Baseball – Don Bosco Repeats as Red Bank Catholic Falls One Win Short of Non-Public A Title
HAMILTON TWP. -- The seniors on the Red Bank Catholic baseball team know how much work it took to take the step from losing in the sectional final round of the NJSIAA Tournament to winning a South Jersey Non-Public A final to earn a shot at the Non-Public A championship and No. 1 ranking in New Jersey.
After coming up short of breaking down that barrier as sophomores, the Class of 2023 Caseys finally broke through with a sectional title this year.
If RBC is going to take the final step toward an overall state championship and the No. 1 ranking in the state, it will have to be the talented crop of returning players who carry the torch and take that one last step toward the ultimate prize.
After a promising start Friday night at Bob DeMeo Field, Red Bank Catholic's offense stalled and Don Bosco Prep capitalized with a big fourth inning as the Ironmen topped RBC, 4-1, to capture their second straight NJSIAA Non-Public A championship.
"They got timely hits today and we didn't," Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann said. "We both had six hits. Their balls got to gaps and ours didn't. We were out-hitting them for most of the game without a whole lot to show for it and when they got theirs, they got them in key moments.
"You here a lot all year about these guys up north and I thought we were there with them this year. Unfortunately, we just didn't get it done today."
Senior left-hander Mike Staiano starred for Don Bosco, pitching six strong innings with no walks and three strikeouts while also delivering an RBI single in the three-run Ironmen fourth inning.
"Coming into the season, a lot of people didn't think we had enough left to do this again," Staiano said. "I know me and my guys, since freshman year, we have been working very hard. Everybody on the staff, our families really wanted this for us and we made sure we got it done."
Red Bank Catholic started strong with a single from junior third baseman Sean Griggs, followed by a double down the leftfield line by senior first baseman Frank Scrivanic that set up a sacrifice fly by senior catcher Shane Andrus to stake the Caseys to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
"Our approach was good, our at-bats were good," Hausmann said. "Ours just didn't fall and theirs did."
RBC junior right-hander Steve Svenson was one strike away from stranding a Don Bosco runner at first base in the bottom of the first, but senior first baseman Allen Hernandez slammed a 1-2 pitch into the right-centerfield gap to chase senior shortstop Eric Becker -- who walked with two out -- home from first with the tying run.
Svenson then retired the next seven consecutive Don Bosco batters, but the Caseys could not capitalize on their baserunners during that stretch. Senior centerfielder Matt Brunner doubled to lead off the second and advanced to third on a solid single to center by senior Brendan Kopec, setting the Caseys up with runners at the corners and none out.
Staiano dug in and recorded the first out of the inning with a strikeout, then induced an inning-ending double-play, turned by Becker at shortstop and second baseman Andy Granatell.
"First inning, they scored and the momentum is theirs," Staiano said. "We score right back, momentum is ours. In the second inning, I knew something big had to happen and we just got it done."
Becker broke Svenson's streak of seven straight batters retired with an opposite-field single leading off the top of the fourth, which jumpstarted the winning rally. Becker then broke for second as Granatell scorched a single into centerfield and rumbled around second base toward third on the hit-and-run.
Brunner unleashed a strong throw, but it short-hopped Griggs at third and got past him, rolling all the way to the edge of the RBC dugout. Becker continued home for the tiebreaking run and Granatell moved into second base.
Staiano then aided his own case by chopping a two-out single through the middle to chase home Granatell for a 3-1 lead. On the next pitch, sophomore Nick Becker blasted a double over Brunner's head in center to score Staiano all the way from first.
"I know Nicky Becker is a very good hitter," Staiano said. "I just saw that ball go up and I had to make sure I scored on that.
"Our lineup is fierce. People say that seven-eight-nine is not too strong, but for us, it's a strong point. We keep a pretty simple approach as a team by staying up the middle and it has worked well for us."
Once he had the lead, Staiano locked in, holding RBC to one hit over his last three innings of work after the Caseys manufactured five hits during the first three. RBC's best chance to get back in the game came in the sixth, when Scrivanic led off with an infield single for his third hit of the game.
Staiano then struck out Andrus on a picturesque, 2-2 changeup and got away with a mistake when leftfielder Mike Hanna tracked down sophomore Dylan Passo's lineout to left-center.
RBC extended the inning when Brunner was hit by a pitch, but Staiano finished off his night with a strikeout to turn away the Caseys.
"Usually, my gameplan is to attack fastball," Staiano said. "Usually, people don't get a great barrel on my fastball, but we had to change that. I was spotting them and they were getting good swings off. Working backwards, throwing the breaking ball for a strike helped a lot."
Caseys senior right-hander Ethan Marzo took over on the mound with a runner on second and two out in the bottom of the fifth and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts to keep the deficit at three runs.
RBC coach Buddy Hausmann said ace Alex Stanyek was available to come out of the bullpen, but he was only looking to bring him in with his team ahead or tied. Stanyek pitched the sectional final on Saturday and did not pitch on fewer than 10 days of rest this season, which is why Hausmann tabbed Svenson as his starter despite Stanyek being eligible to pitch, according to the NJSIAA pitch count rule.
Junior right-hander Declan Leary, however, was not likely to pitch in any scenario Friday, according to Hausmann due to arm fatigue. Leary was voted the Class B North Division Pitcher of the Year.
A lightning sighting in the bottom of the sixth halted the game and delayed it for 31 minutes. Play stopped and resumed with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Marzo returned to the mound and recorded the final two outs of the inning.
Sophomore Dylan Henshaw got the ball in the seventh for Don Bosco and fired a one-two-three inning to close out the championship.
Red Bank Catholic will bid farewell to five senior starters in Stanyek, Scrivanic, Andrus, Kopec and second baseman Christian Condon. Stanyek, Scrivanic and Andrus were three-year starters who played key roles on a 2021 team that came within an out of winning the South Jersey Non-Public championship and three teams that won the last three of four consecutive Shore Conference Tournament titles for the Caseys program.
Scrivanic ended his career by going 3-for-3 at the plate, while Andrus drove in the lone run.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more from the seniors," Hausmann said. "They all bought in. They graduated two weeks ago and they have been at the school, at the field working every day. They can't get enough, which has been great."
The returning Caseys will try to take that one final step to a state championship and while Stanyek, Marzo and fellow senior Dom Mallamaci will not return, the pitching staff figures to be a strength. Svenson, Leary and current sophomore and University of Virginia commit Ryan Prior figure to give the Caseys three headliners in the starting rotation.
RBC will also have a senior Alabama commit in Griggs and a junior Notre Dame commit in Passo to lead the offense, with Brunner and sophomore shortstop Max Dantoni set to return as role players. The Caseys also have a catcher-in-waiting in current freshman Aidan Funk.
Just as the 2023 class carried the burden of having to get to a state final, next year's group will have only one way to build on the 2023 season: win the Non-Public A title.
"That's what I thought about a lot over the past few days: we have bowed out all the time in the state tournament," Hausmann said. "We might win the Shore Conference and then it's over. We have found stupid ways to lose. I think these guys showed these younger guys what it takes to win in June.
"There are a lot of things going on in school at this time: prom, graduations. The focus needs to be here in order to win. If you want a chance at this again, you have to put in all this work again. A lot of the guys who were on the field tonight will be back and they'll remember this."
Don Bosco Prep 4, Red Bank Catholic 1
|Don Bosco (27-5)||1||0||0||3||0||0||X||4||6||1|
|Red Bank Catholic||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Steve Svenson (L, 5-4)||4.2||6||4||4||1||1||70|
|Mike Staiano (W, 8-1)||6||6||1||1||0||3||90|
|Dylan Henshaw (SV)||1||0||0||0||0||2||17|
|Red Bank Catholic||Game Stats|
|Frank Scrivanic||3-3, 2B|
|Sean Griggs||1-3, R|
|Matt Brunner||1-2, 2B, HBP|
|Don Bosco||Game Stats|
|Eric Becker||2-2, 2B, BB, 2 R|
|Nick Becker||1-2, 2B, BB, RBI|
|Allen Hernandez||1-3, 2B, RBI|
|Mike Staiano||1-3, R, RBI|
|Andy Granatell||1-3, R|