Baseball – Sheehy’s Late Homer Lifts RBC Past Lacey in SCT Quarterfinal
RED BANK - Late in his team's Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Lacey, Red Bank Catholic head coach Buddy Hausmann had to consider sitting senior catcher Brian Sheehy when the backstop complained of feeling lightheaded in the top of the sixth inning.
Sheehy, however, convinced Hausmann he was good enough to stay in the game and after his at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, it was Lacey that was seeing stars.
On a 0-2 pitch with two out in the bottom of the sixth, Sheehy hit a towering two-run home run that flipped a one-run deficit into a one-run lead and was the difference in the No. 4 Caseys' 2-1 win over the Lions in the SCT semifinals.
"He almost came out of the game," Hausmann said. "He wasn't feeling well. To swing like that on an 0-2 pitch, I guess you don't have to feel well."
Before Sheehy flipped the score with his home run, a hustle play got the ball rolling. Aidan Supp motored down the first-base line on a ground ball to shortstop that Lacey junior Keith Apostolos bobbled just long enough to allow the hustling Supp to beat it out.
Sheehy then fell behind Lacey starter Tom Corragio 0-2 before lofting a breaking ball high in the air to left that eventually dropped just over the fence down the left-field line.
"Honestly, I think I messed up: the first pitch was right down the middle but I didn't swing," Sheehy said. "I thought I was in a little bit of a hole, so I was just looking for a mistake. (Corragio) just left one over the plate and hung a curveball.
"I thought I popped it up. I didn't think it was going out. I just had my head down and when I looked up, then I thought it was going."
Lacey took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth on a two-out RBI single by senior Anthony Elefante that scored Miles Feaster, who was hit by a pitch to start the rally, moved to second on a sacrifice by Justin Thompson and went to third on ground out by Brandon Haggerty.
Elefante finished the game 3-for-3 and beginning with a May 15 win over Monmouth Regional, he is 9-for-his-last-14 at the plate.
"I was kicking the fence on that one," Hausmann said. "I knew he was 2-for-2 and he's a good hitter. He was hitting clean-up for them earlier in the year and I guess they moved him down (to No. 7) for whatever reason and I didn't know if he was hot coming in, but I wanted to be careful with him."
Austin Nappi threw 74 pitches to earn the win after throwing 62 pitches in four innings Saturday against Manalapan. Wednesday's win pushes the senior right-hander's record to 9-1, which represents the highest win total of any Shore Conference pitcher this season.
Nappi's pitch count limit - he could throw only 78 on Wednesday by NJSIAA rules - might have hurt him in the sixth while facing Elefante, who hit the first pitch of the at-bat back through the box and into center field.
"I made sure he knew he had a base open and to not give him anything close to the middle of the plate," Hausmann said. "But Nappi is always around the plate and he knew he was running out of pitches. We tried to tell him it's okay if he leaves a guy on base - we have good pitchers to back him up. I'm sure he thought he could go after him and that's what he does. He just got beat."
Sophomore Vin Bianchi came on for the seventh, struck out the first two batters on a total of six pitches and jumped in front of Lacey senior Don Zellman 0-2 before inducing a game-ending ground out.
Both teams stayed in the game thanks to some sparkling defense. Lacey came up with two spectacular plays - the first by center fielder Anthony Tobia and the next by shortstop Keith Apostolos. Tobia ran down a deep line drive to the right-center gap off the bat of Aaron Ahn and laid out to make a diving catch for the second out of the third inning.
In the fourth inning, Apostolos made a diving stop up the middle on a hard-hit ground ball by JonMichael Rotondo and, from his backside, threw the ball to first baseman Brandon Haggerty in the air for the final out of the frame.
While RBC did not turn in highlight plays to the degree that Lacey did, the Caseys played an error-free game on a day in which Nappi struck out just one batter in six innings. The Lions put runners on the corners with one out in the top of the fourth, but Nappi induced a ground ball to third base, where Anthony DeRosa started the inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
"With the pitchers we have, we have to play defense for 21 outs," Hausmann said. "You can't give outs away in games like this, when you are playing teams that pitch and catch the ball like Lacey did today. I'm not asking guys to make diving plays or to end up on the highlight reel. I just want them to make 21 routine plays. If our pitchers are throwing strikes and we can swing the bat a little bit, that's usually going to be enough."
Red Bank Catholic is in the SCT semifinals for the fourth straight season and the Caseys will try to win their second ever championship. RBC broke through for its first SCT title in 2011.
Despite going just 7-7 during Class B North divisional play and finishing tied for fifth place, RBC is 11-0 in non-divisional games - including 6-0 in tournament games between the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournaments.
"In the beginning of the season, we were ranked high and everything," Sheehy said. "We lost a couple of games and everyone doubted us and now we're really hitting our stride when it counts. It's a good time to start winning games."
(4) Red Bank Catholic 2, (5) Lacey 1
|Tom Corragio (L, 3-3)||6||4||2||0||1||4||77|
|Austin Nappi (W, 9-1)||6||7||1||1||1||1||74|
|Vin Bianchi (S, 2)||1||0||0||0||0||2||9|
|Anthony Elefante||3-3, RBI|
|Don Zellman||2-3, BB|
|Justin Thompson||1-2, 2B|
|Brian Sheehy||1-3, HR, 2 RBI|
|Anthony DeRosa||1-3, 3B|
|David Glancy||1-1, BB|