Two-time defending champion Bishop Hendricken entered the baseball season with some questions. A third of the way through, a few of them still remain, but the Hawks have delivered one big answer time and again.
They can hit.
Hendricken improved to 6-0 on Tuesday with an 18-1 demolition of Cranston East. That came on the heels of a 15-2 blowout of St. Raphael last week.
The Hawks have scored 67 runs in six games, 10 more than any team in the state.
“We’ve hit the ball really well this year, a lot more than I expected after last year,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “But the guys that came back, a lot of them have improved, and we’re getting big contributions from the new guys. Right up and down the lineup, we’ve been hitting.”
Junior catcher Gian Martellini led the charge Tuesday, blasting two home runs and driving in seven, while sophomore Dante Baldelli went 3-for-3 with a single, a double and an inside-the-park home run.
Junior Mike McCaffrey tossed a five-inning complete game and allowed just two hits. He struck out five.
“We played a good game today,” Holloway. “Everybody swung the bat well and Mike did a good job pitching. He’s actually fighting a cold, but he did a nice job. We played well, I thought, overall.”
Teams like 2-5 Cranston East and 1-6 St. Raphael don’t provide the toughest tests, but the powerful offense Hendricken has flashed against those teams has carried the torch against tougher competition, too. When Cranston West got within a run of Hendricken in the late going of an early-season match-up, the Hawks responded with seven runs in the seventh inning. When La Salle chased McCaffrey in the fourth inning of their meeting last week, the Hawks made it a moot point by scoring nine runs.
The Hawks still want to solidify their pitching rotation and bullpen, and Holloway would like to see steadier defense.
But the offense looks like the foundation.
“We’re a good hitting team up and down the lineup,” Martellini said. “Lot of young guys, but they’re pulling through and doing their part really well.”
Cranston East came into Tuesday’s game on a four-game losing streak. Ace Anthony Perry – who shut down the Hawks in surprise fashion last year – had just pitched Saturday, so the ’Bolts gave the ball to No. 3 starter Nick Mendez.
And the Hawks pounced.
Ryan Rotondo worked a one-out walk in the first, before Martellini belted a two-run home run over the fence in left field for the 2-0 lead. Mendez avoided further trouble, but got right back into a jam in the second. Baldelli led off with a double and Billy Keegan walked before Sam Boulanger and John Willette delivered RBI singles. Later in the inning, Boulanger raced home on a double steal and Martellini added an RBI single to make it 6-0.
The fact that the production came from every part of the lineup is typical for the Hawks.
“It seems like everybody’s chipping in,” Holloway said. “Sam Boulanger has had some clutch hits. Brady Chant has improved a lot. Ryan Rotondo has been crushing the ball. All the guys have been doing great.”
In the third, Baldelli smacked a line drive to deep center field that East’s Mike Castillo misjudged. It got over his head and rolled to the wall. Meanwhile, Baldelli glided around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
The sophomore added a single later in the game as he continued his impressive emergence. The brother of Hendricken alum and former Major Leaguer Rocco Baldelli, Dante has been one of the team’s best hitters despite his youth.
“He’s doing a great job,” Holloway said. “He looks really good, for a sophomore. I knew he was good, but he’s been even better than I anticipated.”
The Hawks added a run in the fourth when John Toppa walked and came around on an error. In the fifth, they blew the doors off with a 10-run inning against East’s bullpen. Martellini delivered the big blow with a grand slam. Off the bench, Dan Miller added a two-run double, Gus Culpo had an RBI infield hit and Kevin Sutyla had an RBI single.
The Hawks finished with 12 hits. Thanks to some late pinch-hitting opportunities, 13 different Hawks reached base.
The victory made Hendricken the first team to six wins in Division I. The Hawks have a two-game cushion in the loss column on second-place Cranston West in D-I-North. North Kingstown leads D-I-South at 5-1.
The Hawks will be back in action today when they host Johnston at 4 p.m. The Panthers are 4-3 and knocked off Cranston West Tuesday.
While things are certainly going well for the Hawks, they’re focused on what needs to get better.
“We need to get our pitching lined up and our defense needs to improve,” Holloway said. “We have a good defense, but sometimes we’re not as consistent as we need to be. We need to get better offensively, too, not just hitting, but the little parts of the game, hitting behind guys, getting guys in. That’s important when you’re facing a really good pitcher. You’ve got to do little things. We have a lot of improving to do to be ready for playoffs.”