Baseball – Red Bank Catholic Tops Jackson Memorial to Reach SCT Final
RED BANK - Red Bank Catholic senior Mike Ianelli remembers watching his older teammates walk off the field at Count Basie Park for the last time last year after losing the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals to Christian Brothers Academy in an extra-inning classic.
Ianelli did not want to endure a similar experience with his classmates on Wednesday against Jackson Memorial in this year’s SCT semifinals, and thanks to his big swing in the first inning and a junior teammate who did not want to see his senior teammates go, Ianelli and the Caseys will live to play another day.
Ianelli belted a three-run, first-inning home run to back junior right-hander John Poccia, who tossed a complete-game while scattering eight hits and striking out five to lead the Caseys to a 4-1 win over Jackson Memorial.
The win pushes Red Bank Catholic (20-8) into the SCT final at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood against No. 3 CBA on Monday night, when RBC will look to deny the Colts their second straight SCT title by winning its second in the last five years.
“The guys that were here all saw those seniors turning in their gear after that game and I think that stuck with them,” Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann said. “In all honesty, we were done. We had some of our worst practices leading up to the Colts Neck game (in the quarterfinals last Wednesday), and it looked like our season was about to end. Once we got into that game, I think they realized that it was about to be over unless they did something about it, and I think reality sunk in.”
“I really wanted to get those seniors another game,” Poccia said. “We know what it was like seeing our season end here last year against CBA, and I wanted to make sure I gave these guys my best game to give them every chance to play one more game.”
Jackson Memorial (22-7) scored its only run off Poccia in the bottom of the seventh inning and brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Stony Brook recruit and senior second baseman Brandon Janofsky - who leads the Jaguars with six home runs. Janofsky scalded a one-hop shot to shortstop, where junior Even Madigan picked it, took the ball to the second base bag and fired to first base for the game-ending double play.
Ianelli crushed a 1-1 breaking ball from Jackson Memorial junior Jim Plaganis over the right field fence to stake the Caseys to a 3-0 lead and later added a single in the third and a double in the fifth to account for a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
“I got a breaking ball that hung over the plate and I fouled it off early in the count,” Ianelli said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get it again, but if I did, I wanted to make sure I put my best swing on it, and fortunately, he threw another one.”
Madigan led the game off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Bender and took third on a fly out to center by Tom Merlo. After catcher Doug Facendo drew a two-out walk, Ianelli delivered the three-run blast.
“We’re usually looking to play for a run every inning, so once Evan got on to lead off, we wanted to get him over and give our guys in the middle a chance to drive him in,” Hausmann said. “That’s worked pretty well for us all year and if we can execute it every inning, then we’ll take those seven runs. Then we ended up with three on Ianelli’s ball, which helped.”
Red Bank Catholic added a run in the top of the sixth on an RBI ground-rule double by Madigan with two out. Center fielder Dom Caraballo bunted his way to first, stole second and third, then trotted home on Madigan's double that hopped over the left-field fence. Madigan finished 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI, while Caraballo was 2-for-2 with a run scored and two stolen bases.
Matt Castronuova drove in the lone Jackson Memorial run with a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh to plate designated hitter Nick Rocco. Rocco and Kyle Johnson each had two hits apiece and Kyle Lona tripled in the third inning, but was stranded after reaching third with one out. Rocco also led the inning off with a hit, but was thrown out by Bender trying to stretch a single into a double.
Poccia worked out of trouble throughout the game, stranding a total of nine Jackson Memorial base-runners.
“This was definitely the best game I’ve pitched, just considering what was on the line and the great lineup they have,” said Poccia, who also pitched a complete game in a round-of-16 win over Toms River South. “I had my pitches working, and I was able to execute them when I needed to.”
Junior Chris Hawryluk allowed one run on five hits while striking out three over four innings of relief to keep Jackson Memorial in the game.
The Jaguars and Caseys were both playing one day after being eliminated from the NJSIAA Tournament – Jackson Memorial in Central Jersey Group IV against Old Bridge and Red Bank Catholic against Bishop Eustace in South Jersey Non-Public A. While the Caseys fell to the No. 2 team in Star-Ledger Top 20, Jackson Memorial saw its title defense end in a 13-inning heart-breaker in which the winning run scored on balk and the game ended with the bases loaded for the Jaguars.
“Both teams were coming off losses so it was a challenge for both of us, I’m sure,” Hausmann said. “They had to play 13 innings so we thought we might be facing a team that was a little drained, but even if that game took something out of them, you know these guys are going to scrap for seven innings and give you everything they’ve got. I just think our guys remembered last year and weren’t going to let a loss to a good team (Tuesday) take away from the opportunity they had today.”
Red Bank Catholic will renew its rivalry with CBA, which has played out in both the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournaments over the past five seasons. Hausmann said Poccia will get the ball again on Monday, while CBA’s starter will depend on how the Colts fair in Friday’s Non-Public South A semifinal against Immaculata. Should CBA lose, ace Luca Dalatri will be available to pitch the SCT final because the Colts would not be saving him for Tuesday’s sectional final.
“We’re definitely looking forward to playing for a championship,” Ianelli said. “We wanted to take it one game at a time and make sure we got this one first, but now that we’re going, we’re excited to go and we’re excited to be facing CBA again. We’ll see what happens.”