Fresh off a high school state championship, many of Bishop Hendricken’s baseball players didn’t have very long to celebrate. In fact, the Hawks are acting like the high school season hasn’t even ended.
They’re playing the same way at the start of the summer.
American Legion baseball started up last week while Hendricken was still in the playoffs, meaning that once the postseason ended, Hendricken’s players had to basically change jerseys and get out on the field within a matter of days for the school’s Senerchia Post 74 legion team.
High school ball ended on a Thursday, and Senerchia – without the benefit of a practice – found itself on the field for a game on Sunday.
The change in season hasn’t been difficult. After Hendricken went 25-1 during the high school season, Senerchia is currently 3-0 in the American Legion season.
It opened with a 15-1 win over Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20, then came from behind to beat the same team on Monday 8-6.
On Tuesday, playing defending champion Navigant Credit Union/Fairmount Post 85, which beat Senerchia in the finals last year, Senerchia dominated for a 13-1 win.
Three games into the summer, Hendricken’s baseball dominance isn’t slowing down.
“They just got done with high school, so it’s tough to get the energy,” Senerchia manager Chris Sheehan said after Monday’s game. “But they did a good job against a good team. Big win.”
One major reason for Senerchia’s fast start is the continuity between the high school team and the legion team. Oftentimes, players who graduate from Hendricken don’t play legion, but that’s not the case this year.
Senerchia has seven players on the team who have already graduated. Three others – rising juniors John Toppa, Gian Martellini and Mike McCaffrey – were starters in the spring as well for the Hawks, giving the team 10 key members of the high school team in the fold.
“I think with the success that we had last year, a lot of guys were eager to come back,” Sheehan said. “I’m thrilled that they did, because it helps us out a lot and it shows a lot about your program. They’re going to be big pieces of our team.”
Leading the way is Boston College-bound Mike King, Hendricken’s ace pitcher. He won’t pitch over the summer, but he’s still a strong outfielder and one of the team’s most dynamic hitters – as evidenced by his hard-hit, RBI double against Gershkoff on Monday.
“You see his bat, too,” Sheehan said. “We can definitely use that. We’re happy to have him.”
At the top of the order and playing center field is Brown University-bound Rob Henry. He went 2-for-3 on Monday.
Second baseman Matt Murphy, another graduate, is also playing and hitting second, while graduate Nick Boland is splitting time between first base and catcher.
On the mound, graduate Jake Newberry started on Monday and was solid, and he’ll be one of the team’s strongest starters. Other graduate pitchers include Dillon Manfredi – Hendricken’s No. 3 starter in the spring – and Dan Thadeio, the team’s top option out of the bullpen. Both of them will be big pieces.
“It takes a lot of pitching,” Sheehan said. “And we have it. We have good pitching.”
Perhaps the top pitcher on the staff is McCaffrey, the Hawks’ No. 2 starter who may be its ace next spring. He started the clinching game of the state title series at McCoy Stadium.
“He had a great summer last year, then had a great high school season,” Sheehan said. “He’ll be big for us.”
Murphy can also pitch, as can rising seniors Sam Boulanger and Anthony Graziano. Rising juniors Mike Webb, Anthony Cofone and Kyle Barbato will also see some innings, and they’ve both pitched well in limited work so far this summer. Boulanger will also be a regular in the outfield, as will rising senior Brady Chant, who played mostly for defensive purposes in the spring.
Then there are Toppa and Martellini, two young but experienced who should be dangerous weapons. Toppa is moving from left field to third base, while Martellini is sharing time with Boland at first base and catcher.
Another player who will see plenty of time is rising junior Kevin Sutyla, an outfielder.
At shortstop, Senerchia is going young, using rising sophomore John Willette at the position. He’s the only sophomore on the team after a big season with the freshman team.
“That’s the plan,” Sheehan said of Willette. “He’s done a great job so far. He had a big bunt today, had a couple hits yesterday. He’s been good, I’ve been very impressed with him.”
With all the returning talent from the high school varsity team, and the rising talent that will likely make up next year’s team, it’s hard to imagine Senerchia not emerging as a contender on the legion circuit once again this year.
Last season, the team was the best in the league all season and ran through the playoffs before losing twice to Navigant Credit Union in the finals.
Just like Hendricken in the high school season, the goal for Senerchia is to win it all.
“My goal is to finish better than last year, and that would be state champs,” Sheehan said. “It’s a long season, but we’ve got to work towards that all season.”
Senerchia will play its next three games against Warwick rival New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43. Thursday’s game is at 5:30 p.m. at Hendricken, while Friday’s game will be at Warwick Vets at 5:30. On Saturday, the teams will square off at 10 a.m. at Hendricken.