Say what you will about B Central – this division had the most exciting finish to its regular season of any of the Shore Conference’s six divisions by a mile. Mater Dei captured its first division title in 13 years by beating St. Rose on a two-out, walk-off single by senior Ryan Fanner to stun the perennial power Purple Roses. Mater Dei still had to beat Ranney in its next game, but that win effectively ended the race with Mater Dei securing an elusive championship.

Both the Seraphs and the Purple Roses will clash for the division title again once both figure out how to plug some holes in the roster left from departures from a year ago. Those losses could open the door for an upstart like Keyport or another perennial contender like Point Beach. In a division that St. Rose has thoroughly dominated, it means a lot for another team to step up and win an outright title like Mater Dei did last year. It also must make the St. Rose players appreciate winning more, which should make for a hard-fought Class B Central race.

Mike Gowen hit over .500 for St. Rose as a junior in 2015. (Photo by Matt Manley)

In order of predicted finish

St. Rose

Head Coach: Chris LeMore, second season
2015 Record: 17-9 (12-2, second in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Mike Gowen Sr. OF/P .537/.546/.625, 7 2B, 32 R, 22 RBI, 14 SB
Brendan Hueth Jr. CF/P .483/.541/.598, 4 2B, 3 3B, 27 R, 25 RBI, 7 SB
Brandon Mology Jr. P/2B .208/.333/.208, 10 R, 10 RBI
Joe Volpe Jr. 3B/P .453/.533/.613, 8 2B, 2 3B, 19 R, 26 RBI, 5 SB
Riley Maypother So. P/INF .300/.380/.475, 2B, 2 3B, 7 R, 9 RBI
Returning Players Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
John Crowley So. P/OF 2-for-11, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Matt Harrison Jr. INF/P 0-for-3, 3 BB

Key Losses: Kyle Missry (1B), Travis Cloney (CF), John Kussmaul (OF), Jason Criscuolo (P), Patric Fullman (P), Ryan Scharfenberg (P), J.P. Traynor (Jr., SS) – transferred to Howell, Nick DelRusso (C)
Key Newcomers: Andrew Baier (Jr. Util/P), Tom Blaes (Jr., OF), Adam Cohrs (Jr., P/C), Brian DiPasquale (Jr., P/INF), Kevin Fay (Jr. Util/RHP), Mike Thompson (Jr., OF), Will Gannon (So., INF/P), Nick Marini (So., P/INF), Brody Maypother (So., C/INF), Phil Morelli (So., INF/P), Sam Sestito (So., P/INF)

After a slow start to its 2015 season, St. Rose righted the ship and appeared to be on the right path heading into the postseason until Mater Dei Prep stunned the Purple Roses in the final game of the regular season to win the outright Class B Central title. This year’s Purple Roses team will attempt to rebound by winning the B Central title, but doing so will mean overcoming the loss of its two best hitters, two best pitchers, another big outfield bat and a key transfer. Although losing All-Shore bats Travis Cloney and Kyle Missry is a hit, the Purple Roses still return three starters who put up big numbers last year in Mike Gowen, Brendan Hueth and Joe Volpe. Gowen is the lone senior in the lineup this year, so this will be a young Purple Roses team as well.

Sophomores Brendan Mology and Riley Maypother also return with experience at the plate and on the mound and those two, along with the Hueth, Gowen and Volpe, will help account for the graduation of pitchers Patric Fullman and Jason Criscuolo. The two sophomores will also play up the middle, which is part of the plan to replace shortstop J.P. Traynor, who transferred to Howell for his junior season. Sophomore John Crowley is also looking at an increased role this season after picking up 11 at-bats as a freshman. Sophomore Brody Maypother and junior Adam Cohrs will get the chance to replace catcher Nick DelRusso, as an influx of juniors and sophomores look to take the program back to the top of the B Central standings.

 

Mater Dei Prep

Head Coach: Pat Riddell, 12th season
2015 Record: 17-8 (13-1, first in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Cole Hardy Sr. 2B/OF .408/.522/.647, 9 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 31 R, 26 RBI, 10 SB
Joe Ruth Sr. 3B/1B/P .457/.525/.685, 3 2B, 3B, HR, 10 R, 14 RBI 19 IP, 13 H, 9 BB, 23 K, 1.84 ERA, 1-1
Vinny Stanziale So. P 0-for-6 40.1 IP, 54 H, 20 BB, 16 K, 5.38 ERA, 5-3
Kyle Dowlen Jr. 3B/OF/P .288/.419/.424, 7 2B, HR, 22 R, 23 RBI, 9 SB 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Matt Paciulli Sr. P/1B 0-for-6, 2 BB 34.2 IP, 35 H, 14 BB, 32 K, 3.84 ERA, 4-1
Nick Massaro* Sr. C .244/.414/.288, 2 2B, 13 R, 8 RBI
Returning Players Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Kevin Olausen So. P/1B 4-for-9, 3 R, RBI 28.1 IP, 37 H, 8 BB, 6 K, 4.20 ERA, 4-2
Michael Dunne So. C 2-for-3, 4 RBI

*- Injured; Out indefinitely
Key Losses: Vincenzo Mezzacappa (CF), Patric Donohue (LF), Liam Olausen (1B/P), Ryan Fanner (RF), Ruben Rodriguez (SS), Matt Bender (1B), Nick Roditis (Sr., P/OF) – Injured; out for season
Key Newcomers: Ryan Turner (So., OF)

Mater Dei is coming off its best season in years, highlighted by a walk-off win over St. Rose that clinched the Class B Central championship. Mater Dei has the makings of a team that can repeat, but it will be a steeper challenge than anticipated thanks to a pair of key injuries. Catcher Nick Massaro is out indefinitely due to injury and outfielder and projected closer Nick Roditis will miss the entire season with a fractured elbow. While that sets Mater Dei back, it does not bury the Seraphs because they have three significant offensive contributors, as well as two top pitchers, back from a year ago. Senior Joe Ruth is looking to put together his first complete season since he was a freshman at Keyport and will both lead the pitching staff and anchor the middle of the lineup. Senior second baseman Cole Hardy also had a huge offensive year for Mater Dei and junior Kyle Dowlen added eight extra-base hits and drove in 23 runs with an OPS over .800 as a sophomore.

In addition to Ruth, sophomore Vinny Stanziale will serve as one of Mater Dei’s go-to pitchers after giving the Seraphs significant innings last year. Senior Matt Paciulli also pitched well in 34 2/3 innings and will likely see bigger innings this season. Sophomore Kevin Olausen is due to become eligible on May 1 and if that holds firm, the Seraphs will add a two-way player who went 4-for-9 at the plate and pitched to a 4.20 ERA in 28 1/3 innings as a freshman. With Massaro out, sophomore Michael Dunne will serve as the catcher as the Seraphs try to piece the lineup together in light of all the missing pieces. With Ruth heading up the rotation and hitting in the middle of the order along with Hardy, the Seraphs will hang around in the division race long enough to have a shot at a second straight division title in May.

 

Keyport

Head Coach: Kyle Keelen, fifth season
2015 Record: 7-13 (6-8, tied fourth in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Kyle Mitchell Sr. C .259/.361/.293, 2 2B, 10 R, 13 RBI, 4 SB 2.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 2 K
Christian Smith Jr. SS/P .265/.359/.265, 10 R, 8 RBI, 17 SB 53 IP, 56 H, 16 BB, 41 K, 2.38 ERA, 3-4
Steven Chandler Sr. SS/OF/P .302/.421/.359, 2B, 3B, 14 R, 8 RBI, 14 SB 25 IP, 25 H, 11 BB, 28 K, 1.12 ERA, 2-1
Shane Chandler Jr. OF/P .344/.427/.438, 4 2B, 3B, 20 R, 7 RBI, 32 SB 21.2 IP, 23 H, 16 BB, 18 K, 5.17 ERA, 0-3
Kyle Johnson Jr. 3B/1B .292/.361/.400, 5 2B, 3B, 10 R, 15 RBI, 8 SB
Returning Players Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Jackson Aumack Jr. 2B .286/.468/.286, 8 R, 2 RBI, 9 SB
Kenneth Harrigan Sr. OF/P 2-for-24, 3 R, 4 RBI 15.1 IP, 6 H, 21 BB, 24 K, 4.11 ERA, 1-2

Key Losses: Rob Hila (C), Jake Caverly (OF)
Key Newcomers: Mike Russo (Sr., 1B/3B), Evan Smutz (Sr., OF/P), Alex Staats (Jr., 1B), Colin Fernandez (So., OF/P )

Keyport took a step forward last year and was close to taking a giant leap if a couple of their close losses went in the other direction. The Red Raiders lost a marathon game to Mater Dei in 10 innings and later in walkoff fashion to St. Rose – the top two teams in the division. With all but two regular contributors back from last year, Keyport is hoping to finish the job against the division’s top teams and with some development to go with the obvious increase in experience, the Red Raiders have the look of a sleeper in this division. Seniors Kyle Mitchell and Steven Chandler will lead the Red Raiders, while junior Christian Smith looks to build on a stellar season on the mound by taking a step forward in the batter’s box. Smith and Chandler will anchor the Keyport pitching staff, while Mitchell moves behind the plate.

Smith is one of three juniors who return off productive sophomore years. Shane Chandler enjoyed a breakout campaign as a utility player, scoring 20 runs and stealing 32 bases while also adding four doubles and a triple. Shane Chandler will also look to build on his 21 2/3 innings on the mound as Keyport’s No. 3 pitching option in concert with senior Kenneth Harrigan (24 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings last year). Fellow junior Kyle Johnson, meanwhile, ranked six extra-base hits and drove in 15 runs as a sophomore and will play third base with Mitchell donning the catcher’s gear. Junior Jackson Aumack will also take up a starting job after hitting .286 in part-time duty last year. Keyport’s long list of returning talent from team that was on the cusp of winning some big games last year gives the Red Raiders every opportunity to continue their climb this season.

 

Point Pleasant Beach

Head Coach: Angelo Fiore, third season
2015 Record: 12-10 (11-3, third in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
John VanSchoick Sr. 3B/P .362/.492/.511, 7 2B, 11 R, 13 RBI 34.2 IP, 55 H, 15 BB, 38 K, 5.05 ERA, 2-5
Kevin Donnelly Jr. 1B/P 6-for-15, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI 23.1 IP, 26 H, 18 BB, 25 K, 3.30 ERA
Tanner Smith Sr. OF 5-for-17, 2 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI
Ryan Franzoni Sr. C .417/.478/.467, 3 2B, 16 RBI
Joe Delgrippo Sr. 1B .377/.457/.492, 7 2B, 18 R, 23 RBI, 5 SB
Connor Prima Jr. OF/P
John Nista So. 3B/P .295/.377/.328, 2 2B, 13 R, 12 RBI, 6 SB 33 IP, 40 H, 24 BB, 25 K, 4.03 ERA, 4-2
Returning Players Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Connor Prima Jr. OF/P
Ryan Craig Jr. OF 0-for-1
Chris Russo So. P/INF 13.2 IP, 14 H, 16 BB, 13 K, 4.10 ERA, 1-2
Josh Yates So. 2B/P 4-for-5, 3 R, RBI
Kenny MacPherson So. P/SS 0-for-1 2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Vincent Storino So. C 1-for-8

Key Losses: Antonio Garcia (OF), Geno Antognoli (OF), Mike Frauenheim (OF), John Daly (OF/P), Trevor Thomas (2B), Andrew Allegretta (SS)
Key Newcomers: Ian Gaynor (Sr., OF), Roddy Rupp (Jr., OF), Jude Lovegren (So., P/INF), Vincent Farrant (Fr., Util), Ryan Sheehan (Sr., OF)

After fading down the stretch six straight games to close the year – albeit all against competition outside of Class B Central – Point Beach is looking to get back into the Class B Central race, and an early-season win over St. Rose last year suggests that Point Beach might not have been that far off last year. The Garnet Gulls will first have to replace an entire outfield as well as two spots in the middle infield and they are well-positioned to do both thanks to some young players getting a helping of experience last year. Sophomore John Nista and junior Kevin Donnelly each threw more than 20 innings last year and will also play on the infield. Sophomores Josh Yates and Kenny MacPherson will also step into starting spots on the middle infield, with Yates looking to build on a small helping of playing time during which he went 4-for-5 at the plate.

With the infield depth, seniors Joe Delgrippo, John VanSchoick and Tanner Smith can move around to outfield spots if the younger players are more settled on the infield. Those three seniors, plus senior catcher Ryan Franzoni, all performed well at the plate – Smith in part-time duty. VanSchoick will also anchor the pitching staff after leading the team in innings and striking out 38 in 34 2/3 innings last year. The balance of experience and young talent, as well as offense and pitching, should again keep Point Beach in the B Central race, even with Keyport looking poised to join in this year with the usual three contenders.

 

Ranney

Head Coach: Matt Hall, first season
2015 Record: 4-13 (4-10, sixth in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position
James Geraghty Sr. SS/P
Corey Natofsky Sr. 3B/P
Max Godek Sr. OF
Chris Weiland Sr. 1B/P
Kiran Shah So. CF/P
Jerome Cohen Sr. OF

Key Losses: John Mejia (P/1B), Prakhar Nair (OF)
Key Newcomers: Scott Zhu (Sr., P), Chris Autino (Fr., 1B/OF), Ryan Batista (Fr., C), Jacob Field (Fr., 1B), Ethan Gavin (Fr., INF/P), Ben Kraushaar (Fr., INF), Cole Redman (Fr., OF)

Ranney has been pushing an athletic renaissance of sorts and while using the basketball team and its two nationally-ranked recruits as a model is not realistic, a better one might be the one the soccer team followed to qualify for its first ever Shore Conference Tournament appearance this past fall. Senior James Geraghty was a part of both those teams and he leads this year’s Panthers into the 2016 season as one of three returning infielders. Fellow senior Corey Natofsky was also on both the soccer and basketball teams and will add to Ranney’s top-of-the-order and play on the left side of the diamond with Geraghty. Seniors Max Godek, Chris Weiland and Jerome Cohen also return, with sophomore Kiran Shah taking over in center field between Godek and Cohen.

Ranney’s wave of young talent could also play a significant role this year, with freshmen Ryan Batista and Chris Autino – another starter on the basketball team – looking at possible starting jobs. Autino is a 6-foot-6 first baseman and pitcher with athleticism, while Batista is in line to start behind the plate and make an immediate impact. Geraghty and Natofsky will have to carry a lot of the leadership and, more importantly, pitching loads, but the Panthers have added some depth and athleticism to the lineup that should make them a degree more competitive in B Central this season.

 

Keansburg

Head Coach: Brian Kmak, 18th season
2015 Record: 6-12 (6-8, tied fourth in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Ian Terry Sr. 3B/P .481/.547/.796, 10 2B, 2 3B, HR, 13 SB 21 IP, 29 H, 8 BB, 26 K, 6.67 ERA, 2-2
Austin Blum Sr. 1B/P .357/.429/.393, 2 2B, 10 R, 7 RBI, 7 SB 25.1 IP, 37 H, 11 BB, 19 K, 5.80 ERA, 1-4
Gannon Meyer Sr. SS .231/.322/.308, 4 2B, 5 R, 5 RBI, 5 SB 6.2 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 14 BB, 6 K
Matt Gibney Jr. INF/P .282/.440/.308, 2B, 5 R, 4 RBI 13 IP, 35 H, 10 BB, 4 K, 13.46 ERA
Joe Osterbye So. C/OF .229/.460/.257, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI
Justin Alessi So. 2B .158/.226/.158, 9 R, RBI

Key Losses: Jim McAteer (P/OF), Tyrell Wilson (OF),
Key Newcomers: Liam Meyer (Fr.), Miguel Crespo (So.), Paul Eckleberry (So.), Gabe Torres (Fr.)

Like four of the fiveteams already listed, Keansburg will be relying on young talent this season, but the Titans’ crop of underclassmen does not return with the experience that the young players from Keyport and Point Beach have, nor do its returning players have the offensive track record of some of the St. Rose sluggers. There is one Titans player, however, that stacks up with anyone in the division: senior third baseman Ian Terry. Last season, Terry hit 19 points shy of .500 and came even closer to reaching .800 slugging-percentage plateau. In addition to producing out of the middle of the lineup, Terry will be called upon to pick up some key innings for the Titans, who must replace last year’s ace Jim McAteer.

Austin Blum and Gannon Meyer join Terry as senior returnees on the infield, with Blum boasting two productive varsity seasons on his high school resume. Meyer will man shortstop and, along with Blum, will factor into the pitching staff in some capacity. Junior Matt Gibney will also contribute in the field and on the mound for Keansburg, while sophomores Joey Osterbye and Justin Alessi are both ready to improve after getting a varsity taste as a freshman. Keansburg’s pitching will be a question mark without McAteer, but a hitter like Terry in the middle of the lineup surrounded by some quality varsity experience will give some teams trouble.

 

Asbury Park

Head Coach: Johnny Grasso, 10th season
2015 Record: 4-13 (2-12, tied seventh in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Henry McGee Jr. LF/P .407/.429/.481, 2 2B, 8 R, 6 RBI, 7 SB 6.2 IP, 10 H, 11 ER, 9 BB, 12 K
Casey McGinnis Sr. P/2B 2-for-18, 3 R, 3 RBI 15.2 IP, 36 H, 9 BB, 26 K, 8.94 ERA, 1-1
Jahmel Dixon Sr. C/1B .326/.456/.457, 2 2B, 2 3B, 16 R, 8 RBI, 9 SB 4 IP, 12 H, 10 ER, 9 BB, 3 K
Devin Nash-McGee So. CF/P .380/.456/.460, 2B, HR, 19 R, 12 RBI, 10 SB 11.1 IP, 22 H, 17 BB, 15 K, 11.73 ERA
Calvin Simmons-Carter Jr. OF/1B 5-for-14, 3 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI
Keith White Sr. OF .095/.406/.095, 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 SB
Luis Rodriguez So. Util .258/.395/.290, 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 7 SB 1.2 IP, 2 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 2 K
Returning Players Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Matt Hallman Sr. Util/P 1-for-15, 4 BB, HR, 3 RBI, 4 RBI 7 IP, 16 H, 22 ER, 21 BB, 8 K
Tylil Tulley So. 3B 3-for-13, 3 BB, R, RBI

Key Losses: Jarrod Fletcher (OF), Keshawn Samuels (INF/P), Sal Swain (P)
Key Newcomers: Quaimere Mohammed (So., SS), Alex Peavey (Fr., P), Christian Bragg (Jr., OF/3B)

After spending three years in the basement of Class B Central, Asbury Park has scratched and clawed its way to seventh place in each of the last two seasons. Now, the Blue Bishops are returning with some continuity in their lineup and are looking to keep climbing in the standings while putting their best season together since 2010’s seven-win campaign. Although the Blue Bishops will have to replace workhorse Sal Swain on the mound, they have a mix of quality arms, defenders and hitters to open some eyes and challenge some teams this season. Senior Casey McGinnis and junior Henry McGee have both come back with increased velocity off the mound, according to coach Johnny Grasso, and will give Asbury Park some strikeout potential – with McGee pitching out of the closer’s role.

McGee also hit better than .400 as a sophomore and is one of several Blue Bishops who put up strong offensive numbers a year ago. Senior captain Jahmel Dixon smacked two doubles and two triples while posting an OPS over .900. Center fielder Devon Nash-McGee hit .380 as a freshman, including his first career home run. Calvin Simmons-Carter was limited to 14 at-bats, but still hit .357 with three doubles in the short sample. Sophomore Matt Hallman, meanwhile, had just one hit in 15 at-bats as a freshman, but that was a home run. He and fellow sophomores Luis Rodriguez, Tylil Tulley and Quaimere Mohammed will all get playing time as Asbury Park looks to push its way up the standings with its most complete team in six years.

 

Henry Hudson

Head Coach: Vinnie Whitehead, fourth season
2015 Record: 2-13 (2-12, tied seventh in B Central)

Returning Starters Yr. Position 2015 Batting Stats 2015 Pitching Stats
Brendan Carlstrom Jr. P/OF/1B .417 Avg., 8 RBI 3-3, 4.70 ERA, 42 K
Tom Colantino Jr. OF/P .320 Avg., 9 R, 14 SB
Ryan Doelger Jr. INF/P/OF 9 Runs
Steve Stockton Sr. C .300 Avg, 5 RBI
Kyle Santiago So. OF
Jack Slocum Jr. OF

Key Losses: Kyle Rauen (INF/P), Alonso Olson (C)
Key Newcomers: Tim Farrell  (Fr., INF), Liam Hagan (Fr., INF), Tiernan Kelly (Fr., INF), Matt Payne (Fr., OF/P)

Henry Hudson has also been retooling over the past few years and their weapon of choice to climb out from the bottom of B Central is junior left-hander Brendan Carlstrom. A starter each of his first two high school seasons, Carlstrom has pitched like one of the top pitchers in B Central, even though he has often had to combat a lack of support from the offense as well as the defense behind him. This season, Henry Hudson will be leaning on three freshmen infielders to help replace senior Kyle Rauen, while junior Ryan Doegler will also see time on the infield and possibly in the outfield with fellow junior Tom Colantino.

Senior Steve Stockton takes over the full-time catching duties with the graduation of Alonso Olson and will also help offensive after hitting .300 and driving in five runs last year. Sophomore Kyle Santiago and junior Jack Slocum each return to the outfield as well. Colantino, Doegler and freshman Matt Payne will make up the bulk of Henry Hudson’s pitching staff behind Carlstrom, who will again be asked to carry the load on the mound. If the young infield can field the ball and the Admirals bats have some more thunder in them than in years past, Carlstrom is good enough to pitch Henry Hudson up the standings in 2016.

 

Division Lineup

Ryan Franzoni, Catcher, Point Beach

Joe Delgrippo, First Base, Point Beach

Cole Hardy, Second Base, Mater Dei Prep

James Geraghty, Shortstop, Ranney

Ian Terry, Third Base, Keansburg

Joe Volpe, Third Base, St. Rose

Mike Gowen, Outfield, St. Rose

Brendan Hueth, Center Field, St. Rose

Shane Chandler, Utility, Keyport

 

Division Rotation

Joe Ruth, RHP, Mater Dei Prep

Christian Smith, RHP, Keyport

Kevin Donnelly, LHP, Point Beach

John VanSchoick, RHP, Point Beach

Brendan Carlstrom, LHP, Henry Hudson

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Calvin Simmons-Carter, OF/1B, Asbury Park

Devin Nash-McGee, CF, Asbury Park

Brendan Mology, RHP, St. Rose

Riley Maypother, INF, St. Rose

Josh Yates, 2B, Point Beach