By Warren Rappleyea
Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School’s baseball team is off to a strong start in the Shore Conference Tournament, as the Caseys look to add a second championship trophy to their case this spring.
Fourth-seeded RBC exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the first inning and went on to dominate 13th-seeded Manalapan High School, 13-2, in the opener of the tournament May 20. Left fielder Steve Turk blasted a home run and drove in four runs, and catcher Brian Sheehy added three RBIs in the victory.
The Caseys were scheduled to host Lacey Township High School, the fifth seed, in a quarterfinals matchup May 24.
Coach Buddy Hausmann’s team is 17-7 overall, and the pitching has been particularly strong of late. Since an 8-0 loss to Manasquan High School May 4, RBC pitchers have not allowed more than four runs in any game. During that stretch the Caseys have won six of seven games and for the season, the team boasts a staff ERA of 2.86.
Following a 3-2 regular-season loss to Middletown High School North May 9 — in a contest that saw the Lions tie the game in the top of the sixth inning and take the lead in the top of the seventh — RBC has won five games in a row.
The streak started with a 10-3 victory over Freehold High School in the Monmouth County Tournament finals. Designated hitter JonMichael Rotondo, Aidan Supp and Mike Veit all homered in the win, and Sheehy drove in a pair of runs to increase his season total to 21 RBIs — second on the team behind Aaron Ahn’s 26 RBIs.
Previously, RBC had downed Ocean Township High School, 5-1, in the semifinals thanks to a five-run first inning. Rotondo, Turk and center fielder Connor Caizza all singled in runs in support of pitcher Austin Nappi, who tossed six shutout innings before yielding to Ryan O’Hara. The Caseys shut out Wall High School, 3-0, in the quarterfinals and had downed Colts Neck High School, 8-6, in the opening round.
Nappi has become the staff ace with an 8-1 mark and a 2.02 ERA. In 52 innings of work, the junior has issued just three bases on balls and lets a solid defense help him out. Sophomore Vin Bianchi is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA over 17 innings, and junior Blaise Panzini is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 29 innings.
“Our pitching has been pretty good all season,” Hausmann said. “Our pitchers have confidence in their fielders, and they throw strikes. That’s really what you need at this time of the season.”
Since the victory over Freehold, the Caseys downed Red Bank Regional High School, Colts Neck and Barnegat High School, before playing Manalapan.
RBC has also qualified for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey, Non-Public A tournament as the third seed. The team’s first game in the sectional is set for May 30 against the winner of the May 25 contest between sixth-seeded Notre Dame High School and 11th-seeded Camden Catholic High School.