Last year’s Class B South division race flew in the face of the old adage that pitching wins championships. Although division champion Jackson Liberty had the third-best pitching staff in the division, Barnegat and Central each ran out multiple Division I-caliber arms. Despite Barnegat boasting the likes of Vanderbilt commit Jason Groome and Hofstra signee Seamus Brazill and Central offering a 1-2 punch of Alabama right-hander Andrew DiPiazza and current senior Anthony Arneth, neither team finished better than 7-7 in the division.

On the flip side, both teams stood out during the tournament season and in that regard, both were constructed to win in some capacity. While all of these B South teams would like to click in time to make a postseason run, the first stop is the B South title. While it could be anyone’s game, there is one team that just seems due.

Barnegat senior right-hander John Corbett pitched the Bengals to the Shore Conference Tournament final in 2014 and now the Bengals are out to finish what they started last year. (Photo by Matt Manley)



Head Coach: Dan McCoy, fourth season
2014 Record: 20-10 (7-7, tied fourth in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Nik Fraim Sr. C .356/.380/.529, 9 2B, 3 HR, 24 R, 16 RBI, 6 SB
Jared Kacso Jr. 3B/P .333/.419/.538, 5 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 16 R, 16 RBI, 6 SB 22.1 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 13 K, 5.64 ERA, 2-2
Ed Rogan Sr. 1B/P .356/.412/.456, 9 2B, 9 R, 22 RBI 2.1 IP, H, 0 R, BB, K
Aaron McLaughlin So. SS .310/.375/.405, 4 2B, 8 R, 3 RBI
Collin O'Conner Jr. CF .311/.327/.311, 5 R, 6 RBI
Seamus Brazill Sr. P 40.1 IP, 26 H, 9 BB, 31 K, 1.91 ERA, 4-3
John Corbett Sr. P 56.1 IP, 44 H, 17 BB, 41 K, 1.49 ERA, 6-2

Key Losses: Jason Groome (Jr., P) – Transferred to IMG Academy; Ryan Ulrich (OF), Joe Letinski (OF), Connor Hoeler (2B), Matt Owens (3B/DH), Matt Wolfgang (OF/DH)
Key Newcomers: Max Rittner (Jr., LF), Justin Diefenboch (So., INF/P), Christian Padilla (So., 2B), Anthony Lani (So., UTIL)

The 2014 season was the best in the young history of the Barnegat baseball program. The Bengals won 20 games, finished No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and had a 6-6, sophomore left-hander who was on his way into establishing himself as one of the best players in the country for his class.

Yet, here we stand on the eve of opening day 2015 and the Bengals are still looking for something to show for their huge season. Despite its 20 wins, Barnegat did not win a championship of any kind: the Bengals finished three games behind B South champion Jackson Liberty, lost the Ocean County Tournament final to Central, lost the Shore Conference Tournament final to Christian Brothers Academy, and lost an excruciating 1-0 game to Buena at home in the South Jersey Group II final. After achieving a remarkable feat of reaching three championship games, Barnegat came painfully close to making 2014 a championship season.

The silver lining was to be another crack at it in 2015 with the team mostly intact and another two years with aforementioned left-hander Jason Groome. In the wake of his verbal commitment to Vanderbilt University – the defending College World Series champions – however, Groome officially transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a move that preceded a subsequent (although not necessarily related) rise by Groome into the top five national prospects in the Class of 2016 by more than one publication. Last year, Groome pitched the game of his life in the South Jersey II final but Buena scratched across an unearned run. This season, the Bengals come back a year better at most positions on the diamond, but they will be without their trump card.

The loss of Groome does strengthen one aspect of the Bengals and that is the already significant chip on their collective shoulder. After all, this is a team that won 20 games while Grooome went 6-2. They still return 6-9 Hofstra recruit Seamus Brazill to head the rotation – a right-hander who would be a No. 1 on most pitching staffs and now just happens to be the No. 1 on Barnegat’s staff. Senior John Corbett – not Groome – was the pitcher who carried the Bengals to the Shore Conference Tournament final by pitching three tournament gems. Junior Jared Kacso will also figure into the rotation after some success as a sophomore last year.

Kacso, senior catcher Nik Fraim and senior first baseman Ed Rogan were Barnegat’s three most productive hitters last season and all three are back this season, as well as sophomore shortstop and Rutgers University commit Aaron McLaughlin. Despite the noted absence of one of the country’s best players, there is no shortage of talent at Barnegat this season and no wavering in the expectation to finish the job this year.



Head Coach: John Scran, eighth season
2014 Record: 15-10 (7-7, tied fourth in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Frank Rose Sr. 3B .392/.500/.529, 4 2B, 2 HR, 14 R, 5 RBI, 8 SB
Jake Dominguez Sr. 2B/P 27 IP, 16 K, 3-3
John Forrester Sr. 1B
Anthony Arneth Sr. P/OF 55.1 IP, 39 H, 17 BB, 45 K, 1.14 ERA, 5-3
Ryan Paul Jr. P/1B 24 IP, 14 K, 2-4
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Joe Firetto Sr. SS

Key Losses: Andrew DiPiazza (P/DH), Christian Bearden (OF), Rich Galati (OF), Javon Hardy (OF), Kenny Beyrouty (C), Marquis Drumright (INF)
Key Newcomers: Matt Ernhardt (Sr., 2B), Anthony Colbert (Sr., C), Sean Van Lew (Sr., 1B), Eugene Loverde (Sr., OF), Clay Rourke (Sr., OF), Mike Quick (Sr., OF/P), Joe Zedalis (Sr., INF), Chris Kowalski (Jr., SS/OF), Matt Aires (Jr., OF), Joe Bassett (Jr., INF/P), Harry Eaton (Jr., OF)

Central is in a similar position to the one Barnegat is in, although the loss of their ace from last year was in the plans. Andrew DiPiazza helped deliver Central its first Ocean County Tournament championship since the mid-eighties before heading off to the University of Alabama this year, and now the Golden Eagles will look to keep the ball rolling behind a pitching staff that will still baffle offenses on its best days.

Senior Anthony Arneth etched his name in Central, Ocean County and Shore Conference history by tossing a shutout in the Ocean County final to beat Barnegat. The right-hander was steady all season and was at his best in big games, including a one-hitter in an NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Tournament loss to Burlington Township. The 6-5 Arneth moves from the No. 2 spot to the role of ace, while senior right-hander and Ramapo College recruit Jake Dominguez slots into the No. 2 spot after the Golden Eagles went into last year expecting Dominguez to be the No. 2 before Arneth took off. The Golden Eagles can also slot junior left-hander Ryan Paul into the back of the rotation after 24 quality innings last season.

Central lost some thunder in the lineup with the graduation of DiPiazza and All-Shore outfielder Christian Bearden, but does return senior third baseman Frank Rose. In an injury-hampered junior season, Rose hit just below .400 with a 1.029 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) on the strength of four doubles and two homers. Seniors John Forrester and Matt Ernhardt will both join Rose, Dominguez and Arneth in a senior-heavy lineup that only needs to be solid with the pitching Central can offer again this year.


Jackson Liberty

Head Coach: Jim Rankin, eighth season
2014 Record: 15-12 (10-4, first in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Matt Pinto Sr. OF .283/.357/.283, 9 R, 8 RBI, 7 SB
Kyle Tavaska So. OF .322/.444/.356, 3 2B, 19 R, 18 RBI, 9 SB
Dylan Milleman Sr. INF .172/.272/.172, 5 R, 3 RBI
Howard Taylor Sr. P/INF .284/.376/.338, 2B, HR, 19 R, 10 RBI, 6 SB 35.2 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 41 K, 2.94 ERA, 5-1
Ryan Van Wickle Jr. INF/P .196/.333/.196, 6 R, 3 RBI 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Sean Galvin Sr. INF 7-for-17, 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 SB
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Brandon Pallante Jr. P/INF 3 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Mike Zak Jr. P 1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB

Key Losses: James Sofield (SS/P), Dan Serreino (P/OF), Dan Naif (1B/P), Joel Rivera (C)
Key Newcomers: Jon Gonzalez (Sr., OF), Ken Pommerencke (Jr., OF), Jared Pommerencke (Jr., C/OF), Billy Hart (Fr., C)

Jackson Liberty has been the dominant team in B South in recent years and that continued last year even after it looked early on like the Lions would be pushed to the limit. Instead, in a division race that saw twists and turns seemingly every evening, Jackson Liberty was the steadiest team of the bunch, rallying from a 1-3 division start by going 9-1 over its last 10 B South games to win the division by two games over second-place Point Boro. For perspective, Ocean County champion Central and No. 3 Barnegat both finished 7-7, three games behind Jackson Liberty, as both fell victim to the topsy-turvy nature of the division.

The Lions will attempt to remain the model of consistency in B South this year, which will entail overcoming the loss of some of the program’s better players while also overcoming more improvement by the rest of the division. Senior right-hander Howard Taylor is the foundation of the returning group after turning in 35 2/3 strong innings on the mound and scoring 19 runs as a result of a .376 on-base percentage and, of course, his teammates behind him.

Although it was never a scary offense, Jackson Liberty’s lineup came around as the season progressed, with current sophomore Kyle Tavaska emerging out of the No. 9 hole to move to the top of the order and cap his standout freshman season. Tavaska finished with a .444 on-base percentage and scored 19 runs while knocking in 18.

Beyond Taylor and Tavaska, the lineup is mostly young and unproven, with senior Matt Pinto returning to the outfield and Dylan Milleman, Sean Galvin and Ryan Van Wickle all back on the infield. In addition to juniors Brandon Pallante, Ken Pommerencke and Jared Pommerencke, freshman Billy Hart joins the mix for a starting job, with Hart likely to see time behind the plate. This Jackson Liberty team is a bit younger on the whole than either of the last two years and there are some questions in the depth of both the lineup and the rotation, but the defense looks strong and Taylor at the top of the rotation will give the Lions a chance to repeat in a division that just keeps getting tougher.



Head Coach: Rob Sanzari, third season
2014 Record: 11-10 (7-7, tied fourth in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Mitch Merrill Sr. SS .400/.451/.600, 6 2B, 3 HR, 17 R, 17 RBI, 9 SB
Sage Sysol Sr. 3B .340/.426/.340, 11 R, 7 RBI, 5 SB
Patrick Spagnola Sr. 2B .317/.414/.350, 2 2B, 7 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB
David Lunn Jr. CF .298/.377/.386, 2 2B, HR, 10 R, 15 RBI, 3 SB
R.J. Rodriguez Jr. OF/C .231/.302/.256, 2B, 8 R, 4 RBI
Austin Hartman Sr. OF .292/.414/.333, 2B, 6 R, RBI
Chad Astemborski Sr. P 1-for-6, 2 R, RBI 35.1 IP, 48 H, 24 BB, 27 K, 5.15 ERA, 4-4
David DeFeo Sr. P/1B .100/.200/.200, 3 2B, 3 R, 6 RBI 11 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 7 K, 3.18 ERA
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Darien Martinez Jr. P 17.1 IP, 12 H, 7 BB, 8 K, 1.61 ERA, 0-1
Jared Miller Jr. P 14 IP, 20 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 2.50 ERA

Key Losses: Bailey Taylor (OF), Vinny Bondinello (C), Cory Burke (P), Tyler Carney (P)
Key Newcomers: Erik Steffens (Sr., P), Ray Jeffs (Sr., 1B), Brad O’Brien (Jr., C), Ryan Ross (Jr., OF), Jared Strang (Jr., OF), Chris Burke (So., INF/P), Joey McDonald (So., P), Tommy Allen (So., P)

The timing was right in 2014 for Pinelands to begin its move toward the top of the standings, and the Wildcats made enough progress to go into 2015 expecting to win the division. In many ways, this shapes up to be a possible do-or-die season for Pinelands with the heart of its lineup and the top of its rotation going into the final year of their high school careers. With a 7-7 division record immediately in the review mirror and the pitching coming down a notch after the year of Groome, DiPiazza and Dan Serreino, there is no reason Pinelands should not be in the race for the long haul.

Senior shortstop Mitch Merrill leads a talented group of position players back after he posted an All-Division season as a junior. Merrill missed his sophomore season due to injury and played his junior year like a man possessed, slugging .600 with three home runs, 19 runs, 19 RBI and nine stolen bases. Fellow senior infielders Sage Sysol and Patrick Spagnola also return after both turned in averages over .300 and on-base percentages over .400, which will bode well for Merrill when it comes to RBI opportunities. Junior David Lunn also returns after a productive sophomore season in which he launched a home run while scoring 10 runs and driving in 15 more.

The offensive foundation for Pinelands is solid, so the pitching and overall run prevention could be the last piece of the puzzle on this year’s Wildcats club. Pinelands will miss graduated ace Cory Burke, but senior Chad Astemborski is a year better and ready to head up the top of the rotation after an up-and-down junior year. Senior David DeFeo will also contribute innings after throwing 11 last year, while juniors Darien Martin and Jared Miller return after tossing 31 1/3 frames between them. If that staff, along with the infusion of sophomores Chris Burke, Tommy Allen and Joey McDonald can deliver, there is enough at the plate and in the field for Pinelands to make this their year in B South.


Point Pleasant Boro

Head Coach: Dave Drew, fifth season
2014 Record: 9-11 (8-6, tied second in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Jack Fitzsimmons Sr. 3B/OF .265/.415/.286, 2B, 6 R, 8 RBI, 9 SB
Sam Monaco Jr. SS .333/.352/.391, 4 2B, 10 R, 7 RBI, 11 SB
Frank Graziano Jr. OF/P .234/.338/.344, 3 2B, 2 3B, 6 R, 8 RBI, 7 SB 21 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 7 K, 1.67 ERA, 2-1
Mike Falconetti Jr. 1B/P .228/.297/.333, 6 2B, 5 R, 8 RBI 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K
Bill Feehan Jr. 2B/OF .273/.429/.273, 6 R, 5 RBI, 6 SB
John Youmans Sr. C/1B .167/.342/.267, 3 2B, 6 RBI
Tim Rossi Jr. P/OF 39.1 IP, 55 H, 10 BB, 20 K, 4.80 ERA, 2-3
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Mark Leyble Jr. 3B/P 2-for-19 1.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, K
Sebastian Severio Jr. C/1B 3-for-12, 3 BB
Sean Connor Sr. 2B/SS 5-for-26

Key Losses: Terrence Berkley (1B), Dan Gonella (OF), Mike Dunham (P), Ryan Doyle (OF)
Key Newcomers: Dan Bellofatto (Sr., OF), Dan Cornish (Sr., OF/3B), Dan Cornish (Sr., OF), Anthony Kondas (Sr., 1B), Gabe Pesante (Sr., 2B), Ethan Cannon (Sr., P), Ryan Carne (Jr., UTIL), Pierce Dzrymkowski (Jr., OF), Gene Franceschini, (Jr., OF/1B/P), Frank Spano (Jr., P), Ryan Carr (So., OF), Patrick Feehan (So., SS), Josiah Gliddon (So., P/3B/1B), Thomas Paul (So., P/SS), Justin Rafi (So., C/UTIL)

With a roster loaded with juniors, this Point Boro season might seem like last year’s version of Pinelands if only Point Boro hadn’t already made a big move last year. The Panthers were a surprise second-place finisher, not only within the context of preseason expectations but also even after the season was over. The first things that come to mind when thinking about the 2014 B South season are Central winning the Ocean County Tournament and Barnegat playing in three different tournament championships, and yet Point Boro finished ahead of both those teams and beat Barnegat twice.

While the Panthers have enough young talent to make this year two of a three-year ascension to the top of B South and ultimately to a level that involves winning postseason championships, there are some immediate holes to fill. Terrence Berkeley and Dan Gonella were the two best offensive players on the team on a per-at-bat basis, and Mike Dunham was the team’s best pitcher.

The hope for Point Boro is its junior core takes the same leap forward that those players did as juniors, and there is no shortage of possibilities for who might make that leap. Shortstop Sam Monaco is coming off a breakout sophomore season and classmate Frank Graziano appears to be on the cusp of one. Junior Mike Falconetti led the team in doubles, junior Bill Feehan posted an on-base percentage well over .400 and Tom Rossi got nearly 40 innings of work as a sophomore.

Fellow juniors Mark Leyble and Sebastian Severio also figure to factor into the wave of junior talent this season, and that’s not even accounting for the return of senior third baseman Jack Fitzsimmons and senior catcher John Youmans. Looking ahead, 2016 appears to be the can’t-miss year for the Point Boro, but the Panthers have a chance to get everything done earlier. Last year’s second-place finish already set the wheels in motion and now Point Boro will look to keep the train rolling.


Donovan Catholic

Head Coach: Paul Murray, 12th season
2014 Record: 8-18 (5-9, seventh in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Matt Drake Sr. SS
Steve Lazicki Sr. C/3B
Russ Petranto Sr. 3B/2B .406/.500/.542, 8 2B, 16 R, 7 SB
Charlie Dimino Sr. 2B/OF
Kyle Malloy Jr. OF/P
Zach Mann So. P
Andrew Jarvis Jr. P
Aaron Holowienka Jr. OF
Mike Marron So. INF/OF
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Alex Loffredo Sr. OF
Matt Puleo Sr. P
R.J. Berardi Sr. 1B
Bart Goble So. 1B/P
Nick Povoa Jr. P/OF
Ryan O'Sullivan So. 2B

Key Losses: Bryan Mulligan (C/OF), Frank Vicari (1B/P), Dante Pagano (P/OF), Chris Calderone (OF/P), Jim Maguire (P)
Key Newcomers: Mike Dimino (Fr., 1B/P), P.J. Armstrong (Jr., C)

In its final season known as Monsignor Donovan, the Griffins went with a youth movement that made the old name one of the only recognizable things about the Griffins program. There were a number of holdovers like Dante Pagano and Frank Vicari, but by the end of the season, the Griffins had begun to build with an eye toward 2015 and beyond. Now that 2015 is here, there should be more optimism for Donovan Catholic going into this year, even with so many teams seemingly to ready to strike while the iron is hot.

Part of the 8-18 Donovan Catholic record last season can be attributed to close losses – many to very good teams – like the 7-6 loss at the hands of Barnegat in April after scoring six runs off Seamus Brazill. The easy thing to do is chalk it up to youth, and in this case, the simplest answer might just be the right one.

Donovan will be without a senior in its pitching staff, which will feature sophomore Zach Mann, junior Kyle Malloy, junior Andrew Jarvis and sophomore Bart Goble. Mann came on strong at the end of last year, as did Malloy. Mann capped his season by coming on in relief against St. Augustine in the NJSIAA Tournament and putting the fire out by returning the No. 3 and 4 hitters in the Hermits order.

Speaking of the St. Augustine loss, the last image the Donovan Catholic hitters had of their season was facing then-senior and current top-five prospect in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim system Joe Gatto. Not only did Donovan Catholic deal with Gatto, but they played in a division with Groome, DiPiazza and Serreino, so this group has seen some serious heat.

Senior Charlie Dimino and sophomore Mike Marron accounted for the two hits off Gatto in that game, especially impressive for Marron, who was a freshman at the time. For all the excitement about the youth movement, seniors Russ Petranto, Steve Lazicki and Matt Drake will still have the most say in Donovan’s season. With another strong season out of that trio, particularly Petranto, there should be enough of a foundation for the young Griffins to emerge and make a push in the crowded B South race.



Head Coach: John Musolf, 19th season
2014 Record: 11-12 (8-6, tied second in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Jon Meaney Jr. 2B/OF .388/.411/.552, 9 2B, 3B, 12 RBI
Mark Wernoch Jr. 1B .260 Avg
Darrius Garcia Jr. C
Ryan Vanderham Jr. SS
Ryan Bowker Sr. 3B/P .300 Avg
Steven Rodriguez So. 2B
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Pat Williams Sr. OF
Dan Mills Sr. OF

Key Losses: Devin Tomei (P/SS), Matt Buss (OF), Shaun Wernoch (3B/P), Marc Edwards (P), Mitch Stage (C), Connor Lynch (SS/P), Frank White (OF), Dan Piskowski (P)
Key Newcomers: Joe Felipe (So., P/1B), P.J. Martinez (Jr., INF/P), Dillon Barry (Jr., P), Matt Miggliaccio (So., OF)

Just like Point Boro, Manchester appears particularly poised to make a push at a division title in 2016 given its junior-heavy roster. Most of the returning members of the Class of 2016 got varsity experience last season, so Manchester should be just as likely to make a run at the division title as Point Boro is. The only reason for pause with the Hawks is that they lost more impact pitching than Point Boro did and they don’t have as much depth left over as the other teams who lost pitching, at least not at first glance. Devin Tomei, Marc Edwards and Shaun Wernoch carried the bulk of the pitching load in 2014 and who picks it up is up for grabs.

Senior Ryan Bowker will get a chance to carry the torch after getting a number of chances to start in the field last year. Beyond Bowker, Manchester coach John Musolf will likely turn to a trio of newcomers, who include juniors Dillon Barry and P.J. Martinez, as well as sophomore Joe Felipe. It could be a lot to ask of a young group of pitchers, but if Felipe, Barry and Martinez are up to the task, Manchester will have the pitching to go with a talented group of junior hitters.

Junior Jon Meaney leads that group after hitting .388 with nine doubles and a triple last year – the most productive bat on the Hawks as a sophomore. Bowker also hit .300 in his helping of playing time, while junior first baseman Mark Wernoch also hit .260 while slotting into the middle of the order.

Junior Darrius Garcia took over the catching duties during the course of last season and junior Ryan Vanderham will permanently head to shortstop after playing a utility role last year. With so much junior and sophomore talent, 2016 definitely looks like a championship-caliber team, but the more pressing question is can the pitching grow up quick enough to compete against a strong returning B South field?



Head Coach: Gene Drumright, 11th season
2014 Record: 10-13 (4-10, eighth in B South)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Harry Brown Sr. OF/INF .333/.409/.474, 8 2B, 16 R, 9 RBI, 13 SB
Eric Segui Sr. C/INF .211/.318/.368, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI
Returning Players Yr. Position 2014 Batting Stats 2014 Pitching Stats
Juan Nunez Sr. 2B 0-for-17, 3 R
Alex Guzman Jr. C/INF 0-for-6

Key Losses: Jean Carlos Jerez (P), Alex Catalan (1B), Will Figueroa (OF), David Patterson (OF), Steven Acosta (OF/P), Ivan Marks (C), Juan Rivera (2B), Brandon Jackson-Tinnery (OF)
Key Newcomers: John Vargas (Sr., P/INF), Nicholas Millheiser (Sr., P/OF), Hector Figueroa (Sr., P/OF), David Santiago (Sr., 3B), Jason Holguin (Jr., INF/OF), Javiel Figueroa (Jr., 1B), Raymond Alvarez (Jr., P/INF/OF), Tayon Conover-Hart (So., OF/P), Joel Hernandez (So., P/INF/C), Julian Zingler (Fr., P/1B)

Lakewood is the last B South stop, and stop me if you have heard this before in this B South preview: this is a young team with a chance to be good at some point down the road. The Piners lost their most dynamic player from a year ago in Jaison Jerez, and also said goodbye to a lot of depth as well. Only two starters return from last year and four players who were on the varsity roster at all. Senior Harry Brown enjoyed a breakout year, hiting .333 with eight doubles and 13 steals while playing center field, third base and shortstop.

Coach Gene Drumright expects Brown to play center field in his senior season while the Piners begin to push a talented crop of players from last year’s 14-win junior varsity team. Senior catcher Eric Segui is the only other returning starter, while Jason Holguin, Javiel Figueroa, Raymond Alvarez, Tayon Conover-Hart and Joel Hernandez all move up to the varsity squad looking to make an impact.

Freshman Julian Zingler could also make an immediate impact on the mound and at the plate as Lakewood begins to set itself up in the division race. Competing this year without an experienced staff and only two starters is asking a lot, but if the success at the lower levels can translate, the Piners will get things turned around quickly.


Division Lineup

Nik Fraim, Catcher, Barnegat – Caught arguably the Shore’s best pitching staff while also slugging three homers, the third-most of any returning catcher behind Dan Wondrack of Wall and Rob Napolitano of Howell.

Ed Rogan, First Base, Barnegat – The Bengals’ most reliable RBI guy knocked in 22 last year with a simple approach.

Russ Petranto, 3B/2B, Donovan Catholic – One of few players in the Shore Conference to post both an on-base percentage and slugging percentage above .500.

Mitch Merrill, Shortstop, Pinelands – Missed his sophomore season with an injury and came back as one of the best players in the division.

Frank Rose, Third Base, Central – Injuries slowed his junior year a bit, but not that much. Rose clocked four doubles and two homers, which should be an appetizer compared to this season.

Jon Meaney, Outfield/2B, Manchester – Meaney emerged as the Hawks’ best hitter as a sophomore and will play a bigger role in the field and as a leader this season.

Kyle Tavaska, Outfield, Jackson Liberty – Speedy player who showed a knack for getting on base and handling the outfield despite his relative inexperience.

Harry Brown, Outfield, Lakewood – Combination of speed and skill was on full display last year when Brown ripped eight doubles and stole 13 bags, all while maintaining a .333 average in a pitching-heavy division.

Jared Kacso, Third Base, Barnegat – A two-way threat who flexed his home run muscle three times last year, including a big one against Group IV champion Jackson Memorial in the Ocean County Tournament semifinals.


Division Rotation

Anthony Arneth, RHP, Central – The 6-5 right-hander emerged as the second banana to Andrew DiPiazza last year, and now he looks to assume the mantle as the best pitcher in Ocean County.

Seamus Brazill, RHP, Barnegat – Groome’s monster season and Corbett’s postseason run overshadowed a very good campaign by the 6-9 right-hander, who is headed to Hofstra next year.

John Corbett, RHP, Barnegat – Pitched the Bengals to wins in three of the first four Shore Conference Tournament rounds, including a 2-0 shutout of Wall in the semifinals.

Howard Taylor, RHP, Jackson Liberty – Taylor was quietly a driving force in Jackson Liberty’s division title run last year as the No. 2 pitcher behind current Seton Hall freshman Dan Serreino.

Jake Dominguez, RHP, Central – After a slow start to the year on the mound, the Ramapo recruit finished the season strong with a win each over Jackson Liberty and Toms River East.


Breakout Players to Watch

Aaron McLaughlin, Shortstop, Barnegat – The glove and bat already played as a freshman last year and the Rutgers commit is poised to take another step as a sophomore.

Frank Graziano, OF/P, Point Boro – In two high school years, he has shown flashes on the mound with strikeouts and at the plate with extra-base power. Consistency comes with experience.

Chad Astemborski, P, Pinelands – If there were ever a year for Pinelands, this would need to be it, and if there is a pitcher to step up and lead the staff, it’s the senior Astemborski

Zach Mann, RHP, Donovan Catholic – Pitched against quality competition down the stretch and should have his confidence going into this season.

Mark Wernoch, 1B, Manchester – The Hawks will lean on the offense a little more this season, and Wernoch is poised to build on his .260 average now that he is an established junior.