Baseball – Shore Conference Tournament Final Postponed Until Wednesday
The Shore Conference Tournament championship game between Red Bank Catholic and Manalapan has been postponed due to potential thunderstorms in the Lakewood area on Sunday night.
The game, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, has been rescheduled for Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at the same location.
With three extra days before the game, both teams will add a significant amount of eligible pitching to their staff. Red Bank Catholic will now have all of its pitching available, with senior right-hander Vincent Bianchi now eligible after throwing 109 pitches on Friday.
Manalapan could get an even bigger boost, even if the Braves will not have all of their pitching available. Senior right-hander and ERA-leader Aaron Ayers (0.98 ERA) is due to start Monday against Eastern in the Group IV semifinal game and would be unavailable for Wednesday in the likely event that he throws more than 70 pitches in his Monday start.
The rest of the Braves staff, however, is likely to be eligible, which is a sizable improvement from the predicament they would have faced Sunday. Not only would Ayers still have been ineligible after throwing 94 pitches on Wednesday vs. Hunterdon Central, but fellow starters Ben Levine and Joe Mazza would also have been unable to pitch after exhausting their eligibility earlier in the week.
Mazza threw 76 pitches in Thursday's win over Wall and does not become eligible again until Monday. Levine, meanwhile, threw 98 pitches in the Central Jersey Group IV final win over Old Bridge and will become eligible to pitch again on Wednesday.
If Manalapan defeats Eastern on Monday to advance to the Group IV final on Saturday, the Braves will now have options heading into their two championship games. They could pitch Levine on Wednesday and come back with Ayers on Saturday to close out the season with the two pitchers who have been their two co-aces all season long.
Coach Brian Boyce could also opt to start Mazza on Wednesday and use Levine in relief while keeping him eligible to appear on Saturday - which he could do by limiting his senior left-hander to 70 pitches or fewer.
Should Manalapan lose to Eastern on Monday, Levine would be the favorite to start Wednesday's Shore Conference Tournament final in Lakewood.
The decision is more straight-forward for RBC, although it still requires a decision from coach Buddy Hausmann. Both Bianchi and sophomore Shane Panzini have posted a sub-1.00 ERA in 46 innings this season and now both are available for the championship game. Hausmann could elect to stay on turn in the rotation with Panzini or give his senior one more chance to take the mound and end his career with a championship victory.
There is, of course, the option to split the game in some capacity or allow Bianchi to close it out.
Red Bank Catholic is in search of its second Shore Conference Tournament title and first since 2011. Manalapan is set to play in its first ever SCT championship game and hopes it Wednesday will mark the third of three championship celebrations in a span of nine days.