Red Bank Catholic High School is living up to expectations on the baseball diamond.
Before the 2019 season, RBC coach Buddy Hausmann expected to have a dominant pitching staff with four right-handed aces in senior Vincent Bianchi, senior Ryan O’Hara, junior John Nimeth and sophomore Shane Panzini.
And during the 2019 campaign, Hausmann has had that dominant staff with the four right-handed aces in Bianchi, O’Hara, Nimeth and Panzini.
The group is not merely meeting expectations. It is probably exceeding them.
Red Bank Catholic is 13-3 overall and 12-0 in Shore Conference play.
The Caseys are a clear contender for the Shore Conference Tournament championship and the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A sectional tournament title.
Hausmann’s hurlers are the biggest reason for all of that. The staff has allowed 36 runs in 16 games, an average of just 2.25 per contest. It has also recorded five shutouts and given up two runs or less in five other games.
Among the four pitchers, the youngest one, Panzini, is pitching the best. The sophomore is 3-1 with an 0.89 earned run average.
He struck out 12 in a 1-0 home victory over Manasquan High School on April 18. He also allowed just two hits in a seven-inning complete game.
Those results are great, but they aren’t even the most impressive part of Panzini’s season so far. The sophomore has shown maturity beyond his years.
“He’s been consistent in every outing,” Hausmann said. “Getting ahead of hitters, pouring in strikes and then working off that.”
“I’ve been focused,” Panzini added. “I know what I have to do.”
If Panzini is Hausmann’s best pitcher this spring, then O’Hara is his most valuable. In just 17 innings, O’Hara is 2-0 with two saves. His 0.79 ERA speaks to the fact that he’s comfortable and confident in any situation.
The right-hander is usually Hausmann’s first option out of the bullpen. But he starts when the other three pitchers are not available.
Unlike most relievers, he is not less talented than the starters on his team. He is just more flexible.
“He can come in and throw strikes right away, so he thrives out of the pen,” Hausmann said. “But he’s fine with whatever situation.”
“I’ve been doing both for most of my baseball career,” O’Hara added. “I just go out there, do my job and help out the team in any way I can.”
O’Hara rarely has to come in when Nimeth is on the bump. The junior has mastered some lost arts in pitching today: pitching to contact, inducing weak outs and going deep in games.
Early in games, Nimeth lets his fielders go to work. But he can also be a strikeout pitcher when that’s more beneficial, like late in games. The senior has 18 strikeouts in 18 innings, and is 4-0 with a 3.01 ERA.
“He’s been throwing well,” Hausmann said. “He just spots his fastball and tries to get them to roll over. He has a good breaking ball too.”
Panzini, O’Hara and Nimeth are all great. But Bianchi is a Major League Baseball Draft prospect and Hausmann’s “main arm.”
Yet despite recording 30 strikeouts in 24 innings, the senior has dealt with bad luck this spring. Two of RBC’s three defeats are on his record.
Bianchi’s 2.47 ERA is also really good, but not dominant, though he may be coming around.
Bianchi pitched a complete game and allowed no earned runs in his last start, a 5-1 road victory over Monmouth Regional High School on May 2.
If he starts dominating, the Caseys may be unstoppable.
“We’re trying to finish up our (A Central) Division,” Hausmann said. “That’s our first goal.”
“We can definitely make it far in states and even win,” O’Hara added.