Baseball – SCT Final Preview: Rivals Clash When CBA Meets RBC
Update: The Shore Conference Tournament Championship game scheduled for Monday night has been postponed due to rain in Monday's weather forecast. A make-up date and time is expected to be announced on Tuesday.
Shore Conference Tournament Championship
No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy vs. No. 8 Red Bank Catholic
Christian Brothers Academy (24-5, 10-4 in Class A North)
Head Coach: Marty Kenney
Number of SCT Titles: 5
Last Title: 2014
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 19 Brick 11-1, Middletown South 6-5, Manasquan 13-5
Red Bank Catholic (20-8, 11-3 in Class B North)
Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann
Number of SCT Titles: 1
Last Title: 2011
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 25 Point Beach 17-1, Toms River South 4-3, Colts Neck 16-8, Jackson Memorial 4-1
The 2015 Shore Conference Tournament final pits the foremost Non-Public powers in the Shore Conference and a pair of rivals who have, to this point, not crossed paths during the season. CBA has won 11 straight during its tear through three different postseason tournaments, while Red Bank Catholic has won five of seven games overall since the start of the Shore Conference Tournament. While a CBA-RBC game would be an intense showdown in the middle of April, this one has a number of conditions that should make for a pair of emotional dugouts.
Because it is scheduled for the final days of May, or in this case the early days of June, the Shore Conference Tournament final is often played between two teams that have already been eliminated in the NJSIAA Tournament and are trying to finish off their respective seasons with a win. That won’t be the case on Monday because CBA is not only still alive in the NJSIAA Non-Public A Tournament, but the Colts are also still alive in their pursuit to become the second Shore Conference team to ever win the Shore Quadruple Crown. CBA has already won the Class A North regular-season division co-title and the Monmouth County Tournament championships, and is now three wins away from accomplishing the feat.
“It’s pretty humbling to be this far into the season and still have a chance at winning everything,” CBA junior catcher Brandon Martorano said. “It was definitely a goal of ours to win all five championships, but it’s such a long season and there are so many challenges along the way that you kind of forget about it. We really haven’t talked about it, but now that we’re one win away from another championship, it’s definitely getting closer.”
Although CBA will have to go through Bishop Eustace – the No. 2 team in the latest Star-Ledger Top 20 – in Tuesday’s South Jersey Non-Public A final at Monmouth University, Red Bank Catholic presents an equally dangerous threat to CBA’s quest for a Shore sweep.
CBA ace and North Carolina recruit Luca Dalatri will get the ball Tuesday against Bishop Eustace and senior Mike Garvey pitched his team past Immaculata on Friday, so the Colts will turn to junior right-hander Kenny Campbell to slow down the Shore’s second-hottest team. Campbell is 5-1 and did not factor into the decision in CBA’s 13-5 win over Manasquan in the SCT semifinals on Wednesday after he allowed three runs over four innings.
“I don’t think most people realize how good Kenny Campbell has been for us,” Martorano said. “He’s 5-1 and he’s thrown some big games against good teams. I know most people look at us and think we have a one-man pitching staff, but our pitching has been solid all season long so we’re going to be confident in whoever gets the ball.”
CBA will be playing its second game at FirstEnergy Park this season after beating Wall in the Monmouth County Tournament final on May 20, a game that ended with a Martorano walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning to give CBA a 5-4 win. The junior catcher has been on a tear during the Colts’ 11-game winning streak and has four home runs in the three SCT wins with at least one in each. The No. 4 hitter in the lineup, Martorano combined with No. 3 hitter Will Morgan and Dalatri out of the No. 5 spot to go 8-for-9 with five doubles and five RBI in that championship win over Wall, so the big hitters in the Colts' lineup have taken a liking to hitting at the home of the BlueClaws.
In addition to seeking its second SCT championship in five years, Red Bank Catholic would love nothing more than to spoil CBA’s bid for history, as well as a second straight SCT title. That motivation is further heightened for the returning varsity players on Red Bank Catholic whose 2014 season ended with a 2-1 loss to CBA in nine innings in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. What makes this RBC run impressive is that there are not many starters in Monday’s lineup who also played on last year’s team, with the last five spots in the projected lineup occupied by players who either played a part-time role or played on a lower level of the program.
“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.”
Red Bank Catholic will counter Campbell with junior right-hander John Poccia, who pitched what he labeled his best game in a complete-game effort in a 4-1 win over Jackson Memorial in Wednesday’s SCT semifinals. Poccia has thrown two complete games during his 5-1 season and both were against the top two teams in Class A South during the Shore Conference Tournament. He is also 3-0 with three straight SCT victories for the Caseys. Poccia went the distance in a 4-3 win over Toms River South in the round of 16, went 5 1/3 in a win over top-seeded Colts Neck in the quarterfinals, then turned in his gem against the Jaguars.
“He deserves it,” RBC coach Biddy Hausmann said of the decision to give Poccia the ball one more time this season. “He’s gotten us to this point and he’s pitched well all year. He throws strikes.”
“I can’t wait,” Poccia said after beating Jackson Memorial. “I have five days to get ready and I can’t wait.”