Every year, there’s pressure to win for Flood Auto Group, the Bishop Hendricken entry in the Rhode Island Connie Mack Baseball League. Flood has won state titles each of the last two summers, and the club is part of a Hendricken program that won a championship at every level – freshman, junior varsity and varsity – this spring.
But nobody minds the added pressure.
High expectations are the perfect complement to the team’s chief goal – development.
“Hopefully, we put together a strong enough team to compete in our league and make a deep playoff run,” said Flood head coach Bryan Leahey. “If we win, that’s even more fun, but the most important thing is just getting better.”
Flood expects both objectives to be within reach this season.
Several times in the past few years, the Hendricken Connie Mack club has been younger and less experienced than some of its competitors.
That won’t be the case this year. While the team has nine players coming off their freshmen years, there are also nine players returning from last year’s championship team.
“We’ve got a great mix of kids, and we have quite a few returning from last year,” Leahey said. “Hopefully, the leadership steps up for us.”
The list of returning players includes catchers Josh Rego and Rob Fredette, infielders Alex Cerbo and Ron Gaynor, outfielder Brady Chant and pitchers Christian Travers, Dan Thadeio, Aaron Hubert and Matt Ciociola. All those pitchers can also play in the field.
Those players should provide a strong foundation.
“It says something about our players’ character that they’re ready to go and ready to compete,” Leahey said. “There’s a little pressure on us, but I think they’re ready to rise to the occasion.”
Rounding out the 20-team roster are 11 players who will be new to the Connie Mack League. Those players are catcher Joe DeGiulio, infielders Eric Edwards, Ryan Rotondo and Billy Keegan, outfielder Kevin Sutyla, outfielder/pitcher Christian Habershaw, infielder/pitchers Kyle Barbato, Michael Webb, Matt Colucci and Jake Sendley and pitcher Michael McCaffrey.
For each individual player, the goal is essentially the same.
“Basically, this summer is their chance to work on their games, play some good baseball and become better all-around players,” Leahey said. “It’s for their future. A lot of them have a goal of playing in college and a goal of contributing big time for Hendricken next year. This is a good chance to work in that direction. If they work hard every day, they’ll get their reward.”
Flood should have plenty of depth both on the mound and in the field, and Leahey expects to get a lot of innings for everybody throughout the season.
Along the way, Flood will try to contend with the state’s best teams.
“Every year is different with the caliber of players in the league,” Leahey said. “We’re in a different division this year. We’re in the north now with Warwick, Blackstone, Pawtucket, Cranston – and they’re all going to be good teams. We’ll see how we stack up.”
Flood opened its season on Saturday. To that point, the team hadn’t practiced together because of Interscholastic League rules. Saturday was actually the first day Leahey was allowed to be with the team.
Despite that, Flood didn’t have many problems. It beat Pawtucket 11-2 to get off to a 1-0 start.
“The funny thing about the first time we played is that that was the first time we actually had the whole team together,” Leahey said. “But we just talked about our goals for the summer and we went from there.”
Flood was scheduled to play Blackstone on Wednesday. On Saturday, Flood will play Warwick at Mickey Stevens at 10 a.m.