Warwick’s baseball teams have given us a lot to talk about this spring. Pilgrim, Toll Gate and Warwick Vets have all had their ups and downs, but they’re capable of making noise, and a lot of individuals have stood out. Vets’ Shane Johnson has turned in two absolutely dominant pitching performances in a row. Pilgrim sophomore Ryan Morris is looking like one of the best young pitchers in the state.
But when you’re talking bottom lines, the same question always comes up.
Can anybody beat Hendricken?
I’ve had multiple people ask me that in the past few weeks, and I’m never quite sure what to say. Yes is the correct answer. The Hawks aren’t unbeatable. A couple of so-so games mixed with dominant pitching on the other side, and somebody could knock off the Hawks.
I just can’t imagine that anybody will.
The Hawks are 13-0 now, and though La Salle, North Kingstown and North Providence have also been impressive, nobody has come close to Hendricken’s level of dominance. The Hawks have scored the most runs in the league and allowed the fewest, as sure a sign as any that they’re the best team in the league. They’ve out-scored their opponents 119-21. Average that out, and they’re beating teams roughly 9-2 every time.
In short, they’re doing it all – and doing it very well.
That’s why it’s hard to imagine someone beating them and beating them twice, which is what it’ll take in the current playoff format. The first round is double elimination, and the semifinals and finals are both best-of-three series.
Unless an injury bug hits or the bus gets lost on its way to the field, the Hawks will enter the playoffs as the heaviest favorite we’ve seen on the Rhode Island high school baseball scene in a while. Only once in the last six years has the team with the best record in the state won the state title, and that was in 2009, when two 17-1 teams – Hendricken and North Kingstown – played for the title. And only once since 2004 has a Division I team gone undefeated in the regular season. That was Portsmouth in 2007, and the Patriots didn’t win the title.
Most years, there have been four or five great teams, and it’s come down to who plays their best in the postseason. It will come down to that this year to some extent, but I don’t know that there are four or five great teams.
There’s definitely one.
The Hawks are the total package. They’ve got the best pitching staff in the state, with Bobby Indeglia, Mike King and Tom Pannone all throwing like aces. They’ve got the best lineup in the league, with Pannone and Billy Walker providing more pop than just about anybody in the state.
And perhaps most of all, the Hawks are an experienced team with a chip on their shoulder. There was plenty of talent last year. They could have won the championship. And they didn’t make it out of the regional round. The seniors – many of whom played big roles on a championship team as sophomores – don’t want to come up empty again.
In the next few weeks, we’ll continue to ask the question: can anybody stop them? You can come up with plausible situations. The easiest to envision is one bad day for the Hawks paired with one overwhelming pitching performance by an opponent. You could also point out that the Hawks have been playing close games lately. They beat St. Raphael 2-0 last week and needed extra innings to get past last place East Providence.
And then there’s the fact that baseball is an inherently funny game. Upsets can happen, particularly if you’ve got an ace. Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway always talks about how you’ve got to be lucky.
But I’m not really buying any of this. Can anybody beat the Hawks? I know the right answer is yes.
I just think the real answer might be no.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor of the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.