Baseball – Titans Clash in Wednesday’s Monmouth County Tournament Final
Monmouth County Tournament Championship
No. 1 Ranney vs. No. 2 Red Bank Catholic
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
At Brookdale Community College, 4:30 p.m.
Ranney (19-1, 14-0 in Class A Central)
Head Coach: Pat Geroni
MCT Championships: None
Last MCT Final Appearance: None
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 17 Monmouth, 3-1; No. 8 Middletown South, 13-1; No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven, 4-3 (8 Innings)
A.J. Gracia, Sr., CF (L)
Ryan Costello, Jr., 1B (L)
Diego Tavarez, Sr., 3B (L)
Jack Tallent, Sr., 2B
Brett Wehringer, Fifth-Year Sr., SS
Lou Spadafora, Fifth-Year Sr., C
Curtis Chropuvka, So., LF
Enrique Beltra, Sr., DH
Glen Cantalupo, Sr., RF
Projected Starting Pitcher
Marcello Mastroianni, Sr., LHP (5-0, 1.86 ERA, 26.1 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 50 K)
Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)
A.J. Gracia, Sr., LHP (89)
James Hare, Jr., RHP (110)
Diego Tavarez, Sr., RHP (110)
Jack Renaud, Sr., RHP (110)
Nick Coniglio, Fifth-Year Sr., RHP
Glen Cantalupo, Sr., RHP
More on Ranney
At this time last season, Ranney had still never won a postseason championship of any kind, having been bounced from the Monmouth County Tournament in the round of 16 before bowing out of the Shore Conference Tournament in the same round.
The Panthers, however, closed out the season with a flourish by winning the NJSIAA Non-Public Group B final and they have been nearly impossible to tame since. The 2023 version of Ranney currently ranks as the No. 1 team in New Jersey and since losing its first game of the season – a 7-6 nail-biter to Delbarton on April 15 – the Panthers have not lost since. The Shore’s No. 1 team rides a 13-game winning streak into Wednesday’s championship game and the wins have come in all shapes and sizes: six are by margins of 10 or more runs, while six more have been by margins of three or fewer. Ranney has even needed extra innings to win two of them, beating Neptune, 10-8, in eight innings in a Class B North divisional clash and Rumson-Fair Haven, 4-3, in eight in Sunday’s MCT semifinal.
On top of being battle-tested, Ranney’s roster is stacked with talent, led by leadoff hitter, centerfielder and left-hander pitcher A.J. Gracia. The Duke commit is locked in a second-place tie in the Shore Conference home run race with seven and has hit 24 in his varsity career, but also presents a challenge for defenses on the basepaths with his speed.
The wave of hitters behind Gracia are all having big seasons, led by cleanup hitter Jack Tallent, who started strong and has stayed red-hot all season. He leads Ranney with 26 RBI to go with a .443 average, five home runs and six doubles. Junior Pittsburgh commit Ryan Costello, meanwhile, has been on a tear since becoming eligible on April 25. The Freehold Township transfer has homered four times and driven in 11 runs in seven games since joining the lineup.
Diego Tavarez and Brett Wehringer have been dependable hitters and infielders on the left side of the diamond over the past three seasons. Wehringer and catcher Lou Spadafora are the two Ranney players who have been with the program since 2019 and exercised their bridge year to give it one more run with their high school team.
Ranney won’t have Northeastern commit Nick Coniglio available Wednesday, but all of its other top arms will be at the disposal of coach Pat Geroni. Georgetown commit Marcello Mastroianni will take the ball on full rest, while Gracia – Ranney’s big-game pitcher who has been lights-out in relief – waits in the wings.
Wednesday’s game could be a preview of the Shore Conference Tournament final, with the two teams drawing the top two seeds in that tournament as well. Ranney and Red Bank Catholic have never met at the varsity level and with the two programs Nos. 1 and 2 in the state to open the season and both in the top five in the state heading into Wednesday, the Panthers have a chance at a program-defining win at Brookdale.
Red Bank Catholic (15-3, 10-2)
Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann
MCT Championships: 3 (2013, 2017, 2018)
Last MCT Final Appearance: 2021
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Manalapan, 8-1; No. 7 Wall, 12-3; No. 3 CBA, 3-0
Alex Stanyek, Sr., P/DH
Sean Griggs, Jr., 3B (L)
Frank Scrivanic, Sr., 1B (L)
Shane Andrus, Sr., C
Dylan Passo, So., RF (L)
Matt Brunner, Jr., CF
Brendan Kopec, Sr., LF
Christian Condon, Sr., 2B
Max Dantoni, So., SS
Projected Starting Pitcher (With 2023 Stats)
Alex Stanyek, Sr., RHP (1-0, 0.64 ERA, 11 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 21 K)
Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)
Steve Svenson, Jr., RHP (110)
Dominic Mallamaci, Sr., RHP (110)
Ethan Marzo, Sr., RHP (110)
Anthony Nannini, Sr., LHP (110)
Brandon Hendrickson, Jr., RHP (110)
Declan Leary, Jr., RHP
Ryan Prior, So., RHP
More on Red Bank Catholic
While Ranney hopes to collect its first ever local championship Wednesday, Red Bank Catholic will be looking to add to its recent history of excellence in the county and conference tournaments. Since 2011, when it won its first local tournament title, Red Bank Catholic has racked up three Monmouth County Tournament titles and four Shore Conference Tournament championships while finishing runner-up in the MCT four times in that stretch as well.
Red Bank Catholic has suffered three slip-ups this season, most recently a 5-3 loss to Shore Regional, but has gotten rolling again with six straight wins heading into Wednesday’s game. The Caseys scored at least seven runs in all but one of those six games and the one exception was a 3-0 win over Christian Brothers Academy ace Chris Levonas.
The Caseys are particularly dangerous in the first inning thanks to a first-six littered with talent. The first inning has been particularly dangerous for opponents with senior standout and George Washington commit Alex Stanyek leading off. Stanyek is hitting .404 with 10 doubles and three home runs, with two of those longballs coming on RBC’s first batter of the game.
Alabama commit Sean Griggs missed six games with a foot injury, but is back in the No. 2 spot with his .370 average with nine extra-base hits (five doubles, two triples, two home runs). Seton Hall commit and first baseman Frank Scrivanic has a history of delivering in big games and his 20 RBI and six doubles are both second on the team. Catcher Shane Andrus cleans up and is having another big season, hitting .396 with six doubles, four homers and 17 RBI. Sophomore and Notre Dame commit Dylan Passo rounds out the top five with his .313 average with five doubles and two homers.
The proficiency of that top five has given No. 6 hitter Matt Brunner a wealth of RBI chances and he has not disappointed. The junior centerfielder has driven in a team-high 21 runs and his bat has rounded into form while he already entered the season with a track record of excellent defense in centerfield.
The sleeper in the lineup is sophomore shortstop Max Dantoni, who is hitting .341 with a double, triple, home run, 15 runs and 13 RBI at the plate with a team-high 12 stolen bases and solid defense up the middle.
RBC’s lineup will be a challenge for Ranney’s pitching staff, but the key figure for the Caseys will be on the mound. Stanyek has only pitched sparingly throughout his career and RBC’s pitching riches have allowed for coach Buddy Hausmann to be selective in how he deploys his hard-throwing right-hander. Stanyek might not pitch often, but he pitches big games and almost always dominates. Armed with a fastball comfortably above 90 miles-per-hour, a devastating slider and a nasty changeup, Stanyek has been tough to touch in his two starts this season. He gave up one hit and no walks while striking out 13 in six innings on opening day against Rumson-Fair Haven, then punched out 11 in five innings in a win over Gloucester Catholic more than two weeks later.
If Stanyek can’t complete seven innings – and with his propensity to rack up strikeouts and Ranney’s ability to work counts, it is likely he does not – the Caseys will have Seton Hall commit Steve Svenson ready out of the bullpen, as well as senior Dom Mallamaci for a longer relief outing if needed.
Although Red Bank Catholic is the legacy program of the two teams playing Wednesday at Brookdale, the Caseys will still have a sizable chip on their shoulder going up against a team ranked ahead of them at the state and local level. RBC is in the midst of its best run in program history and is set up to keep that run going well beyond 2023. On Wednesday, though, the Caseys want to serve notice to the Shore that they are also the team of the present.
The Pick: Red Bank Catholic, 5-3*
* - "You can't predict baseball, Suzyn" -- John Sterling