It was going to happen eventually, and with the right mix of miscues and a lack of timely hitting, it finally happened on Tuesday.
The Bishop Hendricken baseball team lost a regular season game for the first time since 2012, falling 6-2 to La Salle. The Hawks lost their season finale two years ago, then went 18-0 last year and started this season out with nine consecutive wins.
After 27 in a row, Hendricken finally found the loss column again.
“They’re a great baseball team, year-in and year-out,” said La Salle head coach Geoff Marcone. “We compete with them year-in and year-out, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you it was a big win. It was a big win for us, a big win for the program.”
The Hawks, who dropped to 9-1, still have a comfortable lead in Division I-North, where the next-closest teams all have four losses. La Salle is in that group, at 8-4.
Hendricken just couldn’t put together the hits when it needed them to pick up number 28. It left nine runners on base, including six in scoring position. For a team averaging over 10 runs a game, not coming through in those moments was uncharacteristic.
“We didn’t get some clutch hits that we needed,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “We had opportunities during the game, and I think that was the difference. They got some clutch hits and we didn’t.”
The Hawks expected a battle coming into the game, as La Salle played them tough earlier in the season. In that game, on April 14, Hendricken won 9-6. That was its closest game of the season, as Hendricken had won each of its other eight games by at least six runs.
This time, the Hawks couldn’t quite pull through. La Salle starter Ryan Quirk kept them off-balance through the first five innings, and Rams’ ace C.J. Dandeneau came in to shut the door in the final two.
“Ryan came in and did a fantastic job of keeping the game close, and C.J. did a great job of coming in and ending it for us,” Marcone said.
The Hawks threatened against Quirk in each of the first four innings, leaving two runners in the first and second and one runner in the third and fourth.
But while they weren’t converting their chances, the Rams were.
After La Salle stranded a pair of its own in the first against Hendricken sophomore starter Matt Kennedy, they jumped on top 1-0. Tyler Walsh had a one-out single to center field, and two batters later, Armani Henderson lifted a shallow fly ball to left field. Hendricken’s Christian Aybar came in for it and went into a slide, but he couldn’t corral it. Henderson ended up caught between first and second, and the Hawks threw to first base. Meanwhile, Walsh took off for home, and the throw to the plate was too late. La Salle led 1-0.
“Like them today, we made some mistakes the first time we played them,” Marcone said. “Today we just limited our mistakes, made the plays that we needed to make and came away with a victory.”
In the third, the Rams gave themselves some breathing room, with a little help from the Hawks. Ryan Tracy led off the frame with a bunt single before Kennedy retired the next two men. Ryan Lynch then singled on a full count, and a passed ball advanced the runners to second and third.
With Doug Harrison at the plate, Kennedy came within a strike of getting out of the frame unscathed. But Harrison hit a looper into center field that Hendricken’s Dante Baldelli made a diving effort on. The ball skipped past him and rolled all the way to the 394-foot marker. When the Hawks finally got the ball back in, Harrison had rounded the bases for a three-run home run. Just like that it was 4-0.
“I think he was trying to make a catch to keep the two runs from scoring and it just got by him and the third run scored. But he made a great effort on it,” Holloway said.
Hendricken certainly wasn’t out of the game yet, and it had a golden opportunity in the fifth. Aybar, Ryan Rotondo and John Toppa had consecutive hits to open the inning, loading the bases with nobody out for clean-up hitter Gian Martellini. Martellini, who has hit multiple home runs this season, represented the tying run.
Yet, Quirk was able to induce a fly ball to shallow right field that brought Aybar home as a sacrifice fly. With a four-run lead at the time, trading a run for an out with one of the best hitters in the state at the plate was a clear victory for La Salle.
“To get a player like [Martellini] out is huge,” Marcone said. “He’s such a great baseball player. I’m not going to lie, we were a little nervous with him up.”
Baldelli then brought home Hendricken’s second run with a groundout before Quirk got Brady Chant to fly-out to deep right field.
“The inning we got two runs, we had bases-loaded, no outs,” Holloway said. “It was almost a bad inning there because you’re hoping to get more than two runs with bases-loaded, no outs. We just didn’t get clutch hits.”
Dandeneau relieved Quirk in the sixth and retired the side in order on 15 pitches with two strikeouts. In the seventh, Rotondo had a one-out double and Toppa reached on an error, but Dandeneau buckled down to get the final two batters and end the game.
La Salle’s other two runs came on a two-run double by Broderick Santilli off Hendricken reliever Christian Travers, who relieved Kennedy with two outs in the sixth.
The loss was perhaps a shock for the Hawks, but likely won’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things. They’re still in line for the top playoff seed if they continue to play well, and Holloway was impressed with the effort of his sophomore right-hander on the mound.
The key is to put the game in the past, and the Hawks will have an immediate chance to do that today when they travel to 5-6 North Providence for a 4 p.m. game. They head to 6-5 Woonsocket Friday for another game at 4.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Holloway said. “We always talk that every game is the biggest game of the year. This game is history, it doesn’t matter now, like the previous nine. Our focus now is on North Providence on Thursday.”