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PENNSAUKEN - Red Bank Catholic baseball coach Buddy Hausmann can remember the Casey's last NJSIAA sectional championship well, although it is not because it came any time during his 13-year tenure as head coach of his alma mater.

Hausmann celebrated his 17th birthday by pitching his team to its first and only NJSIAA sectional championship back in 1997 and on Monday, his present on his 41st birthday was a chance to give the ball to the best pitcher in program history and watch him at his absolute best while facing the absolute best.

Senior right-hander Shane Panzini pitched a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and blasted a towering solo home run in the fourth inning to lead Red Bank Catholic - the No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B section - to a statement 6-1 win over previously-unbeaten and No. 1 in the state Bishop Eustace.

"I told my guys again before the game, just get me one run," Panzini said. "We scored a lot more than that, but I also gave up a run so it was good that we scored a lot more than that. Everyone did their jobs today: laying down bunts and timely hits. It was awesome."

With two dominant relief outings and one overpowering start representing his past three outings heading into Monday, Panzini had raised his level of performance as the year has progressed. He struck out 19 batters with just one walk in 9 1/3 innings in those outings with a slider that has become increasingly devastating.

On Monday, it all came together for Panzini. He hit 97 miles-per-hour on the radar gun and clicked 96 on six different pitches, according to one of the many Major League scouts in attendance with a radar gun.

"A lot of adrenaline helps," Panzini said. "I lived off my fastball today, not really relying on my slider as much because I think they were up in the box. I just ended up blowing fastballs by people at the end."

It also helped Red Bank Catholic that Panzini did not throw a pitch without a lead Monday thanks to a Red Bank Catholic offense that jumped on Rutgers commit Danny Kerr, who had allowed only one earned run all season prior to Monday. Senior Anthony Solometo - a potential first-round selection in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft - was unavailable due to an injury that was mild enough that he was considered a possibility to start Thursday had Bishop Eustace advanced.

That question will not be answered now thanks to the start RBC got off to with Panzini on the mound. Sophomore first baseman Frank Scrivanic doubled to deep centerfield between two walks by sophomore right fielder Alex Stanyek and junior third baseman Matt Scrivanic and Panzini drove in the first of his two RBI with a fielder's choice ground out to third.

"We thought coming in, they're number one so they are going to be really good and they are going to be on their A-game," Scrivanic said. "We figured we came a long way, so we might as well just win it and now we get a good, fun bus-ride back back to RBC."

The Caseys tacked on two more in the second on back-to-back two-out RBI singles by sophomore Alex Stanyek and Scrivanic to give Panzini a 3-0 lead, which turned out to be more than enough.

"Any time Shane is on the mound, you know we're going to have a chance," Hausmann said. "But we have to score in order to win and coming into today, we knew we were going to have to probably get more than one, but with (Panzini on the mound) there is always a chance one run is going to be enough."

The two third-inning runs against Kerr were unearned, but he did himself no favors by walking three in the first two innings while throwing just 11 of his first 30 pitches for strikes.

Kerr did settle in in his last two innings of work, but not before Panzini ambushed him in the top of the third. Panzini hunted a first-pitch fastball and crushed the first pitch of the inning well beyond the fence in center for a 4-0 lead.

"I knew it was gone," Panzini said. "I got my little bat-flip. It was fun to help my team and get as many runs as we can. It was awesome."

From there, Panzini nearly coasted without incident against the state's No. 1 team. He surrendered a single and a double to Bishop Eustace No. 3 hitter David Alleva, but no one else reached base against him in those innings.

Through five innings, Panzini was pitching a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and no walks on 73 pitches while protecting a 4-0 lead.

Bishop Eustace finally mounted a threat in the bottom of the sixth when No. 9 hitter Trey Martin drew a leadoff walk to start the inning. Not only was it the only walk issued by Panzini, but it was the only right-handed batter to reach base against the Caseys ace and it came after close misses with the fastball on 2-2 and 3-2 counts.

Leadoff hitter Ian Petrutz followed with a ringing double that one-hopped the right-field fence and a groundout to shortstop by Nick Sulpizio plated Martin with the lone Crusaders run. Panzini bounced back by striking out Alleva swinging on a 2-2 fastball and retired Sebastian Pisacreta on a long flyout to centerfielder Anthony Borriello to end the inning.

"It's a really big adrenaline rush," Frank Scrivanic said. "It's awesome to be out there and stand behind him and if the ball gets hit out to the field, it's amazing to make the play and help him out."

The strikeout of Alleva was the only strikeout Panzini recorded against Bishop Eustace's three left-handed hitters, who finished a combined 3-for-9 with two doubles. Both pitches Alleva hit were sliders and Panzini struck him out with a high, hard pitch just above his barrel.

"Both hits were sliders," Panzini said. "He didn't really chase much out of the zone, so I didn't mean to throw it out of the zone, but he chased that pitch. I think he might have been sitting slider because both pitches before that were sliders, but it was a huge point in the game for us."

Right-handers were a completely different matter. The six Crusaders righties went a meager 0-for-15 with 11 strikeouts and one walk - evidence that the fastball-slider combination was causing havoc for Bishop Eustace's lineup.

With Panzini 12 pitches shy of the single-game limit, the Caseys sought some more breathing room and they got it from Panzini's battery-mate. Sophomore catcher Shane Andrus smacked a two-out, two-run single on the first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh for insurance.

Scrivanic started the rally with his second double of the game to cap a 3-for-4 day at the plate. In RBC's last four games, Scrivanic is 7-for-14 with three doubles, one triple and five RBI.

"I'm at the top of the order, the number two batters, so I need to get on," Frank Scrivanic said. "I needed to get on as best I can and with the dugout supporting me, it felt really good in that box."

Panzini returned to the mound finished off his masterpiece with a 1-2-3 seventh inning on eight pitches, wrapping things up in 106 pitches for the game.

Panzini was undoubtedly the star for Red Bank Catholic on Monday but the Caseys don't win without another stellar performance by their group of underclassmen. While Panzini drove in two of the runs with his fielder's choice and solo bomb, the other four RBC runs scored on two-out RBI hits by three sophomores: Stanyek, Scrivanic and Andrus.

Factor in freshman Sean Griggs (2-for-4) and the four underclassmen in the Red Bank Catholic lineup were a combined 7-for-14 with two doubles, two runs and four RBI in a game started by a pitcher in Kerr who allowed just one run all season long.

"The underclassmen have matured a lot throughout the year," Panzini said. "It's been a fun ride to be with them the whole time. We don't want to play our last game, we don't want to lose our last game, so we're going to keep trying to win."

Red Bank Catholic has one more major obstacle standing between it and its first sectional championship in 24 years. The Caseys will next travel to play No. 2 seed and four-time defending champion St. Augustine Thursday in search of its first sectional championship since 1997, when current head coach Buddy Hausmann was a standout junior pitcher for the Caseys.

With Panzini ineligible to pitch until Saturday at the earliest, the Caseys will turn to senior Dylan Wanagiel with Stanyek backing him up. Both RBC pitchers have been sharp during the postseason, and although the duo is responsible for two of RBC's three losses this season, Wanagiel's defense let him down in the most recent loss and Stanyek's loss came in relief during his third inning of work in a 10-inning game vs. Rumson-Fair Haven.

"Dylan has been great, I have all the confidence in the world in him right now," Panzini said.

Red Bank Catholic's defense was not a problem at all on Monday, with the Caseys playing error-free and getting a quality game from senior Anthony Borriello in centerfield. Borriello is playing through an injured left shoulder and did not hit Monday, but his defense was a factor on three dangerous balls hit to center.

"There are going to be a lot more plays in the field on Thursday, so we're going to have to be ready to make them," Frank Scrivanic said. "We were able to make all the plays today so if we can keep it going, we'll have a good shot."

Panzini, Borriello and Ettore are the three seniors starters that have been in the lineup all year for RBC, with Dan DeFlores replacing Borriello in the lineup over the last week and Wanagiel adding experience on the mound when he pitches as well.

"I think the senior leadership has a lot to do with the younger guys having success," Hausmann said. "They are a really close group and the seniors make sure every single guy on the team in included in everything. When you feel like you are a part of the team like that, I think it's a little easier to perform, especially for the young guys. They have been big for us all year and I think the seniors deserve a lot of credit for letting them know they are an important part of the team."

Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 6, Bishop Eustace 1

1234567RHE
RBC (21-3-1)12100026100
Bishop Eustace (21-1)0000010131

Pitching

Red Bank CatholicIPHRERBBSOPC
Shane Panzini (W, 8-0)7311112106
Bishop EustaceIPHRERBBSOPC
Danny Kerr (L, 3-1)47423373
Matt Augustin33222238

Top Hitters

Red Bank CatholicGame Stats
Frank Scrivanic3-4, 2 2B, R, RBI
Shane Panzini1-3, HR, 2 RBI
Shane Andrus1-3, 2 RBI
Alex Stanyek1-3, R, RBI
Sean Griggs2-4
Sean Ettore1-3
Bishop EustaceGame Stats
David Alleva2-3, 2B
Ian Petrutz1-3, 2B