Manalapan, RBC win titles/OCT final coming up/Dowling official at Brick

The Pat Dowling hiring at Brick became official on Thursday while I was down in a Philadelphia-area hospital awaiting the birth of my new nephew, 8-pound, 3-ounce Brody Stump (look for him on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s All-Star teams around 2025), so the whole Brick controversy has come to a conclusion as far as officially naming a new head coach.

That is a bitter end for Warren Wolf after 51 years as the school’s only head coach, as his request for a coach with Brick ties fell on deaf ears as far as the School Board was concerned. The question I’ve been asked the most about it is why the Board and the Superintendent would do this when just transitioning to an assistant with Brick ties for two years and then cleaning house if you want would have been a much easier way to go rather than alienating Wolf and all his supporters. The other feeling is that if they did this to clear the way for a coach with a blockbuster resume, like, for example, Middletown South’s Steve Antonucci, then people might understand more, whereas Dowling has had success at Monroe but does not have experience with a state championship team. I don’t really have an answer for those two questions.

Dowling comes over after coaching at Allentown last year and at Monroe before that, and he will have a lot of skeptics to convert, that’s for sure. There will be a lot of people rooting for his downfall, which is weird considering that means rooting against their own kids to succeed. I guess we’ll just wait and see, but the town is definitely fractured over this, so it will be interesting to see what the crowds will be like. I can easily envision a large group of disgruntled-looking people in green shirts standing with their arms folded as the game goes on. Like I said in a previous blog, winning will solve a lot, so the pressure will be on from Day One, and Dowling is not shrinking from the challenge, so good luck to him and the Dragons.

It’s also interesting to note that the Green Dragons open with Colts Neck, which also still does not have a head coach, although the latest indication is that it may be Manchester assistant Greg LaCava, who also is a former head coach at Allentown. I have to say that the football landscape has changed a little when putting “Allentown” on your resume is suddenly a good thing, considering this is a program that has traditionally been at the bottom of the standings.

Now, on to baseball. The Ocean County Tournament final will be starting in a few hours at Toms River East, where Toms River North and Toms River South will lock horns, with the added spice that legendary Toms River South coach Ken Frank is gunning for his 700th career victory as the Indians try to repeat as OCT champs. Tyler Gebler pitched in the semifinals on Tuesday and could see some innings tonight because he only threw four in a 11-0 win over Brick. Matt Mancini and Rudy Ferrentino are the two arms most likely slotted for Toms River North, and I’m sure it will be the usual nail-biting, Toms River showdown. The two teams split during the regular season in Class A South. I think I’m going to lay off the predictions because if I pick South and North wins, Mark Leiter might get me in a headlock. Kidding, kidding.

On Thursday, two more division titles were decided as Manalapan pulled one out in the bottom of the seventh to beat Middletown North, 7-6, to claim the Class A North public title, which head coach Brian Boyce said he was told was their first division title in nearly 30 years, so congrats to the Braves.

Red Bank Catholic, meanwhile, went down 8-1 to Rumson only to storm back for a 13-11 win that clinched at least a tie for the Class A Central non-public title. The Caseys showed a ton of resilience considering the factors: They had blown a 6-1 lead and gotten upset by Brick Memorial in the Shore Conference Tournament a day earlier; they trailed by seven runs early; and Rumson had ace Austin McAuliffe on the mound, whom RBC eventually scored eight runs against. That is a gutsy win in a game where they could’ve just folded. RBC can now clinch the overall title with a win over St. John Vianney next week. Shore and Manasquan are still in play for the public title if they can finish second in the division or tied with RBC for the best record in the division.

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