Hendricken dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to South Kingstown at Ray Pepin Field on Wednesday afternoon in the Region 1 final of the Division I baseball playoffs. An RBI walk by right-fielder Kevin Roberts and an RBI single by Robert Ballinger off of Hendricken reliever Christian Travers in the top of the seventh propelled the Rebels from a 4-3 deficit to a 5-4 win.
The teams will play again later this week for a spot in the semifinals.
Hendricken’s Anthony Cofone and South Kingstown’s Greg Kay each started on the bump Wednesday and cruised to scoreless innings in each of the first three innings. However, each pitcher would be touched up in the fourth. The Rebels cracked a scoreless game with a two-spot in the top of the fourth on RBI hits by Ballinger and catcher Chris Collins.
The Hawks would answer right back. Dante Baldelli led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single, and after advancing to third on an Andrew Ciacciarelli single, Baldelli scored when senior right fielder Brady Chant legged out a groundball in the hole between short and third to put the Hawks on the board. Designated hitter Christian Aybar then plated Ciacciarelli and Chant with a double, giving the Hawks a 3-2 lead. Hendricken would add one more in the fourth when a triple by sophomore shortstop John Willette brought Aybar around to score.
The Rebels fought off the Hawks big inning by getting one back in the top of the fifth on a single by second baseman Ryan Chadwick that scored Andrew Benford, cutting Hendricken’s lead to 4-3.
“That was big for us to come back,” Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway said. “Unfortunately, they did the same thing. When we went up 4-2, they came right back and made it 4-3.”
With Travers cruising along in relief for the Hawks, a comeback for the Rebels didn’t seem likely, but they found a way. With two outs and runners on first and second in the top of the seventh, Ryan Worthington grounded a ball back up the middle that glanced off the hand of Travers, deadening the ball enough to make it unplayable for Willette at shortstop. That set up a bases-loaded walk to Roberts to tie the game, before Ballinger singled home the eventual game-winning run. Chant threw out the second South Kingstown runner at the plate to end the inning and keep the Hendricken deficit at just one run.
“Travers has been good for us all year,” Holloway said. “He just got a bad break. The ball ricocheted off of him and that would’ve been the third out. But you have to give them credit, they came back and battled and did a good job.”
The one-run lead proved to be enough for South Kingstown senior right-hander Mike Harrington, who struck out two Hawks’ batters in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the win. Harrington picked up the win in relief after coming on in the fifth inning.
“It was a tough game,” Holloway said. “We didn’t hit the ball like we’re capable of. We let them hang in there and they ended up coming back on us in the end.”
Fortunately for the Hawks, the Rebels need to beat Hendricken twice to advance to the final four, as South Kingstown came out of the loser’s bracket and Hendricken’s playoff run was previously unblemished. South Kingstown’s victory will set up a winner-take-all game on Thursday for a spot in the final four.
“We’ve always said this is history and the present game is the biggest game of the year,” Holloway said. “That’s the case now, so we’ll just have to come ready to play tomorrow.”
Weather permitting, that winner-take-all game between the Hawks and Rebels is tentatively scheduled for Thursday at Ray Pepin Field at 4 p.m.