawiecki struck out three and walked one.
Western New England is a solid 21-6 on the season.