An early-season matchup between two of the top teams in the state didn’t disappoint on Monday afternoon.
Cranston West controlled the first six innings on its home field against five-time defending state champion Hendricken, before the Hawks rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh to force extra innings.
Hawks’ freshman second baseman Dom Crocenzi’s single to right-centerfield off of Falcons’ southpaw reliever Zachary Minicucci proved to be the game-winning hit, plating Andrew Hopgood from second in the top of the eighth.
Hendricken sophomore left-hander Kyle Marrapese then completed his stellar outing of 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball out of the bullpen by shutting West down in the bottom half of the eighth to secure Hendricken’s improbable, 8-7 victory.
“We were up the last two innings and we got it done,” Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway said of his team’s morale even being down five late. “It wasn’t a good game, the whole game we made a lot of mistakes, but we just hung in there and were able to come back at the end. It was a great win for us.”
Down 7-2 heading into its last at-bats, Hendricken mounted a rally.
Jordan Carvalho got things started in the top of the seventh with a one-out walk. Hopgood followed with a single, before Billy Roberge ripped his second double of the game, scoring pinch-runner Conor Kiely to trim the deficit to 7-3.
West reliever Cam Harris walked pinch-hitter Kevin Gower with the bases loaded and two down a couple of batters later to make it a three-run game, before sophomore shortstop David Bordieri belted a 2-RBI double down the right-field line to pull the Hawks within one run.
Falcons’ head coach Rob Malo then went to the bullpen to bring in Minicucci, a left-hander, to face left-handed batter Tucker Flint with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second.
But, after Minicucci warmed up, West elected to intentionally walk Tucker Flint to load the bases and create a force at any base, bringing right-handed senior Andrew Flint to the plate with no room for error.
Minicucci would hit Andrew Flint with a pitch, bringing Crocenzi home to tie the game at 7.
“A base hit was going to score two, whether it was second and third or bases loaded,” Malo said of walking Tucker Flint to face Andrew Flint. “We figured to go with our chances of getting a force. With the two Flints, Tucker was swinging the bat a little bit better than Andrew, so even with the lefty-lefty matchup, we decided to set up the force.”
Minicucci would stall the damage there, as he got Carvalho to fly out to center to keep the game tied.
But, with Marrapese dealing, West couldn’t get its offense going in the seventh or eighth innings in its attempt to earn a walk-off win.
“He did a great job,” Holloway said of Marrapese, who earned his first varsity win. “He won the game for us. He threw strikes and he mixed it up with fastballs and curveballs. He showed a lot of poise for just a sophomore.”
Crocenzi also shined in his varsity debut, going 2-for-4 with a walk and the game-winning hit in the eighth.
“I expect him to be a tremendous player for us for four years,” Holloway said of his freshman second baseman. “He struggled in his first couple of at-bats, but we just told him to stay focused, and he came up with two big hits. He got the game-winner, so not bad for a rookie.”
The Falcons were in command early on.
Senior third baseman Michael Roderiques opened the scoring in the second inning when he blasted a two-run home run off of Nico Salvaggio that cleared the centerfield fence, giving the home squad an early lift and a 2-0 lead.
“I’m glad for him,” Malo said regarding Roderiques. “It gave us a big lift. We only hit three home runs last year and we already have two this year.”
West added to its lead in the third inning when Nik San Antonio blooped a single over a drawn in Hendricken infield, scoring Steve Rocchio from third to make it 3-0.
Roberge and Bordieri laced RBI hits for Hendricken in the fourth inning to get the Hawks on the board and bring them within one run, but West responded in the bottom half of the inning. It would produce four runs to push its lead out to 7-2, as a pair of bases-loaded walks and a bases-loaded hit by pitch aided the offensive outburst. The Falcons grabbed their fourth run in the inning when Steve Piscopiello raced home just ahead of the throw after tagging up on a Drew Spirito pop out in foul territory.
Hendricken’s comeback spoiled an outstanding start from junior right-hander Brett Traficante, who was in line for the win after exiting following five innings of work, allowing just two runs.
West, now 0-2, was looking to get in the win column on Wednesday against Central, but results from that game were unavailable at press time.
“There were some good things that came from this,” Malo said. “It stinks being 0-2. We’ve had a tough start, but we need to bounce back. Now we’ll see what we’re made of.”
The Hawks were also set to return to action Wednesday with a game at Johnston, but results from that game were also unavailable at press time.