Last spring was a special one for the Bishop Hendricken baseball team. Led by a strong group of seniors – five of whom would go on to earn All-State honors – the Hawks reclaimed the state championship.
Last summer, spring quickly became a memory.
Hendricken turned the page and fielded a young American Legion team that blossomed into one of the best in the state.
That was the first step on the road to 2013.
Now those same players are approaching the real starting line, and they’re ready to take center stage.
“We lost a lot of key guys, but we have a lot back who saw some time because of injuries or because they earned it,” said head coach Ed Holloway. “We’ve got six guys that got some playing time last year and performed well. They were just playing behind a bunch of great players.”
The losses of those great players would be tough for any program to sustain, even Hendricken. Tom Pannone was a Major League draft pick, while Billy Walker, Bobby Indeglia, Rich Bacon, Reed Gamache and P.J. Murray have gone onto the college baseball ranks.
But the new Hawks are ready for their day in the sun – and Hendricken is excited to see them take it.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” Holloway said.
It starts with the one player who’s truly a proven commodity. Senior pitcher Mike King has been a standout since his sophomore year and has committed to play at Boston College in 2014.
The pitching staff is full of inexperience behind him, but King’s presence alone makes a world of difference.
“Mike King is back, and he’s a key for us,” Holloway said. “He’s got to be the guy for us and get us a win each week.”
The rest of the staff exemplifies what Hendricken is about this year – players who are finally getting an opportunity to prove themselves. Senior Jake Newberry came up big for the Hawks in the playoffs last year after seeing limited time in the regular season. He’s back, along with seniors Dillon Manfredi, Bobby Lineberger, Matt Ciociola and Dan Thadeio. All of them have seen innings, whether it’s for the Hendricken varsity, junior varsity or a summer team, but big varsity innings will be new.
The same is true for juniors Danny Miller and Anthony Graziano, and sophomore Mike McCaffrey, who made the jump to legion ball last summer after his freshman year.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who want to step up,” Holloway said.
The lineup has a little more experience, but will still be driven by players who have been waiting their turn.
Senior Nick Boland and sophomore Gian Martellini are the frontrunners for the starting catcher’s job, with juniors Josh Rego and Rob Fredette also in the mix. Senior Jarek Krajewski and sophomore Billy Keegan are competing at first base.
At second, the Hawks will look to senior Matt Murphy, one of the players who contributed when he got a chance last year. Murphy started the first game of the state championship series and had three hits. Junior Ryan Rotondo is also in the second base mix.
At shortstop, senior Lou Umberto is ready to take over for Bacon. Umberto was the starting second baseman all last season, providing strong defense and chipping in offensively. He’ll be a bigger cog this year. Sophomore John Toppa can also play shortstop.
Senior Ed Markowski, who played sparingly as a junior but had a big summer, is set to take over at third base, with Miller also in the mix.
Senior Rob Henry will anchor the outfield from center after forcing his way into a part-time gig last year. King will likely play right field when he’s not pitching, with junior Brady Chant also there. Toppa and Sam Boulanger are in the mix for left field.
All in all, the Hawks are as light on varsity experience as they’ve been in some time, but Holloway thinks they’re fully capable of chasing the same goals.
“We want to play well, get better as the year goes on and play our best ball at playoff time,” he said.
Hendricken will open the regular season on Monday with a 4 p.m. game at Lincoln.