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RED BANK - Shane Panzini knows the feeling of losing a no-hitter in the sixth inning, which happened to him in the second start of his 2021 season for Red Bank Catholic.

On Sunday against Howell, he got to experienced the opposite feeling: breaking up a no-hitter in the sixth inning and sparking a comeback that kept his team's Shore Conference Tournament title defense alive.

Panzini pitched his fourth seven-inning outing of the season, collected two hits in the final two innings and earned the win when sophomore Alex Stanyek ripped the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to cap a 3-2 RBC win over Howell in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16.

Red Bank Catholic senior Shane Panzini. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell)

A University of Virginia commit and a highly-regarded prospect in the upcoming Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Panzini is a no-hitter threat every time he takes the mound for a start and he almost got one back on April 24 in a 6-0 win over Delbarton. He took the no-hit bid into the sixth inning and lost it with two out on a softly-hit infield single.

On Sunday, there was a potential no-hitter brewing, but it did not come from Panzini. Howell senior Vin Impresa danced around three walks and five hit batters to keep Red Bank Catholic off the board - both in the run and hit columns - for five full innings. The Caseys stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings before Impresa pitched a clean fifth on only nine pitches, setting him up to potentially finish the no-hitter before reaching the single-game limit of 110 pitches.

Panzini and the Caseys had other ideas. With Howell leading 2-0, Impresa's counterpart led off the bottom of the sixth with a line drive into centerfield for RBC's first hit of the game. Stanyek followed with another single to center and suddenly, Red Bank Catholic had honed in on Impresa once it was down to its final six outs.

"I think we all felt like we're the defending champs so we had to do it again," Panzini said. "We want to leave a mark on the school. It was about the fourth inning when we realized we were getting no-hit and we were like, 'Jeez, we've got to do something.' We were putting the ball in play, but there were going right at people, so we knew they would eventually fall."

"I think we finally got a little sense of urgency," Stanyek said. "We got more aggressive and started to swing at our pitches."

Freshman Sean Griggs dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners up one base each and second baseman Nico Gonzalez plated RBC's first run with a liner back to Impresa that the senior right-hander knocked down and threw to first as pinch-runner Rob Lamastra scored the Caseys' first run.

Sophomore catcher Shane Andrus became Impresa's fifth hit-by-pitch victim to put runners on the corners for senior shortstop Sean Ettore. Back in the second inning, Ettore put together a nine-pitch at-bat with a runner on second base, but struck out to end the threat. In the sixth, he only needed two pitches to bounce a ground ball through the left side for the game-tying, two-out RBI single.

Ettore's single knocked Impresa from the game in favor of Nick Barracato and although Howell's reliever got out of the sixth inning jam, he would have to match zeroes with Panzini for at least another inning. At 87 pitches entering the seventh inning, Panzini was set up to pitch another two innings if he could remain economical, which he did with a nine-pitch top-of-the-seventh inning.

"Going into the seventh inning, I asked how many pitches I had and they said 87," Panzini said. "Usually, it's more than that so maybe it's not a bad thing that I didn't have so many strikeouts. We kept the pitch count a little lower and let my infielders work out there."

In the bottom of the inning, Barracato retired sophomore first baseman Frank Scrivanic leading off the seventh before junior third baseman Matt Scrivanic ripped a single into left field that Howell junior third baseman Daniel Furlong nearly snared with a diving attempt.

Panzini then smashed his second single of the game with a line drive to left field to put runners on first and second base for Stanyek. On a 1-0 count, Stanyek yanked a fastball from Barracato down the left-field line and into the corner to score Matt Scrivanic from second with the winning run.

"We definitely wanted to end it that inning, so I was just trying to get aggressive," Stanyek said. "Anything I could get, I was going to swing hard and that's what happened. I've had a walkoff in travel ball before, but never in high school. It's way better with the hyped-up atmosphere."

Red Bank Catholic sophomore Alex Stanyek connects on his game-winning hit against Howell in the Shore Conference Tournament opening round. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell)

Sunday's finish was a reversal of fortune for Red Bank Catholic, which lost to Rumson-Fair Haven, 3-1, in 10 innings on May 8, with Panzini pitching the first seven innings before departing with the game tied, 1-1.

"I think going into extra innings and losing last weekend definitely made us have more of a sense of urgency to win it in the seventh," Stanyek said. "We wanted to end it because we saw anything can happen when you go to extras."

While Impresa made it to the sixth inning before giving up a hit, Howell ended any hopes Panzini had of a no-hitter right from the start. Furlong chopped an infield single over Panzini's head with one out in the top of the first and senior Antonio Gatti followed with a double that he slapped inside the third-base bag to give Howell runners on second and third with one out.

Senior Chris Ellison chopped a ball to Gonzalez at second base to score Furlong and a wild pitch allowed Gatti score a second run in the inning.

Panzini got out of the first and went on a run of seven straight batters retired but ran into some trouble again when Furlong and Gatti came back around. Furlong fought off a single into shallow left field with two out in the top of the third and Gatti worked a walk to put another runner in scoring position, but Panzini struck out Ellison to end the threat.

Impresa led off the fourth with the fourth and final hit surrendered by Panzini and it nearly led to a run. Russell Halvorsen sacrificed Impresa to third and he moved to third on a wild pitch with still only one out.

Howell senior Vin Impresa. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell)

Howell coach Eric Johnson opted for the safety squeeze with junior Ryan Behnken and Behnken got it down, but Panzini pounced on the comebacker and flipped to Andrus at the plate in time to tag out Impresa for the second out.

Andrus came through again for his pitcher in the fifth when, after an error leading off the inning, the sophomore catcher threw out a would-be base-stealer to set up a one-two-three inning. Panzini allowed one walk over the final two innings while retiring the other six batters he faced.

Panzini's velocity was as high as it has been recorded all season, with several scouts behind the Count Basie Field backstop clocking his first-inning fastball up to 96 miles-per-hour. That did not yield big strikeout numbers by Panzini's standards on Sunday. He struck out a season-low eight batters while walking two and surrendering the four Howell hits with two earned runs.

"I have noticed a lot of teams are jumping on first-pitch fastballs," Panzini said. "After the first inning, I started using my slider first pitch more often and I got them off-balance pretty good. From the second inning on, I feel like I did pretty well."

Only Panzini, Borriello and Ettore remain as anything resembling starters from Red Bank Catholic's 2019 Shore Conference Tournament championship team and the title holds a special place with Panzini. As a sophomore, he won the championship game with a one-hitter in a win over Manalapan and he plans on taking the ball as much as the tournament will allow for it.

"We weren't here for it two years ago so we definitely want to be part of it this time, especially with these seniors," Stanyek said.

Panzini's next scheduled start is Saturday against Wall in the SCT quarterfinals - a rematch of a game played between the two teams on May 1. Wall tagged Panzini for a three runs (two earned) on a season-high seven hits over six innings, but it was still good enough for RBC to pick up the 7-3 victory. Panzini struck out 10 in that win.

Freshman Sean Griggs (13) greets junior Matt Scrivanic (37) as Scrivanic scores the winning run in Red Bank Catholic's 3-2 win over Howell. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell)
Red Bank Catholic senior Sean Ettore. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell)