RBC softball, RFH baseball among area’s finest this spring

BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

With another high school spring season in the books, there certainly were plenty of reasons to celebrate for local sports fans, as once again many of our hometown teams put forth championship-level performances in a variety of sports.

And while there was a countless number of scholastic athletes who distinguished themselves with their performances this spring, there were a chosen few who rose to the top of their respective sports, claiming both individual and team accolades deserving of one last look before looking ahead to the start of the fall schedule.

When looking back on what was indeed a fruitful spring season, you have to start with the Red Bank Catholic girl’s softball team.

The Caseys, who entered the season amid some lofty expectations, lived up to those expectations and them some, winning four team titles, including the Class A Central, Monmouth County Tournament, NJSIAA Non-Public South A and the Non-Public A championships, and finishing the year 26-2 and ranked second in the state. They also reached the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament, where they lost a heartbreaker to Toms River East, a team they beat earlier in the year.

Simply put, head coach Tracy Yarosz- Lombardi’s Caseys were the class of the Shore this year, led by the brilliant Brittany O’Donnell. The Notre Dame-bound O’Donnell had a junior year for the ages, going 25-2 with a 0.12 ERA, 353 strikeouts in 179 innings, 23 shutouts, two perfect games and 11 no-hitters. The Gatorade New Jersey Softball Player of the Year threw 98 consecutive scoreless innings during one stretch, and was also a monster at the plate, where she hit .469 with 17 RBIs and a .528 on-base percentage.

Her battery-mate, sophomore Jess Long, also played a key role in RBC’s success, hitting .467 with 16 RBIs, and showing a penchant for making the big play, both behind the plate and at-bat, in the big spots.

Among the other RBC players who distinguished themselves this year were sophomore Marie Flego and freshman outfielder Kristin Travers, both of whom received second team All-Conference nods, as well as All-Division picks Alana DiMaso and Liz Black, the team’s only senior starter.

Obviously, with O’Donnell returning next spring, the Caseys will be the team to beat. Throw into the mix the fact that virtually the entire team returns around her, and it’s easy to see why RBC is already being hailed in some circles as the top team in the state. After such a brilliant season this spring, it will be interesting to see what O’Donnell and company can do for an encore.

While they didn’t quite achieve the level of success as the Caseys, a special nod should go to the Shore Regional Blue Devils, who won the Class B Central public school title with a 20-5 mark, led by the superb pitching of senior Lexie DeRasmo (18-5, 0.43 ERA). Shore reached the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group II tournament, where they fell to the eventual section champs from Carteret, 5-0.

On the baseball diamond, the Rumson Fair Haven Bulldogs continued to emerge as one of the top programs in the Shore with a brilliant 20-4 season (the most wins since their 21-8 season in 1977), and a Class A Central title.

RFH, which had the Shore’s top offense, averaging nearly nine runs a game with a team batting average of .398, reached the Shore Conference Tournament final for the first time (losing to Toms River South, 3-2), as well as the Central Jersey Group II final, where they lost to eventual Group II champion Allentown, 5-1.

While there were a number of offensive stars for this heavy hitting team, no one outshined senior Matt Wassel. The Middlebury College-bound star hit .533 on the year, with three home runs and 35 RBIs, and was nearly impossible to get out in a big spot. For his efforts, Wassel earned a spot on the All-Conference First Team, while teammate Johnny Lembeck got a third team nod. Catcher Gary Costello also had a big year at the plate, leading the Shore with 40 RBIs. On the mound, RFH was led by senior Mike Seibel (6-1) and Tom McDonough (7-1).

Head coach Kevin James, the Shore’s Baseball Coach of the Year, continues to do a great job with the RFH program. Along with his staff, James has molded this program into a perennial winner that appears to be on the cusp of becoming a state power.

Also on the baseball diamond this spring, the CBA Colts overcame an early season rash of injuries to put together another stellar season for longtime head coach Marty Kenney. The Colts, who finished the year with a 20-9 mark, actually overachieved this season, as the young CBA team captured the Non-Public South A title with a win over Gloucester Catholic. From there, the Colts gave Don Bosco Prep, the state’s top-ranked team and the second-ranked team in the nation by USA Today, its toughest game all season in the Non-Public A final, before falling 5-4.

With a young team that entered the season without much varsity experience, Kenney anticipated his squad to be a work in progress. However, once junior Pat Light emerged as a bona fide ace (11-0, 1.05 ERA, 73 Ks in 73 innings) everything started to come together for the Colts. The offense found its stride late in the season, led by All-Conference selection Steve McSherry (.400, 33 RBIs), as well as players like Dan Avella and Anthony Cirillo.

With the majority of this team coming back next year, CBA will be a popular pick as a team to beat once again.

Much like Shore girls softball team, the Shore boys baseball team also enjoyed a stellar spring, posting a 19-5 mark (good enough for a Class B Central public school title), and advancing to the CJ Group II sectional, where they were knocked out in a 9-7 slugfest by RFH. Shore was led by senior designated hitter Todd Juliano, who led the Shore with a .574 average, 39 hits, 10 doubles and four home runs. Junior Rob Corsi was the top pitcher for the Blue Devils, posting an 8-1 record with a 1.53 ERA.