By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – The Red Bank Catholic baseball team did everything it could this season to assure that wouldn’t happen again.
As one of the most respected and feared programs in the Shore Conference – and the state, overall – last season’s postseason collapse remained fresh in the minds of the Caseys this season. They started practice earlier and ended later. They did different drills that helped them close out games so that type of feeling would never remain with the team again.
Last spring, Red Bank Catholic lost in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament and the second round of the Non-Public, South A sectional playoffs before losing to Freehold Township in the Monmouth County Tournament.
This season – for the first month-and-a-half – things looked to be different. Red Bank Catholic cruised to an A-Central division title and beat Wall 7-1 in the Monmouth County Tournament final on May 20 – its first MCT crown in school history.
Things started to turn south on May 22, when the second-seeded Caseys fell to seventh-seeded Jackson Liberty 5-4 in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal.
Then, it all fell apart on the afternoon of Sunday, May 26. After the fourth-seeded Caseys led 13-seeded Pope Paul VI throughout the game in the opening round of the Non-Public, South A sectional playoffs, the Eagles struck for five runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat Red Bank Catholic 6-5 and end its season in disappointing fashion for a second straight year.
“It was just so quick, how it happened,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Buddy Hausmann said. “I stressed to them it’s 21 outs for a reason. You do drills for 21 outs and I’ve said it a lot lately. We have to put it together for 21 outs once this year because we haven’t. Here’s the example.”
The Caseys scored two runs in the top of the second inning and three runs in the top of the third inning to take a commanding 5-1 lead. Senior pitcher Mike Rescigno did the rest, dominating the Eagles’ lineup until that seventh inning.
“He only threw 90 pitches,” Hausmann said of Rescigno. “It’s not like he threw a lot. He wasn’t feeling well, but I thought he’d be fine being down in the order and with the way it was going, I thought he’d be fine.”
The Eagles strung together three straight hits after getting runners on second and third base to take the stunning lead. Red Bank Catholic had no answer, going down in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game, and its season.
Red Bank Catholic finished with 23-4 record – impressive by any standard – but short of the goal for the program after a less-than-stellar ending.
Hausmann said: “23-4 is not a bad season…Where we were hoping to get to by this point. We thought we would be at least further into championships and further in the state tournament. But, we still won a lot of games and we still beat a lot of different teams.”
The loss is especially painful for the seniors, who struggled to get a sense of a championship team over the final two years of their high school careers despite high expectations.
“That’s what I feel the worst about because their careers ended just like that,” Hausmann said. “And you don’t even really know what happened because it happened so quick.”
Much like last year, though, there will once again be a lesson to be learned for the program’s younger players, Hausmann said.
“This is a prime example of how you have to finish a game,” he said. “This is a prime example and it doesn’t get much worse than this feeling and how it can go in the 19, 20 and 21 outs.”