Baseball – Red Bank Catholic Conquers Ranney to Win Unprecedented Fourth Straight SCT Championship
LAKEWOOD -- In all three games that Red Bank Catholic senior Alex Stanyek started on the mound this season prior to Sunday, he turned the ball over with Red Bank Catholic leading.
And yet, the Caseys won just one out of those three games. For that reason, more than any other, he wanted to make sure he was the last man to throw a pitch Sunday in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game against top-seeded Ranney at ShoreTown Ballpark.
Once again, Stanyek could not finish the game on his own, but this time his team finished the job while both making and denying Shore Conference history.
Stanyek pitched nearly all of a two-hit shutout, with fellow senior right-hander Ethan Marzo finishing it off as second-seeded Red Bank Catholic knocked off Ranney, 2-0, to become the first team to ever win four consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championships.
The historic win by the Caseys was also a milestone one for their coach. Buddy Hausmann secured his 300th career win with Sunday's victory, improving his record to 300-109 in nearly 15 full seasons as the head coach of his alma mater.
PHOTO GALLERY: Red Bank Catholic vs. Ranney, SCT Final
"For me, it's about winning this thing for times in a row," Hausmann said. "It's not easy to win it once. We didn't win it for the first time until 2011 and we had been on the doorstep. Now we're streaking, and with the COVID year (in 2020), who knows? We would have had a good chance that year too. Just to get to the semifinals is never easy and to get to the final is very difficult and you're always playing a really good team."
Red Bank Catholic did all of the game's scoring in the top of the sixth inning, when senior catcher Shane Andrus came through with his third leadoff hit of the game and sophomore Dylan Passo roped an RBI double down the rightfield line to score courtesy runner A.J. Sciametta from first with the first run of the game.
Junior centerfielder Matt Brunner followed with another RBI double to leftfield that skipped past a diving Ryan Costello, allowing Brunner to pull into second as Passo stormed home for a 2-0 RBC lead.
The two runs was enough for Stanyek, who needed 61 pitches to get through the first three innings, but made it through five at only 80. With 99 pitches to start the seventh inning, Stanyek breezed through the first two batters on five pitches -- including his 11th strikeout of the game -- to move within an out of the complete game.
"Losing the last game (to Ranney) bothered him and he wasn't going to let it happen again," Hausmann said. "He just guts it up and figures it out."
Enrique Beltra, however, worked a six-pitch walk that forced Hausmann to go to his bullpen and it was Marzo -- a Marist commit who transferred to RBC from St. Joseph by the Sea on Staten Island for his senior season -- who got the call. With Duke commit A.J. Gracia representing the winning run in the on-deck circle, Marzo fell behind 1-0, but quickly found the zone and struck out the last batter to end the game.
"Steve (Svenson) has done very well closing big games for us, but (Marzo) has done very well too," Hausmann said. "This was a big stage for a kid who wasn't here last year. With (Ranney) hitting Steve in the last game, we wanted to give them a different look. Marzo has shown us he can handle the last inning and really all of our pitchers have been dependable. We just felt like it was a good spot for him and he did his job."
In its loss to Ranney in the Monmouth County Tournament championship game on May 10, Red Bank Catholic took the lead with two runs in the top of the seventh inning, but had to replace Stayek for the bottom of the seventh due to him being at the brink of the single-game limit of 110. Ranney took advantage with three straight hits to erase the one-run deficit and win the game, with Gracia slamming the game-tying double and scoring the winning run on Ryan Costello's single.
PHOTO GALLERY: Red Bank Catholic vs. Ranney, SCT Final
Leaving Gracia in the on-deck circle at the end of the game was a high priority considering that success late in the first game vs. RBC, plus his go-ahead home run in the fifth inning to beat Rumson on Thursday.
Gracia was not a problem for Stanyek throughout his start, nor were most of Ranney's hitters. The RBC ace did not allow Ranney its first hit until catcher Lou Spadafora singled with one out in the fourth inning. Stanyek walked four batters in the first three innings and did not walk a batter until Beltra in the seventh.
Ranney's most dangerous threat was in the sixth inning, when senior third baseman Diego Tavarez ripped a single into rightfield and stole second base with one out. Stanyek notched a big strikeout of Jack Tallent with a curveball on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. The RBC senior then coaxed an inning-ending pop-up to end the threat.
RBC had several scoring opportunities on top of the one on which it actually scored. Junior third baseman Sean Griggs launched a double to the rightfield wall and was thrown out trying to dive back to second base after he took a wide turn, with rightfielder Glen Cantalupo making the throw from the warning track to get Griggs.
Cantalupo made another standout defensive play to keep Red Bank Catholic off the board in the fifth inning. Stanyek blasted a long fly ball into the right-centerfield game and Cantalupo raced to snare it on the warning track. Sophomore shortstop Max Dantoni ran without abandon upon seeing the depth of the fly ball and when Cantalupo caught it, he had plenty of time to get the ball in and give the infield a chance to finish the double play.
Shortstop Brett Wehringer, however, had trouble getting a handle on the ball and did not make the throw to first until Dantoni was diving back into first base. The umpiring crew was confused about which of them had the call and the home plate umpire eventually stepped in and called Dantoni safe.
"That play on Stanyek's ball, I still can't believe that was caught," Hausmann said. "He couldn't hit that ball any harder. That's why I was sending Max -- I didn't think there was any shot of anybody catching that ball."
Ranney senior left-hander Marcello Mastroianni jumped in front of Sean Griggs in the count, 1-2, but when Dantoni stole second base to move into scoring position, Ranney coach Pat Geroni made his move on the mound, summoning Gracia from centerfield to pitch the remainder of the at-bat to Griggs. Gracia walked the Alabama commit, but struck out Frank Scrivanic to end the threat.
The scoreless fifth closed out a scoreless outing for Mastroianni, who took a no-decision for the second straight time while starting against RBC. His most impressive moment Sunday night came in the second inning, when Andrus started the inning with back-to-back singles and Brunner beat out a perfect bunt to load the bases. Ranney's Georgetown-bound left-hander, however, came back with a strikeout, a shallow flyout to leftfield and one more strikeout to strand all three runners.
Red Bank Catholic was outhitting Ranney, 5-1, heading into the sixth inning but with had nothing to show for it until the top of the sixth.
"I'm looking up at the hits, thinking 'Is this possible?," Hausmann said. "Can we outhit a team 10-2 and not win? We felt like it was going to break at some point for us, but we were just battling trying to get that first run. It's a little frustrating to outhit a team like that and only get two runs, but that's baseball."
That middle-of-the-order group of Andrus, Passo and Brunner was RBC's offensive strength all night and all tournament as well. Andrus finished the tournament 6-for-12 with a double and three RBI, while Brunner padded his team-leading RBI total -- now 27 -- by going 6-for-13 with two doubles and four RBI during the tournament.
"He is a tremendous outfielder and he keeps it simple at the plate," Hausmann said of Brunner. "He is more than capable and he is showing it. The colleges are starting to ask about him, which they should because he is a good player. He hits this kind of pitching better than the junk because he doesn't try to do too much against the higher-level pitcher. So I think that's what makes him a really valuable guy."
If there was an offensive MVP of the tournament, it was Passo. The sophomore finished the SCT 7-for-13 with a double, triple, home run and seven RBI, including the winning RBI double on Sunday night.
"He just hits," Hausmann said. "He is more than capable of handling games like this and he was here last year as a freshman. Nothing really phases him an he is always pretty locked-in. He's a gamer, so I wasn't shocked to see him hit that ball the way he did. He is just wired that way."
Red Bank Catholic and Ranney will now chase after state championships in their respective NJSIAA groups -- RBC in Non-Public A and Ranney in Non-Public B. The Caseys are the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey section and Ranney is the No. 2 in its South Jersey bracket, with Gloucester Catholic passing the Panthers for the No. 1 seed just before the cutoff.
While Ranney is still in play to finish the season No. 1 at the Shore and No. 1 in all of New Jersey, the Panthers let another bit of history slip away on Sunday night. Only two teams -- Wall in 2004 and Christian Brothers Academy in 2015 -- have won every championship there is to be won for a Shore Conference baseball team and had Ranney won Sunday's game, the Panthers would have been four wins away from Shore Conference immortality.
Neither Wall in 2004, nor CBA in 2015 were No. 1 seeds in their respective Shore Conference Tournament runs and both suffered multiple losses within the conference. Ranney went unbeaten during the Class B North divisional schedule and is currently 21-1 vs. Shore Conference competition. Barring a run by both Ranney and St. Rose to the South Non-Public B final, that will be Ranney's final record vs. the Shore in 2023.
While the 2023 Panthers can certainly throw their name into the conversation with the greatest Shore teams of all time by finishing the season with a second straight Non-Public B championship, five tournament championships and a 22-0 record against the Shore Conference would have provided an airtight case for this as the greatest season in Shore Conference baseball history.
Instead, the Shore's two most dominant teams in 2023 will make a run at state championships while keeping an eye on the other as both try to finish No. 1 in both the Shore and the state. RBC has had its share of No. 1 finishes at the Shore during Hausmann's 15-year, 300-win tenure, but has never finished No. 1 in the state, nor have the Caseys finished off a state-championship run in Non-Public A.
RBC's last sectional and state championship came in Non-Public B when Hausmann was a junior in 1997. Two years ago, the Caseys were one strike away from winning South Jersey Non-Public A at St. Augustine and sending current Kansas City Royals prospect Shane Panzini to the mound in the state championship game, but RBC let the game slip away with an error, three straight stolen bases -- including a straight steal of home -- and a winning run in the bottom of the eighth to end it.
While Sunday night was a redemption game for Stanyek -- who was on the mound at St. Augustine as a sophomore two years ago -- winning a state championship would be the ultimate redemption to close out his brilliant three-year career at RBC.
"We worked too hard to be No. 2 to anybody," Stanyek said. "I know people are going to have different takes on that (debate), but we know what we have going this year and we're going to try to finish it off by winning the state and finishing as the best team in the state."
Red Bank Catholic 2, Ranney 0
|Red Bank Catholic||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Alex Stanyek (W, 2-0)||6.2||2||0||0||5||11||110|
|Ethan Marzo (SV, 2)||0.1||0||0||0||0||1||5|
|A.J. Gracia (L, 5-1)||2.1||5||2||2||1||4||49|
|Red Bank Catholic||Game Stats|
|Dylan Passo||2-4, 2B, R, RBI|
|Matt Brunner||2-4, 2B, RBI|
|Sean Griggs||2-3, 2B, BB|
|Christian Condon||1-3, SB|
|Diego Tavarez||1-1, 2 BB 2 SB|