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MANALAPAN - Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann's message to his team throughout Wednesday's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal game at Manalapan was to work the count against Braves junior starter Tyler Kane and get into the Braves bullpen.

Meanwhile, Hausmann was anxiously waiting to unleash his bullpen, particularly the ace who would throw the last two innings of Wednesday's extra-inning battle between two of the top three teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.

In the seventh inning, Red Bank Catholic - the No. 2 team in the SSN Top 10 and the third seed in the tournament - got to the Manalapan bullpen in the top of the frame and handed the ball to its ace in the bottom to swing the game in its favor.

The Caseys tied the game in the top of the seventh, junior Nico Gonzalez came through with a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth inning, and senior Shane Panzini picked up the win with two hitless innings of relief as the Caseys fought their way past the second-seeded Braves, 5-2, in eight innings and into the SCT final for the second time in three years and second straight tournament.

"I heard some people saying we should just play tomorrow with the rain and then we could throw Shane the full number of pitches," Hausmann said. "I could still use him for 69 pitches today and that could get us through four innings if we needed it. We were ultimately hoping to close with him for no more than two, but at this point, you're just trying to get to (the championship) Saturday. I didn't want to be at the field Saturday giving the trophy to some other team without using our best guy."

Sophomore Alex Stanyek led off the top of the eighth with a pop fly that dropped between three Manalapan players and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Sean Griggs. Gonzalez then came up and lined a 0-1 offering from Manalapan reliever Nick DiMaggio to left field to chase home Stanyek with the go-ahead run.

"They usually come through," Hausmann said of the hitters in the bottom third of the Caseys order: Gonzalez, Andrus and senior shortstop Sean Ettore. "We work and work and work with these guys. We had the pitching machine out yesterday and we had it cranked. We did it for the Wall game (Saturday) and we had 15 hits so we did it again yesterday. We crank it, similar to what Kane was throwing, so I think all our guys go up feeling like they have a chance."

Manalapan added two more in the inning when Shane Andrus singled to put an additional runner on and senior Anthony Borriello slashed a two-run double that appeared to pass the first-base bag in foul territory, but was ruled fair.

The additional runs driven in by Borriello turned out not to mean much. Panzini walked the second batter of the bottom of the eighth, but fanned the next two to strike out the side and seal the win.

Panzini struck out five of the seven batters he faced in his first relief appearance of the season. The senior right-hander threw 81 pitches in a win over Wall on Saturday and was eligible to throw 69 if needed on Wednesday. With two days between the semifinal and Saturday's championship game, Panzini will be eligible to pitch a full 110 pitches.

"It was really fun," Panzini said. "There were no scouts here today, so it was really just us out there. It was all about my teammates and getting the win."

Panzini and Stanyek combined for five no-hit innings in relief of starter Dylan Wanagiel, who faced the first two batters of the bottom of the fourth inning before Stanyek relieved him with runners on the corners. Max Graime greeted Stanyek by hitting a hard ground ball off the pitcher, which gave time for senior Anthony Mauro to score from third to put Manalapan ahead, 2-1.

Stanyek was also dominant during his relief stint, striking out six of the 10 batters he faced and allowing only two base-runners to reach - one on a walk and another on an error.

"My plan, originally, was three (innings), two, two with Wanagiel, Stanyek and Panzini," Hausmann said. "I stayed a little long with Wanagiel because he was doing a good job and it worked out. Dylan wasn't happy about coming out and he didn't do anything wrong, but they were two times through the order and I didn't want to show them too much of the same thing. If I can throw three arms like this, I though it was a good set-up for us."

Kane gave Red Bank Catholic problems scoring, but the Caseys worked his pitch count to 109 by the end of the sixth and the Braves went to the bullpen and senior Nick DiMaggio. Manalapan has been without senior ace and Rutgers commit Joe Mazza due to injury, which has put some additional strain on Manalapan's pitching staff as the Braves have tried to both advance in the SCT and win a share of the Class A North divisional championship.

 

"I say it all the time: 'Get into the bullpen,'" Hausmann said. "Team's aren't as strong after that first guy and I knew today, they were not as strong after (Kane)."

Mazza was the designated hitter on Wednesday and Manalapan coach Brian Boyce said he was hopeful Mazza would be back on the mound as a starter before the end of the season.

With RBC into the Manalapan bullpen, Borriello hit a one-out single through the left side to start the tying rally in the seventh and sophomore Frank Scrivanic followed with a single to centerfield, with Borriello taking third on a fielding error in center. RBC's senior centerfielder was a spark at the top of the lineup Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base.

Junior Matt Scrivanic tied the game with a one-hop shot that Mauro fielded at shortstop and got to Chris Marzo at second base. Marzo could not make a clean enough exchange to throw to first and Borriello scored the tying run on the play.

Manalapan limited the damage when Panzini singled and sophomore left fielder Cristian Bernardini threw out Scrivanic at the plate, with senior third baseman Tom Guidice cutting the ball off and firing it to senior catcher Anthony Matteis for the tag.

Back in the bottom of the third, Manalapan broke through for the first run of the game when Mazza singled and scored on a hard single to right by Marzo got by Stanyek in right. Mazza chugged home all the way from first and Marzo sprinted into third with one out.

Wanagiel walked the next batter, then coaxed Manalapan No. 3 hitter Tommy Guidice into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, started by Gonzalez and turned by senior Sean Ettore at second.

Red Bank Catholic tied the game in the top of the fourth, with Matt Scrivanic walking to lead off the inning and Stanyek ripping a one-out single to put runners on first and second. Griggs then shot a single through the right sight and Scrivanic hurried home with the tying run.

Wanagiel then faced the first two batters of the bottom of the fourth before RBC dipped into its formidable bullpen.

By later extending the game to the bottom of the seventh inning, Red Bank Catholic gave Panzini a chance to impact the game on the mound - he already impacted it by going 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a walk. Panzini said Wednesday was to be his bullpen day ahead of a weekend start anyway, so his expectation was to throw two innings in the game to both get his work in and help his team advance.

Hausmann said he likely would have stayed with Panzini until he go close to his 69-pitch limit because of Panzini's propensity to throw long bullpen sessions leading up to his regular starts. NJSIAA pitch-count rules state that a pitcher can throw up to 150 pitches over a five-day period and a pitcher that throws 90 or fewer pitches is permitted to pitch with three-days of calendar rest, hence Panzini's availability after throwing 81 on Saturday. Pitchers who throw 91 or more must have at least four days of rest between appearances.

For Panzini, the dynamic of coming out of the bullpen in a close game was one he was not sure about heading into the day, but he made himself available going into the game and was sold on the idea as the game went on - particularly after his interaction with the Manalapan fans down the left-field line while he was playing left field to start the game.

"I don't know if they were parents or what, but they were talking most of the game," Panzini said. "I just kept telling them, 'I hope I get to pitch today.'"

Coming out of the bullpen also meant that there were not a hoard of Major League scouts behind the dugout, which has been the default scene at Panzini's starts this year. Without notice that he was pitching, there were no scouts behind the plate on Wednesday.

"Honestly, it was more fun," Panzini said. "I wasn't trying to impress anyone, I was just trying to straight-up get outs."

For the second time in three years, Panzini will take the ball to start the Shore Conference Tournament final, which will be played Saturday at 11 a.m. at County Basie Park against the winner of Thursday's other semifinal between No. 8 Rumson-Fair Haven and No. 5 Middletown South. Both teams beat Red Bank Catholic during the regular season, with Rumson winning a game in extra innings started by Panzini.

In the last Shore Conference Tournament final played back in 2019, Panzini pitched a one-hitter as Red Bank Catholic beat Manalapan for their second SCT title in eight years. He committed to the University of Virginia just days later.

"He gets to pitch for a championship on our home field, which is pretty cool," Hausmann said.

 

Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 5, Manalapan 2 (8 Innings)

12345678RHE
RBC (17-3)000100135103
Manalapan (14-5)00110000241

Pitching

Red Bank CatholicIPHRERBBSOPC
Dylan Wanagiel34212049
Alex Stanyek30001639
Shane Panzini (W)20001532
ManalapanIPHRERBBSOPC
Tyler Kane641139109
Nick DiMaggio (L)1.15440130
Sebastian Czajkowski0.21000112

Top Hitters

Red Bank CatholicGame Stats
Anthony Borriello3-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI, SB
Shane Panzini2-3, 2B
Nico Gonzalez1-4, R, RBI
Matt Scrivanic1-3, R, RBI
Sean Griggs1-3, RBI
Alex Stanyek2-4, R
ManalapanGame Stats
Joe Mazza1-2, R
Anthony Mauro1-4, R
Anthony Matteis1-3
Chris Marzo1-4