By Warren Rappleyea
Coming off a 22-win season and with six starters and several other key players back, expectations are high this spring for Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School’s baseball team.
A year ago, the Caseys made it to the semifinals of both the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public, A South and the Shore Conference tournaments, falling to Camden Catholic High School and Christian Brothers Academy, respectively.
“This is a pretty focused group of players — and so far, eight of them are going to play in college,” said Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann, who begins his 10th season at the helm. “This is also one of the deepest teams I’ve had. There is a lot of competition for playing time, and the players standing behind our starters can easily step in.”
RBC returns three big bats in the middle of its order. First baseman Mike Veit is coming off a .385 campaign with a home run and 13 RBIs. Shortstop Aaron Ahn, who has committed to the U.S. Naval Academy, topped the Caseys with six round-trippers. He also drove in 19 runs and hit .317. Rutgers University-bound third baseman Anthony DeRosa led the team with 19 RBIs to go along with a pair of homers and a .299 batting average.
Dom Caraballo will be back at the top of the order. The Rider University commit batted .327 and led the Caseys with 10 stolen bases. Second baseman Aiden Supp, who will play for Montclair State University next year, hit .261 and contributed 10 RBIs a year ago.
Steve Turk will start in left field, where he saw some action a year ago. Turk, who will play for Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, will also see time on the mound.
Sophomore David Glancy is expected to start in right field, and seniors Connor Caizza and lefty-swinging Sean Carver will see time in the outfield as well. Versatile sophomore Vin Bianchi, who can play anywhere in the infield, has been impressive in the preseason.
RBC lost the bulk of its pitching staff, accounting for 160-plus innings, to graduation. Hausmann, however, expressed confidence.
“Our offense and defense will be very strong,” the coach said. “A lot of our success will depend on our pitching, which I think will be fine.”
Austin Nappi leads the staff. The junior posted a 2-1 record with a 2.24 ERA last spring. In 25 innings of work, Nappi allowed just two walks and recorded 19 strikeouts. Junior Blaise Panzini, who has committed to the U.S. Military Academy, freshman John Nimeth and Turk comprise the rest of the starting rotation.
Three juniors are the key hurlers out of the bullpen: Jake Birnbaum, Joe Ianelli and Shawn Golden, RBC’s lone left-hander. Eddie Barnwell and Brian Sheehy will handle the catching. Barnwell has committed to DeSales University, while Sheehy plans to play at Mercer County Community College.
Hausmann said his team was able to shoehorn six scrimmages in over the past week, including a pair against Saint Joseph Regional High School of Montvale.
“We had a couple of rough innings, but overall we played very well,” the coach said. “I’m pretty happy with where we’re at right now.”
The Caseys are scheduled to open with three straight Shore Conference B North Division games. RBC is set to host Long Branch High School April 3 and Ocean Township High School April 5 and will visit Monmouth Regional High School April 7. The following day, RBC hosts Manalapan High School as part of the Shore Conference’s Strike Out Autism Challenge.