By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – There is no question that Red Bank Catholic is the best baseball team in the Shore Conference.
But, that’s not stopping any team from trying to knock off the Caseys – especially in their newly refurbished turf facility at Count Basie Field.
That was Rumson’s plan on Tuesday night, but Red Bank Catholic had other ideas in mind. After an early pitchers’ duel, the Caseys turned on the offense and used a four-run fourth inning to cruise past the slumping Bulldogs, 5-0.
“We had it all last week – that’s all we’ve dealt with lately,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Buddy Hausmann said of getting high efforts from opponents. “It makes teams’ seasons when they can knock us off and we usually get very good efforts because we also have ties. Some of them played together, they’re all together; they all know each other, that’s the big thing.”
Junior designated hitter Matt Kurdewan opened up that spirited fourth inning with a solo home run to left-center field, although it did come with controversy. The shot appeared to bounce on the warning track and bounce over the fence, but the umpires ruled it a home run, and that call stood after a lengthy meeting that included a heavy argument from Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Gary Costello.
Later in the inning, senior center fielder Joe Iacobellis brought home sophomore left fielder Chris Bender with a run-scoring triple down the right field line to push the Caseys’ lead to 3-0. Iacobellis scored in the next at-bat, when junior second baseman Brenden Madigan slapped a single to center field.
Madigan scored one batter later to up Red Bank Catholic’s lead to 5-0, when senior third baseman Michael Rescigno reached base on an error, but was thrown out in an attempt to advance to second base to end the inning.
Despite the slow start, that fourth inning was more than enough to give Caseys’ senior pitcher John Selden a lead to win the game.
“The last few games we’ve kind of done that, it’s taken until the second inning to get going,” Hausmann said. “But, we’ve been grinding out at-bats, working pitch counts, we play defense and we’ve put the ball in play and we’ve had some breaks here and there, but we’re finally starting to capitalize on them, which is what you need to do at this point.”
Selden gave the Caseys six solid innings, pitching a shutout on three hits. He struck out six batters and walked just one as he was in command throughout the night.
“[I was] just pitching to contact and staying ahead in the count and working in and out [of trouble],” Selden said.
Red Bank Catholic took the lead in the bottom of the third inning. Iacobellis, who stole second after a leadoff walk, scored when junior shortstop Al Molina poked a line drive into center field, to put the Caseys on the board first.
Rumson junior pitcher Chris Drummond lasted four innings for the Bulldogs. He allowed five runs on seven hits with one strikeout, two walks, and one hit batsmen. Senior pitcher Gunnar Tilly pitched two perfect innings in relief of Drummond and added three strikeouts.
Senior pitcher Tom Curry pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for Red Bank Catholic and punched two strikeouts, as well.
Drummond and Selden battled through the first two innings through a scoreless game before the Caseys were able to put some offense on the board.
“It’s always the first three innings or so, but after those innings, it’s usually smooth-sailing after that,” Selden said.
The Caseys have added extra emphasis on finding different ways to win games this season after last year’s postseason collapse.
“We’ve found ways in all different aspects, so that’s helped,” Hausmann said. “We just have to find a way to win, it doesn’t matter how, or what on this side of things, that’s all the matters in the long run.”
As of Wednesday, Red Bank Catholic had not lost a game to a Shore Conference opponent, with its only loss coming to Randolph on April 6.
The Caseys survived with a 7-2 win over Holmdel on April 17 by scoring five runs in the top of the seventh and a 5-4 win over Monmouth Regional on April 18 that featured a three-run walk-off home run by senior outfielder Anthony Yaccarine.
“We’re learning and we found ways, which is good,” Hausmann said. “Whatever it takes that day: last week we stole seven bases in the top of the seventh in a tie game to put up five runs. That’s something different that we haven’t done, but we just ran all over the place. We’ve done different things, whatever it takes.”
The Monmouth County Tournament will start this weekend, where the Caseys are projected to be the top seed. Last season, Red Bank Catholic made it to the final as a top seed, but lost to Freehold Township in the championship game.