For the Beacon
All things considered, No. 5 Bishop Hendricken played mistake-free baseball on Monday afternoon against the top-seeded South Kingstown Rebels.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, their one blip on the radar proved to be a costly one.
South Kingstown left fielder Greg Ballinger cashed in on Hendricken pitcher Matt Smaldone’s lone mistake, crushing a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the bottom of the fifth inning to supply the game its only offense. The Rebels (18-4) proceeded to knock off the Hawks, 2-0, in the Division I – Pod I winners’ bracket final.
Smaldone went toe-to-toe with South Kingstown hurler Shaun Gamelin, each pitcher carrying no-hitters into the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Smaldone was brilliant, but Gamelin took his game to another level, fanning nine Hendricken hitters en route to a two-hit shutout.
“Their pitcher pitched a great game, our pitchers did really well, too,” Hawks head coach Ed Holloway said after the game. “They have that ability to hit it out. They’ve got big, strong kids. One guy got it and drove it out.”
Gamelin walked only two hitters – one intentionally – his pinpoint control a factor all afternoon long. Five of his outs on balls in play came on the ground, the remaining seven coming in the air.
Smaldone gave Hendricken (13-9) five solid innings before being replaced by a combination of Chris Hindle and Kyle Marrapese for the sixth. He issued no walks and struck out four, inducing seven groundouts and four fly outs. The lone base runner for the Rebels prior to the fifth inning was first baseman Asa Nyblom, who was hit by a pitch in the second.
It was South Kingstown right fielder Sam Kenyon who finally broke through for a hit off Smaldone, slipping a ground ball past Dave Bordieri into right field for the Rebels’ first hit of the game. Ballinger was next up, and he sent the first pitch he saw into orbit to put South Kingstown on top for good.
Gamelin lost his no-hit bid to the first batter he faced in the sixth, Hawks right fielder Billy Roberge, who singled to right and later stole second. Roberge was the team’s first base runner since the first inning, when Andrew Flint walked.
Gamelin settled down to strike out Kevin Gower and Bordieri. But with first base open, he yielded a free pass to Tucker Flint after falling behind in the count, 2-1, to set up a force at every base but home.
The tactic proved obsolete, as Gamelin struck out Andrew Flint looking to escape the frame unscathed.
“I felt good,” Gamelin said after the game. “I’ve got a good defense working behind me, so I knew I could trust them.”
Asked after the game if he approached the Hendricken lineup differently than any other, Gamelin said that he just goes out there and competes regardless of who the opponent is.
“I was going after them like I’d go after any other team,” he said.
With two outs in the seventh, one strike away from defeat, the Hawks threw one last counterpunch at the Rebels. On a 2-2 pitch, designated hitter Conor Kiely doubled to center over the head of South Kingstown’s Brendan Blessing, nearly stretching the hit into a triple before retreating to second.
Dom Crocenzi, representing the tying run at the plate, stood in after Kiely. The shortstop skied a ball to center, nearly to the same spot as Kiely’s. But Blessing had adjusted his depth in the field and camped out under the ball to seal the deal for the Rebels.
“I thought we could have done a better job,” Holloway said of his team’s approach at the plate. “I thought we went fishing for some pitches, but he’s tough. He’s got a good slider and a good fastball. He’s a tough pitcher.”
The loss was the second of its kind to South Kingstown this season for Hendricken, although with a much closer margin of defeat this time around. The Rebels blanked the Hawks, 10-0, at Old Mountain Field back on April 28.
Hendricken drops in to the losers’ bracket of the Division I – Pod I field, where it will face the winner of the Coventry Oakers-Cumberland Clippers contest.