The Bishop Hendricken baseball team hasn’t played many close games this year and it wasn’t really expecting one Friday with 1-5 Cranston East coming to town.
But when the Hawks found themselves in a very close game, they delivered.
With East’s Anthony Perry holding down the Hawks like no pitcher has all season and the ’Bolts playing near-flawless defense behind him, Hendricken responded in kind. Mike McCaffrey tossed a complete-game shutout, his defense came up with several key plays and the offense finally broke through for a run in the sixth inning as the Hawks won 1-0 and ran their record to 7-0. They’re the only unbeaten team in Division I.
“To be tested and come through with a tough win is great,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “It’s easy when you win 8-0, 10-0. It’s when you feel the pressure and you’re able to come through with the win. It was a 1-0 game. It could have gone either way but the kids played tough.”
Before Friday, Hendricken’s only nail-biter was a 3-2 win over La Salle. Outside of that, they had out-scored opponents 58-5 in their other five games.
East wasn’t ready to join that list. Perry, a junior right-hander, had frustrated Cranston West the week before in his first-ever varsity start. Using a sidearm delivery and an uncanny ability to throw strikes, he was even better against the Hawks. He walked one and scattered just three hits through five innings. His defense also turned two double plays, including a 5-3 twin-killing in the fourth that came when the Hawks had two runners on.
“He pitched a great game,” Holloway said. “He threw strikes and he had that sidearm delivery. He was able to throw strike after strike after strike. He did a great job. We tried moving up in the box a little bit to get it early, but he was still tough.”
Thankfully for the Hawks, McCaffrey was just as good. The sophomore lefty gave up base hits to the first two batters of the game but got out of the jam and then cruised. He gave up just one more hit and finished with five strikeouts.
The win was a nice gift for McCaffrey, who was celebrating his 16th birthday.
“I couldn’t think of anything better,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t keep them off-balance enough in the first inning. They have some very good hitters. They know me and I know them. After that, I just changed my approach a little bit.”
And eventually, the Hawks made a winner out of him.
Rob Henry led off the bottom of the sixth by lining a 1-2 pitch into center field for a single. Ed Markowski bunted him to second.
Perry fell behind No. 3 hitter Gian Martellini 3-1, but Martellini hit a hard grounder to third. Alex Figueiredo gloved it and threw to first for the second out.
With a base open, East elected to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Mike King. That brought up John Toppa, and the sophomore seized the opportunity. He roped an 0-1 pitch into left-center and Henry raced home with the go-ahead run.
“You could almost see the intentional walk getting him going,” Holloway said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He was able to come through, which is huge.”
McCaffrey and the Hendricken defense made the slim lead stand up. Alex Corvese led off the seventh for East and battled through a seven-pitch at-bat before McCaffrey got him to chase a pitch on the outside corner for the strikeout.
Nick Ferry followed with a ground ball to shortstop, where Lou Umberto couldn’t handle a tough hop. Ferry reached on the error, and two pitches later, he stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position.
But the Hawks came through. Matt Corey hit a soft line drive just beyond the infield dirt on the right side. Second baseman Matt Murphy ranged back and made the catch. Ferry was off the second base bag, and Murphy fired a strike to Umberto, who stepped on the base before Ferry slid back in for a game-ending double play.
“That was another excellent play,” Holloway said. “Perfect timing on the throw. It’s tough for baserunners when they’re in no man’s land but we were fortunate that Murph got to the ball. Then he made a great throw, and Lou was there.”
While the Hawks made a handful of miscues in the field, plays like that saved the day. Martellini made a diving catch of a foul pop-up in the third inning and the Hawks turned a double play in the fourth.
In the fifth, they made the play of the day. With two outs and runners on first and second, East’s Harold Corniel hit a ground ball to the hole between shortstop and third base. Umberto dove to stop it, rolled and threw from the ground to Markowski at third base for an inning-ending force-out. Had Umberto not stopped the ball, a run might have scored. Had he not made the throw to third, East would have had the bases loaded for Ivan Reyes, the team’s best hitter.
“It’s funny,” Holloway said. “It’s been in my mind to work that play in practice, where the ball goes to the shortstop’s right and he has a play at third. I haven’t done it yet, but they made the play. Eddie called for it. He yelled for Lou to make that throw. Lou was able to do it. It was hard. He was on the ground, but he was able to get it. That was a great play.”
The one negative for the Hawks was the lack of offense. They left five runners on base and finished with only five hits, all of them singles.
But on this day, the Hawks tipped their cap to East and focused on the good things.
“The last couple of games, we’ve left some guys on base, but our pitching has been outstanding and our defense has been good,” Holloway said. “This was a great game to win. It was like a playoff game.”
The Hawks were slated to be back in action Monday against Johnston, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll host Woonsocket on Wednesday and Lincoln on Friday. Both games are at 4 p.m.
“I’m happy that we’re undefeated,” Holloway said. “I just tell the guys we need to get better every day, every game.”