Baseball – Svenson, Passo Lead Red Bank Catholic Into Shore Conference Semifinals
RED BANK -- The last time Red Bank Catholic junior right-hander Steve Svenson was on the mound prior to Monday's Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal game against Middletown North, he had only three batters to find his rhythm and his stuff and could not figure it out in that short time frame.
He couldn't figure it out in the same time frame Monday against one of the hottest lineups in the Shore Conference, but that is the benefit to being a starting pitching instead of a closer protecting a one-run lead: the chance to bounce back comes right away.
After surrendering two hard hits to the first two batters of the game and two runs in the top of the first inning Monday, Svenson locked in and fired six straight scoreless frames to complete a five-hitter in RBC's 4-2 win over seventh-seeded Middletown North.
With Monday's win, the No. 2 seed Caseys' defense of their three consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championships continues on to the semifinals on Thursday, when RBC will play No. 6 Christian Brothers Academy at Count Basie Park.
Svenson's last outing prior to Monday came on Wednesday in the Monmouth County Tournament championship game. Red Bank Catholic had just scored two runs in the top of the seventh off Duke-bound left-hander A.J. Gracia to take a 5-4 lead and Svenson entered with the goal of pitching a scoreless inning to clinch the title for the Caseys vs. the state's No. 1 team.
After giving up a seeing-eye single to the leadoff batter, Svenson surrendered a ringing double to Gracia and another groundball single to Pitt commit Ryan Costello that scored the winning run and Svenson's outing was over before he had a chance to settle in.
Five days later, Svenson had a chance to figure things out and did exactly that. Middletown North jumped him in the top of the first with a single by catcher Mike Hallard an a long double to the opposite-field gap by shortstop and fellow Seton Hall commit Ryan Frontera.
A wild pitch scored Hallard and advanced Frontera to third base with left-handed swinging slugger R.J. Kernan in the batters box. Second baseman Christian Condon helped out his pitcher with a diving back-handed stop on a ground ball by Kernan and threw him out at first base as Frontera crossed the plate with the second run of the inning.
With the bases clear and an out on the board, Svenson finished the inning strong with a flyout and the first of his six strikeouts and only got better from there.
It also helped that Red Bank Catholic immediately answered the two-run inning by Middletown North. First baseman Frank Scrivanic and catcher Shane Andrus each worked two-out walks and rightfielder Dylan Passo jumped ahead in the count, 3-1, against fellow sophomore Zach Hampton.
Passo popped up the 3-1 offering into shallow centerfield, but the clear, blue sky, the wind and the presence of oncoming centerfielder Dylan Briggs made for a difficult play for Frontera and the Lions shortstop dropped the ball. With two outs and both Scrivanic and courtesy runner A.J. Sciametta running on the pitch, both runs scored easily and Passo pulled into second as RBC evened the score, 2-2.
In the bottom of the third, Passo drive in two runs in a more conventional manner. Again, Scrivanic and Andrus ignited a rally with two out, starting with another walk by Scrivanic followed by a ground-rule double that Andrus crushed to right-centerfield.
With a 2-2 count on him, Passo waited out a deliberately long hold by Hampton and shot a ground ball past the mound and through the middle to score both runs and give RBC a 4-2 lead.
Through two Shore Conference Tournament games, Passo is 4-for-6 with a home run, a triple and six RBI and if you include the two runs that scored on the dropped pop-up on Monday, Passo is responsible for plating eight runs in RBC's two tournament wins -- including all of the team's scoring vs. Middletown North.
Passo, who is already committed to play at Notre Dame, also went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the Monmouth County Tournament final against Ranney.
Passo's single through the middle was it for the scoring in Monday's quarterfinal at Count Basie Park and Middletown North's only real threat the rest of the way came in the fifth. Gabe Ahlemeyer slapped a one-out double down the leftfield line and advanced to third on a groundout by Ian McGoldrick. Ahlemeyer nearly had a chance to score on the play, but RBC shortstop Max Dantoni made a diving stop in the hole to keep the ball on the infield, then popped up and made a one-hop throw to first base, where Scrivanic held the bag, caught the ball and avoided a collision with McGoldrick.
Svenson then struck out Hallard to strand the runner at third and pumped his first as he strolled back to the RBC dugout.
Prior to Monday, Middletown North was 10-1 in its last 11 games with at least 10 runs in seven of those 11 games. The Lions put up 27 runs in two Shore Conference Tournament wins, one over Henry Hudson and another over Ocean.
Thursday's 7 p.m. showdown with CBA will be the second tournament meeting between the Colts and the Caseys, with RBC winning the Monmouth County Tournament semifinal, 3-0, behind a shutout by junior Declan Leary -- the likely Caseys starter on Thursday.
Red Bank Catholic is now two wins away from an unprecedented fourth consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championship. The three consecutive titles are not in consecutive years since there was no 2020 Shore Conference Tournament, but no team has ever won four SCT championships in a five-year span either.
Red Bank Catholic 4, Middletown North 2
|Midd North (12-7)||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||5||1|
|Zach Hampton (L, 3-3)||5.2||6||4||2||4||3||105|
|Red Bank Catholic||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Steve Svenson (W, 4-3)||7||5||2||2||0||6||94|
|Middletown North||Game Stats|
|Ryan Frontera||2-3, 2B, R|
|Mike Hallard||1-3, R|
|Gabe Ahlemeyer||1-2, 2B|
|Red Bank Catholic||Game Stats|
|Dylan Passo||2-3, 2 RBI|
|Shane Andrus||1-2, 2B, BB|
|Brendan Kopec||1-3, 2B|
|Max Dantoni||1-3, 2 SB|