Baseball – Panzini Blanks Manasquan, Gonzalez Supplies Power in RBC Win
RED BANK - Most of the players on the Red Bank Catholic baseball team were keeping a close eye on Delbarton ace Jack Leiter last Saturday because they had to try to hit him.
Sophomore Shane Panzini and a few of his fellow Caseys pitchers watched him closely for a different reason: he wanted to learn something from him.
Leiter is a potential first-round pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June and not only did Panzini study his process before and during the game - he also reached out to Leiter via social media after it to pick his brain.
Armed with a revamped pre-game routine and his usual imposing repertoire, Panzini dominated Manasquan to the tune of 12 strikeouts in a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win for the Caseys - ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
"He told me about some of the stuff he does before the game to get himself prepared and I tried to apply as much as I could to this game," Panzini said of his exchange with Leiter, the son of former MLB All-Star Al Leiter. "I think it helped a lot because this was the best game I've pitched so far."
The new regiment requires more of Panzini's time, which he spent running around the Count Basie track at 1 p.m. to get ready for his start.
"I got out here really early, ran the track, some sprints, got changed, did some stability stuff, bands and then came out throwing," Panzini said.
"A lot of our guys were watching Leiter warm-up when we got to (North Brunswick Community Park) and they were really impressed with how he prepares," RBC coach Buddy Hausmann said. "He really didn't throw for a long time. Shane reached out to him picked his brain and found out some of the stuff he did. He is going to be a first-rounder for a reason so if there is anything you can learn from him, especially with his pedigree, why not take advantage of it?"
The new pitching tips were not the only added motivation Panzini had to pitch his best game. The sophomore right-hander is a Spring Lake native and friends with a host of the players on the Manasquan roster.
"It was more than just a game for me because I know all these kids from elementary school," Panzini said. "One of my best friends is Alex Galvan. He got me with that single and as soon as he hit it, I heard him go, 'Yessir!'"
Panzini labored somewhat through the first inning, which took him 25 pitches to clear after issuing a walk to senior third baseman James Harmstead and a single to Galvan with two out. He bounced back to strike out his third batter of the inning, which was the first of 10 consecutive outs that Panzini retired through the completion of the top of the fourth.
"He got ahead of guys today," Hausmann said. "In his first two starts, he was messing around a little too much, trying to strike guys out every pitch. Today, he was ahead 0-2 a lot and really attacked from the first pitch."
Senior second baseman Alex Gonzalez gave Panzini and his team all the offense it needed in the bottom of the third inning when he jumped on the first pitch he saw from Manasquan starter Mike Anthony and lifted it up and over the left-field fence for a two-out solo home run.
The homer was the lone blemish on the Thursday ledger for Anthony (2-1), who allowed only three hits - two by Alex Gonzalez and the other by junior Rob Gonzalez - and three walks while striking out four over his six-inning, complete-game loss.
Gonzalez is off to a fast start at the top of RBC's order this season but he had never homered as a high school player prior to Thursday.
"With my size and as the leadoff hitter, I'm not worried about hitter home runs," Gonzalez said. "I'm just looking to make solid contact. That was a mistake off the bat. I had no clue off the bat - I ran hard out of the box and I found out rounding first base that it went over. I actually thought it was a pop-up."
"We did (batting practice) early today and every ball to left field was gone," Panzini said. "My thing today was don't make any mistakes to righties inside."
While the wind might have helped RBC take the lead in the third, it almost put Manasquan ahead in the seventh. With the tying run aboard, right fielder Sean McWalters lifted a high fly ball toward the left-field corner that Panzini figured to be a harmless fly ball. Left fielder Mark Lurie drifted back to the warning track and hauled in the catch just before the fence for the second out of the inning.
Senior shortstop Vincent Bianchi ended the game when he made a running backhanded play and threw out left fielder Hayden Kunz on the run.
"Shane can really shove it," Gonzalez said. "It all comes down to use playing defense. When we make plays and we operate as a team defensively, it's tough to score on a guy throwing like he did today."
Bianchi's dazzling play put the finishing touches on Panzini's second career seven-inning complete game. As a freshman last season, he threw a three-hit shutout against Middletown North and ace Tyler Ras, who is currently pitching and playing at the University of Alabama after being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 33rd round of last year's MLB Draft.
Whether it is competing against the best pitchers in the state or learning from them, Panzini has been up to the task in his young career as he looks to earn himself a perch somewhere near players like Ras and Leiter. The early returns on his sophomore season are promising: a 3-0 record, a 0.00 ERA with five hits allowed in 18 innings with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Red Bank Catholic also welcomed back senior center fielder David Glancy, who started the game in center field but is not yet ready to hit after having surgery to removed the hamate bone in his left hand. Glancy was an All-Shore First Team outfielder as a junior
Manasquan was also without senior standout Spencer Bauer, who is nursing a hamstring injury, according to coach Brenan Gordan.
"It's getting there," Hausmann said of Glancy. "He is being aggressive with the treatments. He feels good, so that's the encouraging thing."
No. 3 Red Bank Catholic 1, No. 5 Manasquan 0
|Manasquan (6-1, 6-1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1|
|RBC (7-2, 7-0)||0||0||1||0||0||0||X||1||3||0|
|Mike Anthony (L, 2-1)||6||3||1||1||3||4||74|
|Red Bank Catholic||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Shane Panzini (W, 3-0)||7||2||0||0||2||12||88|
|Red Bank Catholic||Stats|
|Alex Gonzalez||2-3, HR, R, RBI|
|Rob Gonzalez||1-3, SB|