An 18-1 game like the one Bishop Hendricken won Tuesday will not delight baseball diehards, but they stuck around Cranston Stadium anyway. They know something everyone else will be catching onto soon.
The Hawks are must-see.
I don’t know if they’ll win a third consecutive state championship, I don’t know how good their pitching will be and I don’t know if they’ll continue to rip the cover off the ball when they face top-tier pitching. We’ll know eventually, when the weather gets warm and the postseason brings out good, quality, high-stakes baseball.
For now, make an appointment to catch the Hawks.
This is a team that graduated much of its lineup, that sent half-a-dozen players to the college ranks. Mike King, the Gatorade Player of the Year, is now pitching – and pitching very well – at Boston College.
But in the Hendricken baseball program, the waves rarely stop coming, and this wave may be the best in a long time. The Hawks have two juniors who have already committed to play high-level Division I baseball, talented seniors who have been waiting their turn and young players who are poised for stardom. Yes, this sounds like your usual Hendricken baseball team, but when you hear about the commitments and see line drives rocketing all over the field, the ceiling feels higher than the usual.
Junior catcher Gian Martellini hit two home runs Tuesday. He was already a Second-Team All-State pick last year, but he was only scratching the surface then. He’s now becoming the player everyone thought he’d be when he blasted balls out of Little League diamonds and when he led his Johnston Junior League team to the 2011 World Series.
Martellini has given a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt, one of the top college baseball programs in the country. Fellow junior John Toppa has given a pledge to Connecticut, arguably the top program in the northeast. Toppa, who’s taking over third base duties for the Hawks this year, didn’t have a hit Tuesday, but that won’t happen very often.
Senior captain Brady Chant – one of the team’s few veterans – has committed to play at Suffolk University. Seniors Ryan Rotondo and Sam Boulanger, first-year starters, have been two of the team’s best hitters. The junior class includes an emerging ace in Mike McCaffrey and talented hitters like leadoff man Christian Aybar and first baseman Billy Keegan.
The sophomores? Hendricken has never been afraid to give young talents a chance to shine, and this year’s crew is on the familiar path. Matt Kennedy is the next Hawks’ ace, John Willette is already anchoring the infield at shortstop, and head coach Ed Holloway said Dante Baldelli has exceeded his expectations. That’s a Baldelli – Rocco’s brother. You can imagine what it takes to exceed those expectations.
If they become the well-oiled machine they’re capable of, the Hawks will be tough to beat this season. And while they work out the kinks, they’ll be fun to watch.
Even if they’re winning 18-1, you won’t want to miss them.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @RhodyWill.