RED BANK - Sophomore hurler Declan Leary worked his magic on the mound again in Tuesday's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal leading fourth-seeded Red Bank Catholic (19-7) to a 10-0 win over No.1 seed Rumson-Fair Haven (18-4) at Count Basie Field.
Leary's repertoire is noticeably devoid of an overpowering fastball, but don't let that fool you. He's a magician on the mound with impeccable control and command of his cache of sneaky good pitches.
Leary kept the Rumson hitters off-balance and guessing all day with a nasty slider and curveball with dazzling movement. He also used an off-speed pitch that had the Bulldogs batters lunging at it all afternoon, Leary's magic act of "now you see it, now you don't" is something to behold.
The young righty went the distance without allowing a run in the Caseys' six-inning mercy-rule win over Rumson. He surrendered just four hits and walked one while striking out one. He faced just one batter over the minimum (19) for a six-inning game.
"I relied on my off-speed a lot and had my slider and curveball going," said Leary. "On the (speed) gun normally, I'm at 83-84 (mph) tops with my fastball and the high 60's and low 70's on my other pitches. My curve is really slow, but it throws a lot of people off. I try to keep hitters off-balance. You don't want them to know what's coming."
Tuesday's win was Leary's second consecutive shutout of Rumson after tossing a complete game in the RBC's 3-0 win over the Bulldogs back on May 10. He pitched seven strong innings in that game while allowing just four hits without issuing a walk and struck out ten batters. His earned run average is a minuscule 0.77 in 18 innings pitched over his last three outings.
"His pitches move a ton," said Red Bank Catholic head coach Buddy Hausmann. "It's dipping and diving and he just kind of runs it in there. His two seamer moves a ton and then his slider goes the other way and then there's his off speed stuff."
Red Bank Catholic catcher Shane Andrus is a big fan of Leary's approach to the game.
"I can call any pitch, in any count, and Declan can throw it for a strike," said Andrus. "He can throw his fastball for a strike then get them swinging at a curveball in the dirt. He can locate all three of his pitches. I love to catch him."
Red Bank Catholic junior first baseman Frank Scrivanic, who went 3-for-4 with a triple, RBI, and three runs scored, has come to expect outings like this out of Leary.
"He was amazing," said Scrivanic of Leary's performance. "He's been doing this all year for us. He keeps us on when we're not hitting and keeps us in the game with his pitching. When he sets them down 1-2-3 it fires us up to back him up and support him."
Andrus helped Leary's cause with his superb defense behind the plate Tuesday.
In the top of the first, he threw out Rumson's Charlie Tallman attempting to steal second after drawing a walk. He picked off Spencer Hopson in the second inning after he doubled to end the inning. Then in the third, Aaron Del Tin strayed too far from third and Andrus got him in a run down that eventually ended in an out, but he wasn't finished. In the fourth, he threw out Owen Kenney, who was leaning too far off second.
"He's done a tremendous job for us this year, and last year," said Hausmann of Andrus. "He controls the tempo of the game, throws out runners and our pitchers are very confident with him calling the game. A good player and a good kid too."
Although it committed two errors, the Caseys' defense chipped in with two double plays ending mini threats. They turned a 1-6-3 double play in the second inning, then a 6-4-3 in the fifth. Senior shortstop Matt Scrivanic also made a spectacular leaping grab of the liner off the bat of Matt Rigby in the fourth with a man on second to save a possible run.
Red Bank Catholic jumped on Rumson ace Charlie Jones, who entered with an ERA hovering around 1.00, early giving Leary a nice cushion to work with. Jones, who struggled with his command all day, was pulled after allowing four runs, five hits and four walks in three innings of work.
"Coming into this game we knew Jones had a really good curve ball and really good off-speed pitch," said Scrivanic. "Our game plan was to find a straight one and drive into the gab, be patient with the curveball and fend it off and if you're down two strikes just put it play as hard as you can."
The Caseys had a game plan for Leary entering Tuesday's semifinal.
"We started to figure him (Jones) out in the middle of our first game against him," said Hausmann. "We changed our approach and tried not to chase his breaking ball and look for the fastball in the zone. We came in today with the same type of mentality."
In the top of the second, Scrivanic led off the inning with a line-drive single to left-center before Jack Myers and Nico Gonzalez walked to load the bases. Left fielder Dylan Passo brought Scrivanic home with a sacrifice fly, and number nine batter Matt Brunner's infield hit scored Myers for a 2-0 lead.
They added two more runs in the top of the third. Back-to-back singles by Matt and Frank Scrivanic and a walk to Myers loaded the bases before a fielders choice grounder by Gonzalez scored Matt Scrivanic. Passo then brought Frank Scrivanic home with a line-drive single, but Gonzalez was thrown out at home trying to score.
With the score 4-0, the Caseys tacked on a run in the fourth. Junior Alex Stranyek and sophomore Sean Griggs lined singles to put runners on first and second, and Myers was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Matt Scrivanic then hit a soft liner to left, scoring Stranyek for a 5-0 lead.
Red Bank Catholic broke the game wide open with five runs in the top of the sixth. Frank Scrivanic laced a triple into deep left-center to drive in Matt Scrivanic, who had reached on an error and went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Gonzalez singled home Scrivanic, Brunner added an RBI groundout and Stanyek, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, drilled a single to center scoring Passo, who had walked, and Gonzalez for a 10-0 advantage.
"Coach actually put the hit and run on there, so I had to swing anyway," said Scrivanic of his triple. "It was a 3-1 count so I was thinking, 'here comes the fastball, just get your foot down and drive it as far I can.' So I put my foot down and drove it over the centerfielder's head.
"Our whole order can hit and when the defense is on its on and when we all work together we're just a great team," added Scrivanic. "Our team chemistry is so high right now, everyone fits in so well, it's just awesome."
Passo, only a freshman, was 1-for-1 with two RBI, two walks and a sacrifice fly, while Brunner finished going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI. The bottom third of the Caseys' order accounted for six RBI.
"They did a great job today," said Hausmann of the bottom of the order. "They did the job for us that we needed."
Leary showed no signs of tiring, setting the side down in order in the bottom of the sixth for the 10-0 mercy-rule win. He threw just six pitches in the fifth and sixth innings and 22 through the last three innings.
Red Bank Catholic Advances To Final
The Shore Conference Tournament seems to bring out the best of the Caseys. They're seeking their third straight SCT championship and have been in the finals four of the last five seasons, excluding 2020, when Covid canceled the season.
"Yea, I don't know why we always play well in this tournament," said Hausmann. "Games like this are never easy to win but I'll take it."