If there was a knock on the undefeated Bishop Hendricken baseball team this season, it was that the Hawks didn’t produce enough offense and ended up in close games against teams they should have been blowing out.
So much for that.
On the strength of 13 hits and a 10-run first inning, the Hawks clinched a spot in the Division I Final Four with a 15-2 mercy-rule victory over Moses Brown on Saturday in the Region 1 final.
“We hit the ball well, and we haven’t done that in a while,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “It wasn’t even the 10 runs – we just hit the ball really well, good contact. It was good to see.”
Hendricken will play Johnston – the surprise winner of Region 4 – in a best-of-three semifinal series that begins on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at McCarthy Field. The Panthers, who went 7-11 in the regular season, upset South Kingstown in the first round, then beat Cranston West and South Kingstown again to move on.
Thanks to Saturday’s performance, the Hawks will head into the semifinals with plenty of momentum. Ace Mike King worked a scoreless top of the first before the Hawks sent 15 men to the plate in the bottom half and pushed 10 runs across. King struck out seven and allowed three hits in five innings, and Hendricken put the mercy rule into play with a five-run fourth.
It was a much different game than the winner’s bracket final against Moses Brown last week, when the Hawks led just 2-1 for most of the game before pulling away late.
“Moses Brown is a good, solid team,” Holloway said. “They beat a good Cumberland team twice. They’re dangerous and that’s what we talked about – you can’t take it for granted that we won the first time. It was a 2-1 game for a while. I think we realized it was going to be a tough game. Luckily, we jumped on them and when that happens, it puts a lot of pressure on them to come back, especially with someone like Mike on the mound.”
The Hawks had a little extra incentive for a big start. Many were at the field early, helping to get it ready after Friday’s heavy rains.
“We wanted it,” King said. “We were here early getting the field ready. It was a long day so we wanted to get out of here quick.”
And they wasted no time putting themselves on that path.
Facing Moses Brown freshman Steve Salisbury, the Hawks opened the first with walks from Rob Henry and Ed Markowski. John Toppa followed with a line drive single to right, plating Henry for the 1-0 lead.
King brought Markowski home with a sacrifice fly before Gian Martellini grounded out.
But the third out proved very difficult to get.
The next four batters reached base, with Jarek Krajewski singling, Nick Boland drawing a walk, Matt Murphy driving Krajewski home with a base hit and Lou Umberto knocking in Boland with a double.
That flurry chased Salisbury, but Moses Brown reliever Samuel Greenfield didn’t have much more luck. Henry drove in two with a base hit to right, Markowski was hit by a pitch and Toppa walked to load the bases. King brought another run home with an infield hit and Martellini drove in two with a single to left.
The Quakers finally got out of the inning when Krajewski lined out to left, but the damage had been done in a big way.
“I think we’ve been a little better, just not as consistent as far as putting innings together – moving guys, adding on to the run total,” Holloway said. “Today we did it in that first inning. Hopefully we can continue that.”
The Quakers weren’t completely buried by the early onslaught. They pushed two runs across in the second, with both scoring on a bases-loaded dribbler by Mitchell Maloof. King fielded it as the runner from third scored. He then threw high to first, allowing another run in.
But that was all the Quakers would get. King got out of the second without further damage then faced the minimum the rest of the way. Greenfield had the only other hit for the Quakers and was erased when he was caught stealing.
“That’d be awesome if we’re peaking now,” King said. “When the bats come alive, it makes it so much easier for me. Even if I had a bad day today, we had 15 runs on the board. I owe it all to my teammates.”
Greenfield kept the Hawks off the board in the second and third innings, but they pushed the lead back to double digits in the fourth. Boland was hit by a pitch to start the frame. After Murphy popped out, Umberto hit a ground ball to shortstop and the Quakers tried but failed to get a force at second. Henry was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and Markowski knocked a run home with a base hit to shallow right. After a flyout by Toppa, King put the mercy rule back in play when he smashed a bases-clearing double to the gap in left-center, making it 14-2. Martellini accounted for the last run with an RBI double to left.
“I’ve got a good feeling that we’re coming on strong,” Holloway said. “It’s good to win, but sometimes you can get complacent. Not intentionally. It just happens. We hit a lull there for a while and it looks like we’re bouncing back now. It’s a good sign.”
Every player in the Hendricken lineup reached base and eight of the nine had at least one RBI. King went 2-for-3 with five RBI, while Martellini went 3-for-4 with three RBI. Henry and Markowski each went 1-for-2 with three runs scored, while Henry had two RBI and Markowski had one. Toppa and Umberto both went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, while Krajewski and Murphy had one hit and one RBI apiece. Boland scored two runs.
The defending champion Hawks are now back in the Final Four for a second straight year after missing out in 2011.
North Kingstown joins the Hawks and Johnston in the Final Four, with the fourth spot still up for grabs as of Monday.
“Our goal is always to win,” Holloway said. “I think we have a really good team. It’s who’s playing best. We’re one of the final four teams and now we just need to play our best at that point.”