Last season’s regional final was the stage for one of the more disappointing moments the Hendricken baseball team has had in recent years. With three consecutive state championships to their name, the 2011 Hawks lost to Middletown and missed out on the final four.
There was no disappointment in this year’s regional final.
Senior Bobby Indeglia tossed a complete game and the offense came through in key spots as the Hawks beat East Greenwich 4-1 on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the final four.
“It means a lot to know that we’re moving on to the next round,” said senior shortstop Rich Bacon. “We have basically the same team we had last season, and a lot of guys remember what happened last year. It was bothering us all winter. Our goal was just to make it through that and keep working as a team. That’s what we’re doing.”
Tuesday’s game with East Greenwich was a rematch of last week’s playoff opener, which the Hawks won 7-2 thanks to good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.
They stuck with the same formula this time. Though the Avengers were riding high after wins over Cranston West and Portsmouth, the Hawks never let them get going. Indeglia struck out eight in the complete-game effort, and the offense backed him with two runs in the second inning and two more in the third.
“They’re really a good team and I figured they’d have momentum because of their win yesterday,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “I was hoping to score first, get some pressure on them and hope Bobby could have a great game for us. He came through and pitched great.”
The Hawks staked Indeglia to a lead with a two-run second inning against East Greenwich starter David Hopkins. In his last start, Hopkins had taken a no-hitter into the fifth against Cranston West, but Hendricken steadily chipped away. Mike King walked with one out in the second before Jarek Krajewski poked a ground ball to the hole between shortstop and third, where Kyle Palmer had no play. P.J. Murray then walked to load the bases.
Hopkins got a strikeout of Lou Umberto and was on the verge of escaping the inning when he jumped ahead of Bacon 1-2. But Bacon worked the count even then hit a line drive to right-center field for a two-run double.
“At that point, I was just trying to put something into the outfield,” Bacon said. “I didn’t have the greatest at-bat starting off. I swung at some bad pitches. My goal was just to put it in play. I was able to get a pitch I could drive to the outfield and it worked out.”
The Hawks added to their lead in the third. Billy Walker drew a leadoff walk. After a fly-out, King hit a low line drive back up the middle and it ricocheted off Hopkins. Hopkins scrambled to pick it up and then fired high to first base, allowing Walker to score and King to get all the way to third. Krajewski followed with a soft line drive to center to score King for the 4-0 lead.
“We got some timely hits,” Holloway said.
Indeglia did the rest and made the four-run cushion seem bigger with a steady performance. He allowed at least one hit in all but one inning, but he never got into too much trouble. He scattered eight hits.
“He pitched great,” Holloway said. “He threw strikes, got ahead and he had a very good curveball today. He hit his spots. He really did a great job for us.”
Indeglia also had some help from his defense. Umberto made several good plays at second base, while Murray handled a few low throws at first.
In the seventh inning, East Greenwich threatened, and the Hendricken defense had a momentary misstep when Reed Gamache bobbled a double-play ball. With one run in and two men on, though, Indeglia induced another ground ball to third off the bat of Hopkins, and this time Gamache started a 5-4-3 double play to end the game.
“Bobby did a great job for us,” Holloway said. “It starts with pitching and we played a lot of great defense too. We made plays. P.J. is a great first baseman. He makes stretches, he scoops balls. And we’ve got a great infield.”
The Hawks now join No. 8 Cumberland and No. 11 Coventry in the Final Four. Pilgrim and South Kingstown were scheduled to play for the last spot on Wednesday. Hendricken will play the lowest-seeded team remaining in a best-of-three semifinal series.
However it all shakes out, the Hawks are just happy to be moving on.
“Last year was disappointing not going to the final four, but Middletown had a very good team and beat us fair and square,” Holloway said. “This team is really a special team. The seniors have been great and we’ve got really good chemistry on the team. I think they’re focused and they want to win. Everything’s going well right now for us.”
The final four is scheduled to begin Friday, but Hendricken’s first game will likely be Saturday because of the school’s graduation on Friday.