It wasn’t just "coach-speak" when baseball coach Doug Hoak explained that his team could have made the tournament, despite its 6-12 record.
The difference was three games that the Generals lost. With wins in those three games, it would have put them at 9-9 and in the tournament.
“We were close,” said retiring Hoak, who donned the coach’s clipboard for the final time in a 2-0 loss to Bishop Fenwick last week. “You look at the 6-12 record and it looks far removed from the tournament. But if you look back through the season there are games we could have won.”
That final game against Fenwick is a prime example.
Ace Cam Charette threw a one-hitter and lost to the Crusaders 2-0. And Fenwick was no slouch, winning the Catholic Central Large League and beating Northeast Conference champion Danvers earlier in the year.
Hoak looked back at early-season games that could have easily gone in the favor of the Generals, including a 6-5 loss in 9 innings to North Reading and an extra-innings loss to Newburyport the next day. The Generals came back to beat Rockport but then dropped a tough 2-1 decision to Georgetown. That turned a 2-3 record to 3-6, one the squad couldn’t overcome.
“(In) each one of those games there were several plays that we didn’t make. If we make those plays we win those games,” said Hoak. “Our Achilles' heal was that we weren’t able to make the play to win.”
Hoak wasn’t upset to not make the tournament for himself, but for the outgoing seniors on the team.
“I am always disappointed because every year our first goal is to qualify for the state tournament,” he said. “The fact we weren’t able to do that was disappointing. I always hope to send the seniors out the right way. (The tournament) is the most exciting part of year.”
This year’s seniors were Dylan Keith, Alton Bynum, Jake Prince, Jim Love, Jared Kefalas and Charette.
Another factor that may have played a part in the Generals campaign was the , shutting him down for the entire spring. With Charette and Ryan Foringer, Hendrickson would have given Hamilton-Wenham a formidable three-man rotation.
It was the second straight year that Hoak lost a top pitcher and big bat in the lineup – Dan Duval missing the 2010 season following shoulder surgery.
Hoak still got a solid year from Charette. Despite his 4-3 record, in 50 2/3 innings he struck out 74 and allowed only 33 hits while posting a 2.07 earned run average.
Offensively the team was led by Love, a four-year starter at catcher, and Kefalas, a three-year starter at shortstop, who hit .347 and .345, respectively. Prince only hit .250 but he led the team with two home runs and was second with 10 RBIs.
“I’ve coached more than 25 years and I have never had a player who hit the ball as well as (Prince) but have that low of an average,” Hoak said. “He crushed the ball all season, but right at people.”
Hoak pointed out the “outstanding” defense played by centerfielder Jim Parr, who he said “played as solid defense in the outfield as anyone in the league.”
It wasn’t the way Hoak wanted to finish his coaching career, but his focus was on the players and not himself.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to go out but I never felt it was about me,” he said. “I wanted it for the seniors who have been with me for so long, who worked through the system.
“I think (the kids) felt we could’ve done better. They know they were very close to making the tournament.”