Baseball – Red Bank Catholic Enters Week as Final Shore Unbeaten
Red Bank Catholic head baseball coach Buddy Hausmann was not totally sure what to expect from his 2015 team, but he knew what people outside the program were saying and he made sure to share it with his players.
“There was a lot of talk about how we were going to be down this year,” Hausmann said. “We lost (Costal Carolina freshman and Phillies draft pick Al) Molina, we lost (first team All-Shore outfielder) Brendan Madigan, we lost (Seton Hall freshman and catcher Mike) Alescio. In our meetings in February, we threw it right in their face. We said, ‘You’re not anything right now. We’re down. We don’t have the Division I players. Teams think this is the year to get us while we’re down.’”
The Caseys have embraced the notion that they have something to prove and after an impressive 10-3 win over Toms River South at Ken Frank Stadium Saturday in the Strike Out Autism Challenge, they are indeed proving something. With the win, the Caseys improved to 7-0, making them the last unbeaten team left in the Shore Conference.
“We’re a real tight team,” junior shortstop Evan Madigan said. “We may not have as much talent as last year or some other years, but our team chemistry is there. There’s a great sense of team, and we’ve played well so far.”
Senior Mike Ianelli won the Player of the Game award for his 3-for-4 day at the plate and Madigan – the starting second baseman as a sophomore last year – was 3-for-4 with a double and a walk while flashing his standout glove in the field. The six hits between Madigan and Ianelli accounted for more than half of Red Bank Catholic’s 11 for the game.
While two of the top five hitters in the batting order collected a majority of the hits, it was No. 8 hitter and sophomore third baseman Aaron Ahn who stole the show, going 2-for-4 with a ringing RBI double to left field and a two-run home run off the “Ken” in the “Ken Frank Baseball Stadium” sign on the school in right-center field.
“It’s kind of been like this all year where I’ll shuffle the lineup around for one reason or another and somebody at the bottom will step up and have a big game,” Hausmann said. “(Ahn) has been great defensively, but he has struggled a little offensively, which is normal for a sophomore. I just wanted to keep him down in the order to take some pressure off. He was getting too long with his swing and trying to do too much. We knew what he was capable of even though he wasn’t showing it and (Saturday) he showed what he can do.”
The Caseys showed an aggressive approach that runs counter to a more measured, patient approach in recent years. During the second time through the order, none of the first five hitters in the lineup - Madigan, senior Chris Bender, senior Tom Merlo, junior Doug Facendo and Ianelli - saw more than two pitches, with four of the batters hitting the first pitch.
“The guys at the top of the lineup do a good job of letting us know what’s coming and as a lineup, if we know we’re getting a pitch to hit, we won’t wait around,” Ianelli said. “We just look for the pitch, get our foot down and time it.”
Among the nine RBC starters, the one player who worked deep into his at-bats was not a seasoned varsity veteran, but rather sophomore Anthony DeRosa. In three of his four at-bats, DeRosa went to two strikes – twice working a full count – and did not strike out. The only time he swung early in the count, DeRosa hit a double on the first pitch in his third plate appearance.
“These younger guys are really stepping up,” Madigan said. “(Sophomore center fielder) Dom (Caraballo), Aaron and DeRosa have been hitting the ball lately. It took them all a while to get used to the varsity, but the last couple of games, they’ve really been smashing it. And we need them in order to win.”
Couple the 10-run outburst with another solid outing from a pair of starting pitchers, left-hander Justin Liggett and right-hander John Poccia, and the Caseys left Toms River having showcased themselves as a potential force to be reckoned with in the Shore Conference, just as they have been in recent years.
“Our pitchers have performed all year,” Hausmann said. “They really pick each other up, which is how it has to be. I knew not having a guy like (Molina) or (University of Maryland sophomore Mike) Rescigno, this is our pitching staff this year and it’s going to be our staff next year, and they are all complementing each other so far. It’s not going to be give the guy the ball for seven innings and get out of the way. It’s going to be four innings with one guy, three with the next guy and things like that, and we’re fortunate we have enough quality pitchers to do that.”
Red Bank Catholic enters the week as the No. 4 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and will put its unbeaten start to the test against Colts Neck, a team that also entered Saturday undefeated before suffering its first loss of the season to Brick Memorial. Instead of a matchup of the last two unbeaten teams in the Shore Conference, it will be a match-up of the two teams tied atop the Class B North standings.
“These guys enjoy it,” Hausmann said. “They like being around the game and each other, and I think that’s made it an easy transition for some of the newer guys. We’re still improving as a group, but it’s been a good start and hopefully we’ll keep building on it. This stretch of game we’re in will give us a chance to see where we’re at.”