At some point, a lack of offense will probably catch up to the Bishop Hendricken baseball team.
It hasn’t happened yet.
Mike King struck out 11 in a complete-game effort and Nick Boland blasted a solo home run in the seventh inning to provide the margin as the visiting Hawks edged Cranston West 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the fifth straight game in which Hendricken has scored two runs or fewer.
The Hawks have won all of them.
“We haven’t played that well, to be honest, the last four or five games, but I’m happy that we’ve found ways to win,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “We’re making big plays when we have to, and we’re getting great pitching from all the guys.”
And they’ve needed it.
Two weeks ago, the Hawks were blowing everybody out. Not including a close win over La Salle, they out-scored opponents 58-4 in their first six games.
On April 26, the cruising came to an abrupt halt when the Hawks had to outlast Cranston East 1-0. Since then, they’ve beaten Johnston 2-1, Woonsocket 2-0, Lincoln 2-1 and now West 2-1.
“We’ve played well to a degree where we’re winning the close games and the tough games, which is good,” Holloway said. “I just think we can only go that way for so long. We need to be better. We’re just not getting the job done.”
The offensive struggles continued against West. Ed Markowski and King had infield singles in the first inning, and after a balk, Markowski scored on a groundout by Gian Martellini.
The Hawks didn’t get another hit until Boland’s homer in the seventh.
“I wish I knew,” Holloway said. “I think maybe we’re a little bit tired, and I know we’re not being selective at the plate. We’re swinging at bad pitches. First pitch curveball in the dirt, we’re swinging. We’re swinging at fastballs up in our eyes. I think it’s a combination.”
But there’s something to be said for winning anyway, and the Hawks have done that at every turn.
This time, King did the heavy lifting.
After a scoreless first, the senior ace gave up a double to start the second inning but then struck out the side. He opened the third with two more strikeouts and got out of a first-and-third jam in the fourth when he induced a pop-out.
For the game, King scattered four hits and struck out 11.
“The way we’re hitting right now, we need him and we need all the pitchers to keep us close and give us a shot to win,” Holloway said.
West starter Myles Levy was equally as good. He struck out seven and retired 10 in a row at one point. The Hawks had base-runners in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but they came on a hit-by-pitch, a walk and an error. The Hawks couldn’t get any of the runners home.
On the other side, King and the Hawks saw how small their margin of error was in the fifth. Matt Lonardo led off with a single for West and when Chris Burrows laid down a bunt, Martellini tried to get an out at second. Everybody was safe, putting two on with nobody out.
King got leadoff man Armand Vaziri to fly out on a charging catch by Brady Chant in right field, but Chant threw high to first as he tried to double a runner off. Lonardo and Burrows moved to second and third.
After a pop-up for the second out, West tied the game on a strange sequence. Travis Collins battled through a nine-pitch at-bat before appearing to strike out swinging on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt. Martellini didn’t catch the ball cleanly, but he tagged Collins. When no call was made, Collins continued running. As confusion mounted, Martellini assumed the umpire hadn’t seen the tag and so he fired to first. Collins beat the throw, though, and Lonardo raced home.
When Hendricken argued, umpires explained that Collins had checked his swing and that the pitch was actually ball four.
After a meeting on the mound to regroup, King struck out Frank Pettinato, but the ball got away and Pettinato reached, loading the bases with two outs.
King buckled down once more, striking out Brian Franco on four pitches to end the inning.
“Mike’s the best pitcher in the league and when we need him, he comes through,” Holloway said.
The Hawks threatened in the sixth when Martellini got all the way to third on a mis-played fly ball with two outs, but Levy induced an inning-ending ground ball. King then worked a one-two-three bottom half.
That set the stage for some heroics, and Boland delivered. The senior came up with one out in the top of the seventh and smacked a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field.
“I whiffed pretty badly on that first curveball,” Boland said. “I looked a little foolish. I thought he would probably come back with another curveball so I set my body back and waited for it. It just so happened that it went out.”
The Hawks didn’t get any insurance, but King made sure they didn’t need it. He got pinch-hitter Andrew Ciacciarelli to ground out to first in the bottom of the seventh, then struck out Vaziri and Anthony Crudale to finish off the victory.
“Our pitching has been tremendous,” Holloway said. “Mike did a great job.”
The victory improved Hendricken’s record to 11-0, best in Division I. The Hawks will visit Cumberland on Friday at 4 p.m. before a showdown with La Salle on Monday at home at 4 p.m.
The Rams have the second-best record in Division I at 10-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of Hendricken.
“Hopefully this gives us some life,” Boland said.