Game-one comeback, game-two shutout lift Hendricken to third straight title
After pulling out an improbable victory on Tuesday, the Bishop Hendricken baseball team went a little more traditional in game two of the state championship series against La Salle on Wednesday night at McCoy Stadium.
Behind dominant pitching from seldom-used junior Anthony Cofone and an offense that racked up 13 hits against La Salle ace C.J. Dandeneau, the Hawks rolled to a 6-0 win to sweep the series two games to none and win their third consecutive state championship.
Junior third baseman John Toppa was named Most Valuable Player after going 4-for-8 with four RBI and a triple in the series, including a walk-off two-run single in game one’s 7-6 victory.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Cofone, who allowed no runs on just five hits in a complete-game effort. “I can’t even absorb it right now. I wasn’t even in the rotation at the beginning of the year. I had to step up big. It was a full team effort. I’m proud of the team, proud of what I did.”
Behind Cofone, the Hawks just came out and beat the Rams from the start on Wednesday.
Hendricken scored a run in each of the first two innings, driving the first across with two outs in the first when Toppa singled home Ryan Rotondo – who had doubled – from second base. In the second inning, after a leadoff single by Brady Chant and a sacrifice bunt by Kevin Sutyla, Andrew Ciacciarelli plated Chant with a double to right, staking the Hawks to a 2-0 lead.
Dandeneau settled in from there, working a one-two-three third and getting out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth and then inducing a double play from catcher Gian Martellini to get out of a jam in the fifth.
Yet, the Rams could make no headway down by the two runs. Cofone stranded Dandeneau on third after a two-out triple in the first, he left two more in the second after consecutive two-out singles and he worked around a two-out walk in the third to get out unscathed.
In the fourth, it was more of the same, as Doug Harrison singled with one out before Cofone retired the next two men to keep La Salle off the scoreboard.
Cofone, who made just four starts during the regular season and one postseason start against Cranston West in the semifinals, never once appeared overwhelmed by the moment.
“He’s cool,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “He doesn’t rattle out there. He’s cool and quiet. He did a great job for us.”
In the top of the sixth inning, after knocking seven hits through the first five, the Hawks finally broke through against Dandeneau with runners on base. Toppa led off the frame with a triple down the right-field line, and Dante Baldelli reached right afterwards on an infield single that left Toppa at third, but gave the Hawks two on with nobody out.
Chant came up next and made it 3-0 with an RBI single to center, and a bunt single by Sutyla loaded the bases with nobody out. Dandeneau managed to strike out Ciacciarelli, but a slow rolling infield single down the third base line off the bat of Sam Boulanger made it 4-0, and an error by shortstop Ryan Tracy on a throw home allowed the fifth run to score. Dandeneau followed that by hitting Rotondo to force in a run and give the Hawks a 6-0 lead.
“We talk about trying to get him deep into the count,” Holloway said. “He has a tendency to throw a lot of pitches. So a lot of times we were up there free swinging. We just tried to get the guys to go deeper in the count, make him get the ball down. He’s tough. He’s a really good pitcher.”
Six runs was plenty for Cofone, who worked around a two-out error in the sixth – the only error in two games for the Hawks.
“He was unbelievable,” Toppa said of Cofone. “He had success with the JV team last year and I watched him pitch. You could just tell. Gritty kid, lot of heart. I had all the confidence in the world in Ant.”
In the seventh, after Hendricken left a man at first, Cofone came back to the mound to try to finish the job. He surrendered a leadoff double to Tyler Walsh, but then got consecutive groundouts back to him from Chris Perez and Noah Gemma.
That brought the Hawks within an out of the title, and when Broderick Santilli popped out to Toppa at third two pitches later, they were free to celebrate.
For the 13th time in the last 18 years, Hendricken is the best team in Rhode Island. It’s the 19th state championship in school history.
“It feels great every time,” Holloway said. “Every one, every year is a different story. Just to win this year is great.”
Rotondo added a hit and an RBI on the day to put him at 3-for-8 for the series, while Chant, Ciacciarelli and John Willette each had a pair of hits.
“It feels great,” Toppa said. “I tried to turn it up for the biggest stage of the year, and it definitely worked out.”