Baseball – Nappi Cruises, RBC Edges Manasquan
RED BANK - Austin Nappi has carved out a reputation as one of the state's best control pitchers and that control made him one of the Shore's top starters as a junior a year ago.
After a loss to Wall last week, however, the senior right-hander thought long and hard about his ability to throw strikes. Maybe he was throwing too many.
In his first start since the Wall loss - which was only his second dating back to the start of last season - on Monday, Nappi thought fewer pitches in the zone would benefit him against a dangerous Manasquan lineup. As it turned out, his slightly-altered strategy worked.
After giving up a run on three softly-hit singles in the first inning, Nappi carved up the Warriors lineup over the final six innings to pitch his team to a 3-1 win in the lone Shore Conference game played on Monday.
"One thing the Wall game taught me was I can't just throw the ball in the strike zone every single pitch," Nappi said. "I threw way too many pitches over the plate, especially with two strikes. Today I threw my slider a lot with two strikes and that's not a pitch I threw a lot last year. I just needed something to get the hitters off my fastball."
Nappi did not allow a hit after the first inning and did not throw more than 10 pitches in any of the final six innings of his complete-game, three-hit effort. Nappi needed only 72 pitches to finish the game, walked one and struck out three.
"(Manasquan has) some guys who like to attack early in the count, so a big key is making sure you throw a quality strike for strike one and not just a get-me-over pitch," Nappi said. "I tried to get ahead with good pitches early in the count and if I could get to 0-2 or 1-2, then I had options."
Manasquan got to Nappi in the first inning with three singles off the figurative label of the bat. Ethan Thompson legged out an infield single on a slow-roller to third base with one out, James Harmstead muscled a jam shot through the shortstop-third-base hole on the next at-bat and Alex Galvan blooped a single into shallow right to score Thompson from second with two out.
A third-inning walk by Harmstead was the only Manasquan baserunner Nappi allowed the rest of the way.
"It was frustrating to make my pitches in the first inning and still give up a run, but at the same time, I felt like I was executing and I knew we were going to get a few runs," Nappi said. "You don't want to fall behind in the first inning, but I have confidence in our guys to put some runs on the board."
Red Bank Catholic tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Jack Scrivanic after the inning started with a dropped pop fly in shallow left field.
The Caseys jumped in front with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Left fielder Nick Merlo singled and designated hitter Dan Ianelli followed by slapping a double down the left-field line to set runners up at second and third with none out. Scrivanic walked on six pitches and third baseman Robert Gonzales followed with a sacrifice fly to shallow center field to chase home Merlo and push Red Bank Catholic in front.
The third home run came home when Manasquan catcher Alec Wells tried to throw behind the runner at third on a first-and-third steal play, but fired it into left field.
Manasquan junior right-hander Mike Anthony worked out of a second-and-third, none-out jam in the third to momentarily keep the Warriors on top. Anthony went the distance and allowed just one earned run on five hits.
Red Bank Catholic has won three straight after a 2-2 start to the season.
"Toward the end of the game, we don't lay down," Nappi said. "In the Middletown South win (on Thursday) and again today, we got tougher in those situations late in the game. This isn't a team that is going to hit for a lot of power and that's one of the things we looked at after our first two losses. We're not going to get a home run to tie up a game; we have to bunt guys over, put quality at-bats together and just do the little things to score runs like we did today."
|Manasquan (5-3, 3-3)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||2|
|RBC (5-2, 4-2)||0||0||0||1||0||2||X||3||5||0|
|Mike Anthony (L, 2-1)||6||5||3||1||4||3||93|
|Austin Nappi (W, 2-1)||7||3||1||1||1||3||72|
|Alex Galvan||1-3, RBI|
|Ethan Thompson||1-3, R|
|James Harmstead||1-2, BB|
|Elijah Ally||1-3, 3 SB|
|Nick Merlo||1-2, BB, R|
|Jack Scrivanic||0-1, BB, RBI|