It happened on May 29, 2011, but as recently as this past Thursday, June 14, 2012, Bishop Hendricken senior Bobby Indeglia still hadn’t stopped thinking about it.
Even though it had been over a full calendar year, the memory of the Hawks getting unexpectedly bounced from the 2011 postseason by an upstart Middletown team in the regional finals was as fresh as ever.
But Indeglia wanted that memory to be fresh. It served a very distinct purpose.
“It was an incredible motivating factor,” Indeglia said. “That might have been our No. 1 thing. It was such a letdown. We had almost our whole team back. It wasn’t just the motivation of losing, it was as the motivation of the fans and everybody talking about it – ‘You guys lost?’”
Nobody is talking about it anymore
On Thursday, when Hendricken capped off a special season with a 5-0 victory over South Kingstown in the second game of the best-of-three state championship series, the Hawks erased the demons of that frustrating loss to the Islanders from a season ago.
It was as if a massive burden had been lifted. In interview after interview following the game, players and coaches repeatedly made references to how much this state championship meant, especially on the heels of last year’s early exit.
“It’s a great feeling,” senior third baseman Reed Gamache said. “We were here as sophomores and we didn’t get here last year. We had a mission this year – it was to get back and be victorious.”
Of course, for a school that now owns 17 baseball state championships, winning the title borders on expected each and every year. At the very least, advancing deep into the playoffs is expected.
Prior to last season, the Hawks had incredibly not missed out on a spot in the state’s Final Four since 1990.
“We had a very good season – it just didn’t end the way we hope it does every year,” head coach Ed Holloway said after the loss to Middletown.
When last year’s team came up short – a team that was so talented that it featured 10 players who either were or have since committed to play college baseball– it was as shocking as it was disappointing.
And Hendricken was not going to be disappointed like that again – especially not with 11 seniors.
“I’m really happy for them that they were able to go out with a championship,” Holloway said on Thursday. “Some of them were here when they did it as sophomores, and I was really happy that they found a way to get it done.”
Maybe it was simply a matter of will, of not allowing themselves to end their high school careers with anything less than a defined place in Rhode Island – and Hendricken – history.
The veteran-laden Hawks got contributions up and down the lineup, but most notably from those seniors. Pitcher Tom Pannone threw a complete-game one-hitter on Thursday, striking out 13 hitters in the process. He was named the series’ Most Valuable Player.
Indeglia made two superb catches in the outfield, a day after pitching a complete game of his own in a 12-2 victory in game one of the series.
Gamache came up big in the most important at-bat of game two, ripping a two-out, three-run triple into the left-center field gap that blew the game wide open.
Shortstop Rich Bacon had three hits and drove in three runs in the series, while first baseman P.J. Murray played flawless defense and added two hits along the way.
Catcher Billy Walker – a four-year starter behind the plate – caught every inning in the championship series, scored two runs and provided a threatening presence in the middle of the order.
Designated hitter Justin Finan had two hits and three RBI in the two games.
Every one of those players is a senior, and most of them played crucial roles on last year’s team as well as this year’s. They were the ones who had the most to lose by falling short once again.
But they refused to let it happen.
“We all remember last year,” Gamache said. “As seniors, we really wanted to step up and lead by example.”
Now, the legacy that those seniors will leave behind at Hendricken is right where they all hoped it would be when they started playing together. Some of them began playing on varsity as freshmen, some as sophomores, and some as juniors.
As seniors, though, they all have a state championship to remember – one that will also help them to finally forget.
“It’s amazing,” Indeglia said. “After last year, there was a lot of hard work in the off-season. It’s just unbelievable. It’s a blessing to be here this year. To be on the other side of it this year, especially as seniors, it’s unbelievable.”