Baseball – RBC Catches Late Break, Tops TR South to Reach SCT Final
RED BANK - Junior right-handed pitcher Austin Nappi has been the big-game pitcher on a Red Bank Catholic team that has thrived in big games, but even the 10-game-winner needs a little help from time to time.
One half-inning after Nappi gave up a one-run lead during Thursday's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against top-seeded Toms River South, Red Bank Catholic took advantage of a defensive miscue by the Indians in the top of the seventh inning and passed the ball back to its ace to finish off the game.
Mike Veit's high pop fly to shallow center field fell to score David Glancy with the go-ahead run after two Toms River South defenders lost the ball in the air and Nappi stranded the potential tying run in the seventh to seal RBC's 3-2 win over Toms River South.
Red Bank Catholic moves on to play Toms River North Sunday in the SCT final at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood at 7 p.m.
PHOTO GALLERY: Red Bank Catholic vs. Toms River South by Paula Lopez
"While I've been here, we don't ever start slow," said Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann, whose team began the season 4-4. "We started 18-1 and went 4-7 down the stretch last year and it's like we've had these seasons where we've crashed and burned at the end, so maybe starting slow was good for us because we've just been finding ways to win ever since."
Toms River South pulled even at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning on back-to-back ground-rule doubles to center field by seniors Justin Fall and Ben Montenegro. RBC came back with a one-run rally that began with a one-out walk by Glancy, who stole second base with center fielder Connor Caizza at the plate.
Toms River South junior right-hander T.J. Scuderi struck out Caizza for his 11th punchout of the game for the second out of the inning and jumped ahead of Veit, 0-2. Veit hit the next pitch high in the air to shallow center, where shortstop Tom Campo and center fielder Dylan Danelson converged. Campo initially looked to have a beat on the ball, but signaled he could not get to it. Danelson, however, looked toward Campo and when he looked back up to find the ball, he over-ran it just enough to let it drop over his head.
"I was just trying to put something in play and when I saw where the ball was and where the defenders were, I thought it could be trouble," Veit said. "I was just hoping it would find some green."
Scuderi struck out Aaron Ahn for his 12th strikeout, but the Indians' second defensive mistake of the game cost Scuderi and his team another crucial run.
With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Scuderi smoked a single through the middle and stole second base with a 0-2 count on senior second baseman Matt Shiffer, who took a ball on the pitch.
Nappi responded by coaxing Shiffer into hitting a ground ball to third baseman Anthony DeRosa, who fired to first base for the final out.
"I was really frustrated about the bottom of the sixth," Nappi said. "I made two big mistakes and blew the lead. In the Colts Neck win and Lacey win this year, I was down and these guys bailed me out. The same thing happened today. I try to keep them in the game and they come through for me. That's what a team does."
En route to his Shore-Conference-leading 10th win, Nappi scattered nine hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three while firing 91 pitches. Featuring his sidearm sinker, Nappi rolled up 12 ground ball outs and gave up just one fly out to the outfield. He also started a double-play by snaring a line drive off the bat of Montenegro and flipping to first base to double off Fall.
One pitch after Nappi turned that double play in the second inning, Campo connected on a solo home run over the left-field fence to tie the game a 1-1. Fall, Montenegro and Campo - the middle third of Toms River South's batting order on Thursday - combined to go 6-for-9 with two doubles, a home run and both RBI. Nappi, however, held the bottom third of the Indians order to 0-for-9.
"We had so many scouting reports on their guys and I said to (catcher) Brian (Sheehy) before the game, 'I want to make them beat me,'" Nappi said. "'I don't want to try to beat them, I want to come with my approach, like I did all season.'"
RBC regained the lead in the top of the fourth, which began with Scuderi hitting Sheehy with a pitch. Designated hitter JonMichael Rotondo sacrificed courtesy runner Elijah Ally to second base and Scuderi responded with a strikeout of left fielder Steve Turk for the second out.
Scuderi then jumped ahead of Sheehy, 0-2, but the sophomore right-fielder stayed on Scuderi's 0-2 offering and lined it to the left-center gap to chase home Ally with an RBI double. Before Glancy's double, Scuderi had recorded eight of 11 outs on strikeouts and struck out eight of the nine batters who reached a two-strike count.
Glancy left his fingerprints on Thursday's game by going 1-for-2 with a double, walk, two stolen bases, a run scored and the fourth-inning RBI. He also glided into right-center field for a catch to deny Toms River South first baseman Matt Fitzpatrick extra bases in the third inning.
RBC opened the scoring with an unearned run in the top of the first inning. Veit hit a ground ball into the shortstop-third-base hole for an infield single, Ahn was hit by a pitch and Veit moved to third when DeRosa grounded into a double play.
Second baseman Aidan Supp drew a walk and with runners on the corners, a throw down to first by Indians catcher Connor Leatherman got away from Fitzpatrick and allowed Veit to score.
Red Bank Catholic went 7-7 in Shore Conference Class B North divisional play and are now 14-0 in games outside the division, including 7-0 in Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournament games.
On the other end of the spectrum, Toms River South suffered its second excruciating loss in as many days. The Indians gave up four runs in the top of the sixth inning and stranded the potential winning runs on second and third in the seventh in a 4-3 loss to Allentown Wednesday in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals. After winning the Class A South division title with a 13-1 record and four games ahead of the next closest team, Toms River South lost in the semifinals in all three tournaments - Ocean County, Shore Conference and Central Jersey III.
Red Bank Catholic was the only one of the four SCT semifinalists that was still playing in the NJSIAA Tournament heading into Thursday. The Caseys will travel to play St. Augustine in the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinals on Friday before turning their attention to Toms River North on Sunday night.
"We've just tried not to complicate things," Veit said. "We're focusing on today's game and worrying about tomorrow when it gets here. We're focused on one game at a time."
Hausmann indicated he expects sophomore Vin Biancchi to pitch against Toms River North on Sunday with junior Blaise Panzini also available. One name not on the list of options is Nappi, who will be ineligible to pitch until Tuesday, when the Caseys hope to be playing in the South Jersey Non-Public A final.
"These guys have been working hard behind me all season and they deserve this chance to end the season with a champions, whether it's Sunday or next weekend," Nappi said. "Whoever we pitch in these next two games, I'm going to support them and if we can come through Friday, maybe I can pitch in the sectional final."
Red Bank Catholic 3, Toms River South 2
|TR South (22-5)||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||2||9||1|
|Austin Nappi (W, 10-1)||7||9||2||2||0||3||91|
|T.J. Scuderi (L, 6-2)||7||5||3||2||2||12||104|
|Mike Veit||3-4, R, RBI|
|David Glancy||1-2, 2B, BB, R, RBI, 2 SB|
|Connor Caizza||1-3, SB|
|TR South||Game Stats|
|Justin Fall||3-3, 2B|
|Tom Campo||1-3, HR, R, RBI|
|Ben Montenegro||2-3, 2B, RBI|
|T.J. Scuderi||2-4, SB|