By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Could this be the year Red Bank Catholic’s baseball team flips the script?
Coach Buddy Hausmann hopes so after his Caseys won their first Monmouth County Tournament championship in four years by defeating Freehold Borough, 10-3, on May 9 at FirstEnergy Park, Lakewood.
SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE GAME, HERE.
It was the eighth win in 10 games for RBC (12-6) after a 4-4 start.
“We had high expectations and we didn’t fulfill them early,” Hausmann said. “But my dad and I were talking last night about how many times in the past we’ve had hot starts. Last year we were 18-1, we were ranked this and that, and we came out of it with a division championship and nothing else.
“We’ve had a really lot of hot starts but we don’t win anything. Who cares about the hot start? Realistically, if you’re not gonna really win anything, does that really matter? It’s a different perspective. Obviously, you don’t want to lose. I haven’t lost six games this early in a season for a while. Unfortunately in the past we played our best in the beginning of the season and caved when it mattered. So, I don’t know, maybe this time it’s different.”
The veteran coach admitted to having a tough time getting a handle on his somewhat young group, saying “This is a hard team to figure out. They’re talented but we can look terrible some days. Hopefully this gets us going in the right direction.”
The Caseys were a microcosm of their season in the MCT final. RBC exploded for four runs in the first but played some shaky defense as Freehold brought it to 4-3. Aidan Supp’s solo homer in the third provided a slight cushion, but it was Red Bank’s only tack-on run until a five-run sixth.
“We knew they would come back,” Hausmann said. “They got three right back and I said ‘This isn’t over. You have to tack on every inning’ Then (Supp) led off with a homer and that helped.”
But what really helped was the sixth-inning explosion.
“We had opportunities earlier and we left guys on,” Hausmann said. “Those five runs definitely helped my stress level. I was thinking, ‘We’re up two, we gotta get three outs here.’”
Suddenly they were up seven, and it stayed that way as sophomore Vin Bianchi finished off three scoreless innings in which he allowed one hit and three walks while striking out four.
Austin Nappi, who got the win in the May 6 semifinal against Ocean Township, was able to start a second straight game by virtue of keeping his pitch count down to 68 against the Spartans. Nappi allowed three earned runs, six hits and no walks while fanning one in four innings.
“We only returned 28 innings (of experience) and he had 20 of them,” Hausmann said. “I think he learned a lot last year by being behind three senior pitchers we had. They threw a lot of strikes, mixed it up, hit different spots.
“He throws strikes, so he’s not going to walk guys or be behind hitters. Their approach last night was to swing. They were aggressive on him, which you should be, but he’s gonna let our defense play. The defense hung him out to dry early but they made plays a little bit later on.”
Mike Veit led the offense with three hits, an RBI and three runs, while Supp had two hits, JonMichael Rotondo had a homer and two RBI, Aaron Ahn had a double and scored twice and Brian Sheehy drove in two runs.
The win ended three years of frustration for the Caseys, whose last tournament title of any kind was the MCT in 2013. That team was so confident it would win Shore Conference and state titles, it never celebrated the county tournament.
“They wanted something bigger that year, they wanted a state championship,” Hausmann recalled. “It was weird, they just kind of walked off and treated it like every other game even though they won a championship.”
Little did anyone realize it would be the last for a while, as RBC had dropped the last three MCT finals prior to this season. Thus, there was plenty of celebration May 9.
“It was nice they were able to enjoy it,” Hausmann said. “This group hasn’t gotten to celebrate much. The guys really enjoyed it and we talked about it afterwards. We got back to the locker room and said ‘You know, you guys thought that was fun, you still have three more you have a chance to get.”
The next step is the Ocean County Tournament, which the coach was already thinking about. Hausmann was hoping his team could avoid a letdown in a May 10 with Red Bank Regional.
“To be honest I think it will show a lot of character what comes out today,” Hausmann said hours before the first pitch. “This team beat us already. These next two, three games will determine a bye in the Shore Conference and determine us having home games.
“If you want to go down to Ocean County and leave our field and go to these other places, then you cough up today and tomorrow. Red Bank has a losing record but it’s still a rivalry and they’ve beaten us with that kind of a record. A letdown could easily happen, but you gotta bounce back, that’s part of the deal.”
The Caseys have done a good job bouncing back from an 8-0 loss to Manasquan on May 4, in which they were out-hit, 14-1. Hausmann had a few choice words after that one.
“I had to talk to them a little differently than I usually do,” the coach said with a laugh. “We got beat in all three aspects of the game, we didn’t make adjustments. I’m probably not going to do that again, but looking back on it, we haven’t lost since, so I guess it worked.
“We’re hoping this (MCT title) gets us going now. The Shore Conference is pretty wide open and so is the (South Jersey Non Public A) sectional. We prepared by playing Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine, those types of teams. But if you don’t come each day, than it could be over quick.”
Hausmann has seen enough of those quick endings recently. He’s ready for the Caseys to write a new post-season script.