The Red Bank Catholic Caseys defeated the Jackson Memorial Jaguars 4-1 to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament Championship Game on Wednesday. RBC will play CBA on Monday at First Energy Park in Lakewood. John Poccia pitched a complete game, finishing with 5 strikeouts. He worked out of a jam several times and Mike Ianelli went 3/4 with a 3 run homer, a single, and a double to lead the offense for the Caseys.
RBC got off to a hot start, as Evan Madigan ripped a single into right field. Madigan finished 2/4 with a single and a double. Jackson starting pitcher Jim Plaganis walked Doug Facendo, which would set the stage for one of the best plays of the game. Senior Mike Ianelli stepped to the plate, and hit a crushing shot all the way into right field. The ball would clear the fence and just like that, RBC took a 3-0 lead.
“He hung a curveball on the first pitch, and I missed. So I was thinking if he came with that again to just be ready to hit. Luckily, he threw another and I just put a good swing on it”. said Ianelli on the at bat. Ianelli has been consistent for the Caseys all year.
Jackson Memorial would get their first good scoring opportunity in the third. Nick Rocco hit a single, and Kyle Lona blasted a triple all the way to the back wall. This was a shot that could have been a home run in other parks. Count Basie Field is definitely known for its distance, as it kept the ball in the park. All of a sudden, Jackson Memorial was threatening for the first time. After 2 outs, Brandon Janofsky was walked, but the Jaguars could not capitalize as Chris Hawrlyk flied out. Jackson Memorial left the bases loaded trailing 3-0.
Jackson Head Coach Frank Malta would make a pitching change in the fourth, as Chris Hawrlyk came in to replace Jim Plaganis. Hawrlk faced a tough situation as RBC got a single from Anthony DeRosa, and then loaded the bases with bunts from Mike Spinelli and Frank Carraballo. Hawrlyk was able to keep his composure and strike out two batters, taking away an opportunity from RBC with the bases loaded. The defense shined for both teams to keep this game close.
RBC would add to their lead in the 6th. Frank Caraballo hit a single, and Evan Madigan blasted an RBI double to give the Caseys a 4-0 lead. RBC was looking to give themselves enough breathing room to keep Jackson from making a comeback.
John Poccia would make sure no such comeback was possible in the seventh. RBC was three outs away from earning a trip to the SCT Final, but Jackson Memorial was ready to make one final stand. The Jaguars were going to do anything to save their season. Nick Rocco would rip it to left field for a single, and Matt Castronuova would pinch hit for John Carello. Castronuova drove in a run with an RBI single to put the Jaguars on the board 4-1. Castronuova has been dependable all season long for the Jaguars.
This would bring Kyle Johnson to the plate, and he was smelling blood. Johnson has been on a hot streak for the past month, and he would single to give Jackson Memorial runners on 1st and 2nd. The Jaguars found themselves in great position with Brandon Janofsky coming to the plate to potentially be the tying run. John Poccia was going to be in for a battle to close the game out. Janofsky hit it on the seams but right at the shorstop, who started a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
Evan Madigan was the hero of the game, stepping up to make the final play. The Caseys were thrilled to make it through such a difficult situation, and knew they could trust their ace John Poccia in the pinch. “Poccia has been outstanding for us all year, so we put our faith in him. Brandon’s a great player, so he keeps you on your toes every time he’s up. After Evan made the play it was a huge relief” said Mike Ianelli after the game.
There is so much that goes into every big game. The best players know that it takes preparation, perseverance, and mental toughness to step up in the most difficult situations. Mike Ianelli also talked about the motivation factor before the game and how nobody wanted this to be their last. “Knowing that we were playing for our season definitely helped a lot. We saw the team before us hugging each other and saying goodbye for the last time and we didn’t want that to be us. Knowing that definitely helped us win”.
RBC will move on to First Energy Park where they will host the Colts of CBA on Monday night. The Colts have one of the best aces in the state in Luca Dalatri, and a hitting lineup that also features Dalatri, Brandon Martorano, Cid Porter, and Ken Campbell. Unlike RBC, CBA is still alive in their state sectional bracket. For the Caseys to win, they are going to have to bring their A Game.
Ianelli acknowledged this, saying, “We’ve faced some good competition all year which helps a lot. We just have to go out and practice hard this week and leave the rest for game time and see what happens”. Ianelli, Evan Madigan, Aaron Ahn and the Caseys will look forward to one more game for the SCT.
@ShoreSportsNJ, @jimrosa519 and I will be right there to bring you all the action from First Energy Park for NJSR!