By Warren Rappleyea
With six key position players and three starting pitchers back from a squad that went 20-9 a year ago, expectations are understandably high for Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School’s baseball team this spring.
“Last year, we had an inexperienced team and we still did pretty well,” Caseys coach Buddy Hausmann said. “Now we have the experience. Six guys played in all 29 games and several of our players are going on to play at the next level, plus we have 15 of our 20 wins back on the mound and I like our defense.”
Those are certainly not encouraging words for the opposition in the Shore Conference’s Class B North Division, where RBC finished second to Colts Neck High School a year ago. Hausmann noted that while the experience and talent are good, his team still needs to win on the field.
Thus far, the Caseys have played in five scrimmages, and the coach has generally been pleased with his team’s play. With three players who batted above the .400 mark last season, RBC should be able to score plenty of runs.
Shortstop Evan Madigan leads the hit parade. The Bucknell University commit topped the Caseys with a .451 average to go with a home run, 21 RBIs and a team-leading 31 runs scored. Junior third baseman Anthony De Rosa, who has committed to Rutgers University, is coming off a .438 campaign with 23 RBIs, and fellow junior Aaron Ahn whacked four homers and led the Caseys with 27 RBIs while batting .405 and doing a solid job at second base.
Senior Mike Spinelli is back in right field following a .342 season with 16 RBIs, and junior Dom Caraballo will again patrol center field after batting .338 and driving in 14 runs a year ago. Doug Facendo hit a productive .286 last spring with 23 RBIs. Hausmann noted that the senior backstop works with the Caseys’ pitching staff.
On the mound, RBC features a pair of five-game winners. John Poccia went 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 49 innings of work. He will play for DeSales University next year. Lefthander Justin Liggett went 5-2 as a junior with 35 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Jack Ipsen, who has committed to Bryant University, went 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 36 innings. Senior John Smith, junior Steve Turk and a trio of sophomores — Jake Birnbaum, Austin Nappi and Blaise Panzini — round out the staff.
Newcomers include left fielder Suli Abas, junior first baseman Mike Diet and designated hitter Frank Buono, also a junior. Turk and junior Connor Caizza should also see some time in the outfield. Brian Sheehy, who transferred from Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), will likely see action at first base when he becomes eligible May 1.
RBC was in peak form at the end of last year, roaring through the Shore Conference Tournament before falling, 4-0, to CBA. The Caseys made it to the second round of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A tournament, where they were defeated by Bishop Eustace Preparatory School.
“Our guys are ready to go,” Hausmann said. “We have a lot of big-game experience, and we’re looking to be there again. We think we’re capable of playing with anyone.”
RBC opens the season April 1 at division rival Matawan Regional High School.