Bullpen uncharacteristically vital to Hawks’ chances
If pitching wins championships, Hendricken has made it happen with dominant pitching. In each of the last two title-winning seasons, the Hawks have relied heavily on a few key arms – and not many more.
If the Hawks win again this year, they’ll do it with a lot of arms.
Junior Mike McCaffrey has been a quality ace, but even he hasn’t twirled the complete games that were typical of his predecessors. The bullpen has had to step up, and recently, little-used starters have taken on a bigger role with two key pitchers no longer with the team.
“We’ve got a good set of starting pitchers who always seem to give us five strong innings,” said senior lefty Christian Travers. “We’ve got a good, solid bullpen behind them. It’s been a challenge this year. We’ve really had to work through a lot of things.”
Travers has anchored the bullpen. The lefty has pitched in four of Hendricken’s six playoff games, including both semifinal contests.
“It’s paid off working with the guys all year, getting their feet wet,” said assistant coach Bill Campbell. “It’s helped us out in the playoffs.”
That was especially true in the semifinals. McCaffrey had pitched in the final regional game and couldn’t come back for game one or two of the semis. Mike Webb gave Hendricken a quality start and game one before Anthony Cofone did the same in game two.
Rain and a suspension of game two made things more complicated but senior Gus Culpo – just back from Tommy John surgery – and Travers combined to shut down Cranston West as Hendricken clinched its trip to McCoy.
“That was a crazy experience,” Travers said. “First game coming in, I threw four innings. That was the most I’ve thrown all year. Second game, getting rained out, that put us in a jam. But Gus came up big.”
Hendricken will need more big performances in the championship series.
“The biggest thing about our pitching staff is that we’ve been consistent all year,” Travers said. “Throwing strikes, getting guys out. We’ve just got to continue that here. We have confidence in every single one of them from Mike McCaffrey to Ant Cofone to Mike Webb. We all know that they can do the job. And we’ve got so many guys behind them. We have confidence in them, and they have confidence in us.”
Well wishes from the Sox
Professional baseball player Ryan Lavarnway stopped by Monday’s RIIL baseball championship press conference at McCoy Stadium. Lavarnway played parts of last season with Boston, and has been up with the big club this season as well. He’s currently on the disabled list and is in Pawtucket.
Lavarnway spoke to the teams and coaches on Monday and wished them well, recalling his own experiences in the California high school baseball championship.
“One of my best memories in baseball was when we played in the state championship at Dodger Stadium,” he said. “I won a World Series, but I would still put winning a state championship as one of my greatest memories.”
End of an Era?
If La Salle beats Hendricken for the championship, it will be the first time since 2002 that someone other than Hendricken or Cranston West has raised the Division I trophy.
South Kingstown won the 2002 title, and Hendricken and West have had a stranglehold on it after since. The Hawks have won eight titles in that span and Cranston West has won three.