By Ella Brockway - Shore Sports Network contributor

RED BANK - Junior right-hander John Poccia allowed only six hits and two earned runs in a complete game as Red Bank Catholic rallied to pull out a 4-3 win over Toms River South on Saturday night at Count Basie Park to reach the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Saturday’s matchup, a rematch of an April regular-season game that resulted in a 10-3 RBC win, was a high energy game between the eight and nine seeds in the SCT from the start. The victory by the Caseys sets up a third meeting of the season with top-seeded Colts Neck, which beat RBC twice in Class B North, on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Red Bank Catholic junior John Poccia, shown earlier this season, allowed two earned runs in a complete game to help the Caseys top Toms River South to reach the SCT quarterfinals. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Indians junior pitcher Trevor Wagner shut down the Caseys' offense in the first two innings, throwing only five pitches to get three outs in the first and allowing two hits in the second.

“[Going in], we just tried to stick with the same game plan we’ve had all year,” said RBC head coach Buddy Hausmann. “We tried to have a good approach at the plate, take care of the ball, and throw strikes.”

Toms River South’s offense struck first in the top of the second inning when a sacrifice fly from designated hitter Corey Nase brought home Wagner for a 1-0 lead. The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third after a double from Austin Gonella followed by an RBI single by left fielder Ryan Shiffer.

“[After the third], I just tried to keep my head up,” said Poccia. “If it’s early in the game, you know you can always bounce back later, so I didn’t really worry about it.”

A double from junior shortstop Evan Madigan brought home Dom Caraballo, who was on base from a walk to start the inning, and put the Caseys on the scoreboard with their first run of the game in the bottom of the third to cut the Indians' lead to 2-1.

Poccia (4-1) then started to take control, allowing no hits and recording two of his five strikeouts over the next three innings. An error by Madigan in the sixth gave the Indians their only baserunner until the seventh inning.

The Caseys' offense then came alive with six hits and a combined three runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth. An RBI single from Caraballo, a sophomore centerfielder, tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, but it was a 2-run RBI double from sophomore first baseman Anthony DeRosa turned out to be the biggest hit of the game when it gave RBC a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning that it would not relinquish.

“We had decent at-bats earlier, but we just couldn’t get any hits,” said Hausmann.  “And then we finally did when it mattered. We stayed with the same approach, and the guys just started hitting the ball.”

DeRosa, who is hitting .429 on the year, brought home sophomore Aaron Ahn and Wagner recruit Mike Ianelli with his double to deep center field. Ahn, a Navy recruit, finished 3-for-3 with a double in the win.

Gonella, who went 2-for-4 for the Indians in the game, scored scored in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game, but Poccia closed the win with a big strikeout of Shiffer just as the rain and lightning closed in on Count Basie Park.

The Caseys advance to take on Colts Neck in the quarterfinals in a match-up that has provided some great baseball so far this season. The two teams last faced off on May 8 in a game that went into extras and ended in a 2-1 Cougars win.

“We played Colts Neck twice and lost in extra innings, so it’s a team we’d like to see again,” Hausmann said. “Hopefully, we just stay with the same approach, and we come out on the good side.”

“We like to get ahead early,” Poccia said. “Getting ahead early really gets our confidence up, and if we keep pitching the way we are, we’ll go far.”

Toms River South will turn its attention to the state tournament, where the Indians enter as the No. 3 seed in the South Jersey Group III bracket. They will take on Oakcrest at home on Monday.


Red Bank Catholic 4, Toms River South 3

1    2    3    4    5    6    7    R    H    E

Toms River South (17-7)                                0    1    1    0    0    0    1    3     6     2

Red Bank Catholic (17-6)                               0    0    1    1    2    0    0    4    11    1