It’s been a dominant start to the season for the Bishop Hendricken baseball team.
While seemingly every other team around the state has struggled to score runs, the Hawks have been the exception. Couple that with dominant pitching, and the early schedule hasn’t provided many challenges thus far.
On Friday, Cranston East was the latest victim, as Hendricken got a complete-game three-hitter on the mound from junior Mike King and it used a six-run second inning to give him plenty of breathing room. The Hawks cruised to a 9-1 victory, improving to 7-0 on the year. East dropped to 2-5.
The win came on the heels of a 6-3 victory over defending state champion Cranston West last Wednesday.
Hendricken is now just one of two undefeated teams in the state, along with North Providence, but it’s how the Hawks have done it that’s the real story.
They’ve now scored 72 runs over their seven games, which is twice as many as the second-highest scoring team in Division I-Central, Toll Gate, which has 36.
Only North Kingstown, which has scored 60 runs, has even been able to put up a comparable number. No other team has scored more than 49.
Pitching-wise, Hendricken has surrendered just nine total runs, which is far and away the fewest runs allowed in D-I. North Providence and Lincoln are next, as they have each given up 22 runs.
Suffice to say, right now, it’s all working.
“We have a great group of seniors that just come out every day and want to play hard,” senior center fielder Tom Pannone said. “Just for example, Bobby Indeglia is always getting everybody up in the dugout. It’s just leadership, that’s what it is, and it comes out to the field.”
Pannone, the team’s No. 2 hitter, was a big part of Friday’s nine-hit barrage, as he went 3-for-3 at the plate, including a long double that one-hopped the centerfield wall in the fourth inning. He also walked and drove in two runs.
“Tommy’s doing really well,” Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway said. “He’s picked it up. He’s one of the top players in the state, so we expect him to have a big year for us with the bat, on the mound and in the field. He’s a five-tool player.”
He wasn’t the only one who hit the ball, though, as six other players each added hits.
Going against East starter Bob D’Arezzo – who was making his first start of the season – the Hawks stranded two runners in a scoreless first inning before coming through in the second.
P.J. Murray led off the frame with a walk, and Lou Umberto walked as well. Matt Murphy followed that with a bunt down the line that was intended to be a sacrifice, but it turned into an infield single after first baseman Rob Borrelli fielded the ball and looked to throw back to first but found nobody covering the bag.
That opened the floodgates.
“When you’re facing teams that can explode like this, you’ve got to take every out they give you,” Cranston East head coach Mike Walsh said. “There was a miscommunication on a bunt call, and we’re taking the out – but then we didn’t take the out.”
East managed to get the first out of the inning when Gary Geisser came up next and grounded a ball back to D’Arezzo, who threw home for the force. The ’Bolts were in position to get another out, as well, as Reed Gamache followed Geisser’s ground ball with a grounder of his own to third base. However, the ball skipped out of the glove of Josmar Ventura for an error, and it allowed Murray to score the game’s first run.
Pannone then made it hurt, ripping a single to right field to plate two more runs. Three pitches later, he stole second base, and Gamache stole home on the throw down to second for a 4-0 lead.
No. 3 hitter Billy Walker kept the pressure on, hitting a long double to center field to plate Pannone, and then Walker came around on a single by Jarek Krajewski for the 6-0 lead.
“I really didn’t know what to expect with the new bats,” Holloway said. “You hear the college coaches say that it changes the game, it’s completely different. But we’ve actually hit the ball really well thus far. So I don’t know what they’re talking about. We’re happy with the way we’re hitting the ball.”
Six runs was more than enough for King, who didn’t give up his first hit until East’s Matt Tracy singled to right field with one out in the fifth.
The ’Bolts actually got to King for a run in that inning, as Tracy’s single advanced Joe Donegan – who walked to lead off the inning – to second, and Donegan later came around on an infield single by Chris Gomez.
But East never mounted a serious rally. King allowed a two-out single to Taylor Pacific in the sixth before striking out Donegan to end the inning, and he struck out two batters and needed just seven pitches to end the game with a one-two-three seventh.
On the day, King allowed just the one run and three hits, while striking out eight and walking two. He also hit a batter.
“He’s a great pitcher,” Holloway said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the state now. When he’s on, teams are going to struggle to score against him. And he threw really well today.”
D’Arezzo made it through four innings for East, allowing seven hits and seven runs – five earned – while walking four.
“It was kind of like a workout for Bobby,” Walsh said of D’Arezzo’s first start. “We had to get it somehow, and that was just the way it fit. Obviously, it’s probably not the best scenario for him to come in and face one of the top three lineups in the state, or whatever it is.”
Pacific came on in relief and pitched the final two innings, allowing two hits, two runs and walking two.
Hendricken’s seventh run came against D’Arezzo in the fourth, when Pannone led off with a double, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
The Hawks added two more in the sixth. Pannone walked with one out, and Indeglia singled. After a walk to Mick Thomas loaded the bases, Murray knocked a run in with a single and Indeglia scored the ninth run on a wild pitch.
“A lot of us have been hitting all off-season with the (new BBCOR) bats,” Pannone said. “A lot of us are comfortable with them.”
Hendricken will try to keep it up today, when it goes to East Greenwich for a 4 p.m. start. After that, it will host Tiverton on Thursday at 4 p.m.
“I’m really happy,” Holloway said. “The chemistry on the team is really good this year. That’s important. It’s not just talent. They play together, and play as a team, and work hard. We’re just really happy with the effort that we’re getting from them.”
East will also be in action today, as it travels to Middletown for a 4 p.m. start.