HOLMDEL – With a baseball team dominated by seniors – eight of whom are starters – St. John Vianney had been regarded as defending champion Red Bank Catholic’s main challenger to the A Division Central title this year.
The Lancers had the first of two big games with the Caseys Saturday, and SJV met the challenge in impressive fashion with an 11-5 triumph on a windy, chilly day.
In winning, SJV had some timely hitting including a two-run homer by Evan Pietronico, who had three hits overall in the game.
The Lancers, however, had considerable help from a poor RBC defense that was charged with eight errors, seven of which came in the third inning, which led to eight unearned runs.
“This is a big rivalry for us and we have to stay focused,” said RBC coach Buddy Hausmann, “but we didn’t take care of the ball. It was very frustrating.”
The game also marked the 100th coaching victory of the season for SJV coach Mike Morgan, who was presented with a plaque following the game by the team.
“This win was for the kids,” said Morgan. “I knew it would be only a matter of time (100th victory), but they were talking about it before the game so it was important for them.”
In addition to the errors, RBC also wasted a number of scoring opportunities, stranding eight base runners over the first four innings.
A pickoff at first base by winning pitcher Justin Chin in the first inning cut off a potential big inning for RBC, which had three hits in the inning but failed to score.
SJV wasted little time scoring as Pietronico belted a two-run homer over the right field fence off losing pitcher Tom Puzo to give the Lancers a quick 2-0 lead.
“Evan hasn’t been hitting thus far this season,” said Morgan, “but this was a big hit for him.”
SJV picked up another run in the second on Chris Morris’ base-loaded infield hit, but RBC looked ready to get back in the game in the third inning.
Matt Kurdewan was hit by a pitch with two out and then Tom Merlo doubled down the left field line. When the ball was misplayed, Kurdewan scored, and Merlo came home on a wild relay to cut the SJV lead to 3-2.
RBC’s defense, though, fell apart in the bottom of the third inning when seven errors, including two dropped outfield flies, two walks and four hits led to eight unearned runs and an 11-2 lead.
RBC made a brief rally in the fifth inning when it scored three runs, capped by Doug Facendo’s bases-loaded single off reliever Dan Schirmacher, but he then retired the last seven batters to end the game.
“I still don’t think we are where we should be right now,” said Morgan, “but this win was a big boost for us because RBC has a great baseball program and beat us three times last year.
“There is still a long road ahead of us, but we are getting there,” said Morgan.”