RED BANK -- As a Little Leaguer in 2018, his friends called him Big Al and he hit dingers.

Six years after he a hefty sixth-grader named Alfred Delia smiled into an ESPN camera and said, "At home, they call me Big Al and I hit dingers," Al Delia is no longer big compared to his peers and he hasn't been hitting dingers -- at least not as a varsity player at Red Bank Catholic.

In the opening game of his senior season on Monday, Delia showed he can still launch dingers, even though he is not as big as he used to be.

Delia highlighted RBC's seven-run, nine-hit attack with his first career home run in the bottom of the second inning as the Caseys -- ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Shore 16 rankings - handled Rumson-Fair Haven, 7-2.

Delia did not get a varsity at-bat until the latter part of his junior year at Red Bank Catholic, but unlike Division-I-committed classmates Sean Griggs (Alabama), Declan Leary (Navy) and Steve Svenson (Seton Hall), he had already gone viral.

Once the clip of Delia made the rounds throughout the country via social media and network television, it was no longer just Delia's friends at home who called him Big Al.

"Sometimes it’s a little annoying because I was hearing it from everybody all the time," Delia said. "But they were all good. We were kids, so it was fun, but it got a little old.

"I’m fine with it. It’s a childhood thing. It has stuck with me, so I’m good with Big Al. Sometimes, you just gotta embrace it."

After his sophomore season at Red Bank Catholic, Delia realized being Big Al wasn't helping him become a varsity player at one of the more competitive programs in the state. Near the end of his sophomore season, he committed to losing weight and getting into the best shape possible, which has been such a successful endeavor that anyone who knows Delia from his 2018 clip would have no chance of picking him out on the field in 2024 without a roster handy.

According to Delia, he has lost approximately 60 pounds since he first resolved to drop weight.

"Sophomore year, I was pretty heavy," Delia said. "I had to drop a lot of weight. I dropped about 60 pounds. It was like, ‘I have to do this.’ It was a thing that was a necessity for me to get on this field and just be a better player.

"(Coming to RBC) made me step up my game tremendously," Delia said. "Griggs, Leary, all of them, even the guys younger than me – I had to step my game up. That’s all it was."

While Delia was happy to make the Big Al nickname less literal, he was also hoping to get a chance to get back to hitting those dingers. He earned a chance to play late in 2023 and hit a triple against Middletown South in May, which led to more at-bats late in the year for a team that won its fourth straight Shore Conference Tournament championship and made it to the NJSIAA Non-Public A final.

"Last year, I had to really work for it," Delia said. "We had a lot of good guys in the lineup, but every time I got up there, I found a barrel. I just tried to keep doing that and this year, I’m feeling pretty good."

On Monday, Delia slotted into the No. 8 spot in the lineup and stepped to the plate leading off the bottom of the second inning with his team already leading, 1-0, on a bases-loaded walk in the first. On the first pitch of the inning from Rumson-Fair Haven junior starter Owen O'Toole, Delia smashed a deep fly ball to leftfield that cleared the fence and fired up Delia running around the bases, as well as his teammates in the dugout.

"That was a big spot there," Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann said. "He was super excited running around those bases, but the legend continues and hopefully he can hit some more as the season goes on."

The Caseys added another run in the second on an RBI double by junior shortstop Max Dantoni to score junior second baseman A.J. Sciametta and it turned out that three runs is all Leary -- RBC's opening-day starter -- would need against a team he has owned for the last two seasons.

Leary defeated Rumson twice as a sophomore and once again last year as a junior, making him 4-0 vs. the Bulldogs over the last three seasons after Monday's win. Rumson senior Aaron Del Tin touched Leary for a solo home run on the first pitch of the top of the fourth, but Leary limited the hard contact the rest of the way. In his first start of 2024, Leary began his pursuit of a third consecutive All-Shore season by pitching a three-hitter with five strikeouts and no walks on 83 pitches.

"He usually has (stepped up in big games) for the last four years," Hausmann said. "He threw a no-hitter in his first start ever and that’s just kind of been his M.O. He throws strikes, he lets us play defense, he makes big pitches and he has thrown a ton of innings so far in his career. I’m always comfortable when he is out there."

Rumson built up a threat in the top of the fifth thanks to errors by RBC on the first two batters of the inning. With runners on first and third, Leary induced a soft lineout to Dantoni at shortstop, then coaxed a shallow flyout to leftfielder Jake Frankel for the second out.

Rumson second baseman Alex Calabretta stole second base with one out to make it two runners in scoring position, but Leary stranded both of them when Caseys first baseman Dylan Passo made a diving stab on a line drive off the bat of Rumson junior Parker Shenman to end the threat and preserve a 4-1 lead.

"We wanted to try to feed off of that," Hausmann said of Passo's play. "He makes a play like that, he was pretty excited and those are the plays you kind of need to give the team a spark."

Delia started RBC's fifth-inning rally with a single for his second hit of the game and went to third on a double by junior second baseman A.J. Sciametta. Delia ran into an out at third base for the second out of the inning but senior Matt Brunner picked him up with an RBI single to push the Caseys lead to 5-1. A second run in the inning scored when a pickoff attempt at second got away from Del Tin, allowing Dantoni to scored from third.

RBC took a 1-0 lead on a two-out, 3-2, bases-loaded walk by sophomore Charlie Stumberger. Rumson starter Owen O'Toole appeared to have struck out Stumberger on a 2-2 fastball to end the inning, but the umpired conferenced and determined that Stumberger tipped the pitch and it was ruled foul.

After Delia's first-pitch dinger over the left-field wall to lead off the second, Sciametta drew a walk and scored on Dantoni's ringing double that one-hopped the fence in left-centerfield to make it 3-0.

The Caseys took a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth on a passed ball and added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a bases-loaded walk by Sciametta.

Delia and Sciametta combined to go 3-for-6 with a double, homer, three runs scored and two RBI out of the bottom two spots in the order.

"It’s going to be a big focal point this year," Delia said of the bottom of the lineup producing. "We need to hit the ball at the bottom of the lineup. We need to hunt fastballs because that’s what we’re going to see. They are going to try to come at us with fastballs and we need to be ready."

Leary ended the game with two of his five strikeouts in a one-two-three seventh inning, which ended with a swing-and-a-miss at a breaking ball.

In addition to Delia going 2-for-4 with an RBI, Brunner starred for the Caseys with a 3-for-4 day that included a first-inning double off the leftfield fence, a run scored and an RBI. Last season, Brunner led RBC with 28 RBI while hitting No. 6 in the order all year and this year, he moves to the No. 2 spot in the order.

Brunner was locked in at the plate during the preseason, according to Hausmann, and the uncommitted senior is hoping to open some eyes with his growing power to go with his game-changing speed in center.

"Brunner has been hammering everything," Hausmann said. "How he is not committed right now is a crime. He can run, he can absolutely play defense, and he has been doing what he did today all preseason. He is hitting balls like that left and right.

"I’m hoping he has a big year. It’s not a grades thing, he just kind of fell through the cracks. I’ve told him just sit tight, guys will be around to see him and they are already starting to feel out what’s going on. There are going to be transfers with the portal, so he might be there for the taking for somebody late."

Extra-base hits by Brunner, Delia, Dantoni, Sciametta and Passo were big swings for RBC, but it was the Caseys' patience that wore on Rumson. RBC saw 165 pitches from three pitchers in six innings -- nearly double what Leary threw in seven innings -- including 80 in three innings from O'Toole. As a sophomore reliever in 2023, O'Toole issued seven walks in 22 1/3 innings for the season, but the Caseys waited him out for six walks in those three innings on Monday.

"They have experience, they have been in big games, so they understand how to work pitchers," Hausmann said. "I told them before the game, if we can get the starter out, we don’t know what’s coming in after that. In high school, it’s usually not as good, so you always want to work your way into the bullpen and the results should come from there."

Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven are scheduled for the second of two regular-season Class A Central division games Wednesday morning at Rumson-Fair Haven. The Bulldogs' turf surface makes that game a possibility to be played despite the steady rain in the forecast for the next three days, but round two may have to wait.

Rumson beat RBC on a seventh-inning comeback on opening day last season, with Leary pitching the Caseys to a win two days later. RBC went on to win the Class A Central title outright and can take an early advantage by sweeping Rumson in the first week of the season.

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