Tom Pannone was frustrated in the first inning of Friday’s game against Cranston West. The Hendricken lefty was pounding a spot on the inside corner of the plate, but more than a half-dozen times in the first three at-bats of the game, he didn’t get the strike call he was looking for. He ended up walking two batters.
But then he went to work.
Pannone adjusted his approach, struck out the side in the first inning and never looked back. He struck out 10 and allowed just one hit in six shutout innings as the Hawks cruised to a 6-0 victory over the second-place Falcons.
“He’s pitched great for us all year,” Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway said of Pannone. “I’m so impressed with him coming out this year and the poise he’s shown. He lost it a little bit in that first inning, but he just rebounded. I’ve been so happy with him this year.”
Pannone’s first inning performance was a perfect example of the strides he has made this year on his way to becoming one of the top players in the state. He’d been a three-year standout at the plate but he hadn’t pitched all that many innings.
This year, he’s done it all.
“It kind of reminds me of what Jeff Beliveau did a couple of years ago,” Holloway said. “He never really pitched until his senior year and then he had a great year and pitched us to a state championship. Hopefully Tommy can do the same thing. He’s had an awesome year.”
Pannone’s big year has coincided with big years for a lot of Hawks. Bobby Indeglia and Mike King have dominated on the mound, as well, and the offense seems to be waking back up after a brief hiccup a few weeks ago.
Hendricken is now 16-1 with one regular-season game left. As the Hawks head into the playoffs, they wouldn’t mind a few more games like Friday’s victory.
Hendricken jumped out to a lead in the top of the first inning. Reed Gamache led off the game with a single to left. After a strikeout, Indeglia singled through the left side and Rich Bacon legged out an infield hit to load the bases. King then smacked a single up the middle to score two.
Pannone then took the mound and immediately started attacking the inside corner. But the four pitches he threw there were all called balls, and leadoff man Sean Hayden walked. Pannone came back with a strikeout of Anthony Crudale, but then walked Joe Nicolace. The inside corner was again the culprit.
With two men on and the Hendricken crowd letting the umpire hear it, the situation could have spiraled out of control for Pannone. But he didn’t let it happen.
“I basically slowed down my motion and started filling it up,” Pannone said. “I started hitting the spots I thought I was hitting.”
And it worked. Pannone struck out the next two hitters on three pitches each. He allowed a one-out single in the second inning and walked a batter in the third but surrendered nothing else.
The Hendricken offense did its part, too, adding to its lead several times against West starter Ryan Long. Pannone helped himself with a solo home run to straightaway center field in the third inning. In the fifth, Billy Walker doubled with one out and scored when a Rich Bacon single led to an error in left field. Bacon then scored when King, who had also singled, got into a rundown between first and second.
Hendricken tacked on its final run in the seventh. Walker drew a walk, Bacon and King singled to load the bases, and P.J. Murray worked a bases-loaded walk to bring in a run.
The Falcons, who came in with a 9-6 record, couldn’t mount a comeback. Pannone retired the last 11 batters he faced before giving way to Jerre Dean in the seventh inning. Dean worked around a two-out single to close out the victory.
For Pannone, a Cranston native, the performance felt a little extra special because of the opponent.
“The first time we played them at Hendricken, I told my coach, ‘I want to throw against West,’” Pannone said. “This week, we had a game Monday and Tuesday and I wasn’t ready either game. Today was my turn so I got to face them again.”
At the plate, the Hawks were led by Bacon, who went 4-for-4 with a run scored. King went 3-for-4 with two RBI, while Indeglia was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Walker had a hit and scored two runs while Gamache had a hit and one run scored.
The Hawks have now scored 20 runs in the three games since they were shut out by Barrington on May 10 for their only loss of the year.
“We struggled a little bit for a while, but we’ve become a little bit more aggressive, running, hit and run, helping guys swing the bat better,” Holloway said. “I’ve been happy with the last couple of games. I think we’re getting back to where we were.”
Now the Hawks will focus on getting to where they want to be. They’ll visit Cranston East today at 4 p.m. before getting ready for the playoffs, which are set to begin next Tuesday.
“We just have to stay focused and keep working,” Holloway said. “We want to be playing our best ball and be a little l