Baseball – 2017 All-Shore First Team
All-Shore teams are selected by Senior Staff Writer Matt Manley based on stats, first-hand accounts and input from the coaches. Contact @Matt_Manley on Twitter.
2017 All-Shore First Team
Josh Jackson, Sr., Monmouth
Jackson spent the first two years of his varsity career at third base before shifting to catcher for his senior year. The Falcons senior proved his worth behind the plate, although he did his most damage at the plate as a hitter. He finished in the top 10 at the Shore in batting average (10th), on-base percentage (ninth) and on-base percentage (ninth) while hitting in the middle of the lineup for the Class B North champions.
Playing in a deep division like B North means every win is precious and Jackson came through in several key situations to help the Falcons pick up big wins. He delivered a walk-off single through the middle to give Monmouth a 7-6 win over Middletown North in the Monmouth County Tournament round of 16 and his walk-off single to the right-center field fence against Middletown South clinched a share of the B North title on May 8. Monmouth beat out Wall by one game to win the title and Jackson doubled twice and drove in two in an opening-day win over the Crimson Knights. Jackson also hit a tie-breaking home run in the sixth inning off All-A-North left-hander Justin Tucker to give the Falcons an 8-6 win over Neptune at the Strike Out Autism event in Howell on April 8.
Jackson also showed his ability to hit quality pitching, which included a booming triple off of Manasquan left-hander and Notre Dame recruit Tommy Sheehan (see video above). The experience behind the plate and in the middle of the lineup for a top 10 team in the Shore Conference should suit Jackson well as he moves on to play at Delaware State next year.
Jared Bellissimo, Jr., Toms River North
Bellissimo’s title on this team may be First-Team All-Shore First Baseman, but it’s fair to say the junior left-hander fits into the category of “two-way” player (or three-way if you, correctly, want to account for defense). This year Bellissimo served as a team leader in key pitching and offensive categories. He tied classmate Craig Larsen for the team lead in wins with six and sophomore John Giordano with a 1.78 ERA (in twice as many innings). He also led all Toms River North pitchers with 42 strikeouts and even led the offense with 28 RBI out of the cleanup spot. Those 28 RBI were tied for the fourth-highest total in the conference and tied for the most among players outside the pitching-thin Class B Central.
On top of putting up a batting average better than .400, an on-base percentage over .500 and an ERA under 2.00, Bellissimo also showed a knack for performing in big games. In three games vs. rival Toms River South this past year, Bellissimo was 4-for-10 with four RBI and also turned in a quality outing on the mound against the Indians on April 26 at FirstEnergy Park, although it came in a 3-2 loss. In the Ocean County and Shore Conference Tournaments – both of which Toms River North won – he went a combined 11-for-29 (.379) with four doubles, a triple and 12 RBI in nine games, while also going 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four starts. He allowed two runs on five hits in six innings in the OCT final against Southern and pitched a four-hit shutout in an SCT semifinal win over Wall.
Bellissimo is one of four Toms River North pitchers returning with at least 20 innings pitched this season and is committed to play at Rutgers after his high-school career ends.
Matt Shiffer, Sr., Second Base, Toms River South
All-Shore spots are won first-and-foremost with All-Shore-worthy numbers, and by any measure, Shiffer comfortably clears the statistical bar for the first team. Yet the numbers likely don’t do justice in conveying what the versatile senior meant to Toms River South during a 22-win season in which the Indians spent most of the year ranked No. 1 at the Shore. In addition to hitting .442 at the top of the order and playing superb defense at second base, Shiffer also assumed the role of relief ace for the Indians. He even served as the emergency catcher, which got him one game behind the plate when regular starter Connor Leatherman was sick.
Even Shiffer’s highlight of the season was a play that doesn’t show up in the box score: with two out and the tying run on second base in the seventh inning against Brick in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III first round, he back-handed a ball up the middle and with no play at first, he fired the ball to third base, where the baserunner had already made the turn and headed for home. Third baseman Ben Montenegro caught the ball and fired home for the final out of the game (see above video).
To be clear, Shiffer’s performance that did show up in the box score was also outstanding. He recorded a hit in 18 of his team’s first 19 games and logged 12 multi-hit games. He drove in a career-high six runs in a win over Barnegat early in the season and also had a 4-for-4 day against crosstown rival Toms River East.
Mike Nyisztor, Sr., Shortstop, Toms River North
Nyisztor wrapped up a brilliant, three-year varsity career this past spring with his best all-around season as a high-school player. He followed up a 39-hit junior campaign by racking up 38 this season while also drawing six more walks and hitting for more power. He improved his batting average by 10 points, his on-base percentage by 46 points and his slugging percentage by 135 points thanks to 11 doubles and two homers during his senior year. He also played his usual smooth defense at shortstop and served as a senior leader for the Ocean County and Shore Conference Tournament champions.
Nyisztor was named the Al Kunzman Ocean County Tournament MVP after going 7-for-14 with two doubles, five runs scored and three RBI during the Mariners’ four-game run through the field. He also went 8-for-15 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, six runs scored and five RBI during the SCT, making him 15-for-29 (.517) with 11 runs, eight RBI and an .828 slugging percentage during the two successful tournament runs. The final game of his career might have been Nyisztor’s finest, as he went 3-for-4 with a solo home run at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood in a 5-0 Toms River North win over Red Bank Catholic in the SCT final.
Were it not for a broken collarbone suffered during his sophomore season and a perennially loaded program that makes it hard for even the best freshman to find time at the varsity level, Nyisztor almost certainly would have blown past the 100-hit plateau for his career. As it is, he finishes his high school career with 89 varsity hits and a .436 career average as he heads off to Rutgers University next season.
Aaron Ahn, Sr., Shortstop, Red Bank Catholic
The 2017 season was a tale of two months for Ahn and the first one alone was good enough to secure him a first-team All-Shore spot. During the month of April, the RBC senior went 24-for-39 with eight doubles and two home runs, resulting in a triple-slash line of .615/.717/.974. Although Ahn slowed down considerably during May, RBC did not. The Caseys were 10-4 while Ahn was on fire and 11-5 when he was closer to human at the plate.
With the senior shortstop leading the offense, RBC won the Monmouth County Tournament for the second time in program history. In four MCT wins, Ahn was 6-for-13 with a double, both of his home runs on the season, five runs scored and five RBI. He also led a 13-2 rout of Manalapan in the opening round of the Shore Conference Tournament by going 3-for-4 with his only triple of the season. In all, Ahn was 9-for-26 (.346) with a double, triple and two home runs in RBC’s eight games between the MCT and SCT.
Ahn racked up 12 home runs and more than 100 hits during his career as a Casey will continue his baseball career with the United State Naval Academy.
T.J. Scuderi, Jr., Toms River South
On skillset alone, Scuderi made a strong case to be considered the best player in the Shore Conference during a junior season that followed up a second-team All-Shore campaign as a sophomore. He improved across the board, increasing his average by 34 points, his on-base percentage by 77 points and his slugging percentage by 84 points while also increasing his runs-scored and RBI totals. While that might be expected for a player from sophomore to junior year, Scuderi set the bar high for himself as a sophomore and successfully raised it.
It took Scuderi nearly a month to find his power stroke and once he did, the home runs came in a bunch. He cracked his first home run of the season on May 4 in a 7-3 win over South Jersey Group IV champion Southern, then homered on back-to-back days in wins over Brick Memorial and Central on May 10 and 11. The home run vs. Central was a go-ahead three-run blast in the fifth inning. Scuderi made it four homers in two weeks with a blast against Lacey starter Tom Corragio. Even while Scuderi was searching for his power stroke, he still managed to swing a hot bat, hitting .500 (17-for-34) in the month of April with four doubles and two triples. The highlight of that stretch was a 5-for-5 game against Toms River North – the No. 1 team in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10.
Scuderi also contributed with an All-Shore-caliber year on the mound. He allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his first seven appearances before being shut down for two weeks with discomfort in his pitching elbow. After allowing four runs in four innings in his return, Scuderi finished the season strong with back-to-back seven inning outings against Brick in the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals and against Red Bank Catholic in the SCT semifinals. Scuderi took a loss against RBC, but struck out a career-high 12 while allowing just two earned runs in a 3-2 loss to the Caseys. Scuderi projects to be the ace of the staff as a senior in 2018 and will most certainly be the most feared hitter in the Indians lineup again come next spring.
Nick Hohenstein, Jr., Christian Brothers Academy
As a sophomore on a 2016 CBA team that housed by Luca Dalatri and Brandon Martorano, Hohenstein was often a side note despite turning in an exceedingly impressive campaign in his second year as a varsity letterwinner. The junior right-hander took a liking to hitting in key situations, particular as the guy protecting Dalatri in the batting order. This year, Hohenstein became the centerpiece of the Colts lineup and did not miss a beat. He basically matched his 2016 average of .371 by hitting .369 and comfortably eclipsed his on-base and slugging numbers from a year ago.
Hohenstein was one of 23 players in the Shore Conference with an on-base percentage of .500 or better and also finished 13th in the conference with a .690 slugging percentage. He finished in the top five among Shore Conference players in home runs (tied for fifth), doubles (third) and RBI (tied for fourth). The Colts also won five tournament games thanks, in large part, to Hohenstein’s offense. In CBA’s eight tournament games, he went 8-for-23 (.348) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and nine RBI, including a five-RBI game against St. Joseph Metuchen in a 9-8, extra-inning win for CBA.
Hohenstein won five games on the mound and three of those wins came against Class A North champion Freehold. The CBA right-hander twice defeated Colonials ace Dan Chiusano – including once in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16. Hohenstein also drove in at least one run in each game, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a 1-0 opening-day win, and defeated Tom Holdorf a week later. While Hohenstein started and finished the season strong on the mound, he was a force at the plate throughout and will be one of the Shore’s top returning players in 2018 as part of a promising CBA roster.
Tyler Ras, Jr., Middletown North
With the possible exception of Manasquan left-hander Tommy Sheehan, no pitcher entered the season surrounded by more buzz than Ras, who committed to Alabama over the offseason and routinely flashed a fastball in the low 90-miles-per-hour range during his sophomore season and in the summer that followed. Ras’s pitching during his junior year got off to a shaky start and stabilized to the point that his final numbers were again solid, albeit not dominant, and he continued to show the velocity that makes him an interesting arm at the college level.
Ras’s bat, however, went overlooked heading into the year and a loud season at the plate made the Middletown North junior one of the Shore’s top all-around players in 2017. He spent most of the season at the top of the batting order and scored 20 runs while hitting .419. Few games in the Shore Conference this season rival the one Ras had against Manasquan on April 28 in what was undoubtedly the game of the year in the Shore Conference. In Middletown North’s 12-inning loss to the Warriors, Ras went 5-for-6, including 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles off Shore Sports Network Pitcher of the Year Connor Muly. He also pitched one of his better games of the year, allowing one earned run on two hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in six innings in taking the no-decision.
Ras capped his season with an eight-inning five-hitter in a North Jersey Section 2, Group II first-round win over Colonia, then went 3-for-7 with a triple in the Lions’ 15-inning loss to Red Bank in the sectional quarterfinals. Of all the many talented players from the Class of 2018 set to return next year, Ras remains near the top.
Riley Maypother, Jr., Third Base, St. Rose
On raw statistics, Maypother had the best offensive season by a wide margin. He ranked in the top five in the Shore Conference in every single offensive category except for stolen bases, including first in slugging percentage, hits, runs and RBI. That alone, however, is not necessarily enough to win a first-team spot for a player coming out of Class B Central, especially a player coming from the only team in the division with the pitching to hold up in any of the other Shore Conference divisions.
So what makes Maypother worthy? First off, he hits and throws the ball hard. While he might not have faced the toughest competition of any player on this list, he can hit the ball as hard as anyone on it. On a related note, he also showed plenty of aptitude on the mound. In 15 innings, Maypother did not allow an earned run and capped his season with four shutout, one-hit innings of relief against a Gloucester Catholic squad that finished the season ranked in the top-five in the state.
Lastly, when Maypother got a chance to face quality competition, he put his tools to work. He went 7-for-13 combined in the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournaments, including a double, a home run, four runs scored and four RBI. He also drove in a pair of runs in St. Rose’s regular-season win over Pope John and went 2-for-3 in an NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B semifinal win over Somerset County champion Rutgers Prep. While B Central hitting stats should always be viewed with some degree of skepticism, Maypother is one of those players with the game to put up big numbers on any team and he showed that this season.
Craig Larsen, Jr., 2B/RHP, Toms River North
The coaches and players within the Toms River North program had big expectations for Larsen heading into his junior season, although he was not coming off a sophomore season as good as the ones that classmates Jared Bellissimo and Brendan Mullins had. Larsen held his own with a .257 average and 3.79 ERA as a sophomore, but those stats did not fully indicate the breakout season that was coming in 2017. As a junior, Larsen emerged as a top-of-the-rotation, big-game starter on the mound and became an impact offensive player to go with an already-excellent glove at second base. Larsen took the ball on opening day against Central and allowed one unearned run over five innings – the first of three dominant starts to open the season.
The competition escalated over Larsen’s final five starts and while he lost two of them (which came against the two NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV finalists, Lenape and Southern), he kept Toms River North in four of the five games and closed his season out with a gem in the Shore Conference Tournament final. Against a potent Red Bank Catholic lineup, Larsen fired a three-hit shutout with no walks and three strikeouts to help the Mariners clinch their second SCT title in five years. Larsen also threw a five-hitter in a 5-2 win over Toms River South in the OCT semifinals.
Offensively, the junior finished the year on a tear, going 14-for-25 (.560) with six doubles, nine runs scored and six RBI in the Mariners’ final seven games – all of which were tournament games. Larsen will look to carry the hot streak into his senior year, when the Mariners will be loaded with senior two-way talent.
Tommy Sheehan, Sr., LHP, Manasquan
Sheehan is the 2017 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year. Read more about his award-winning season for Group II champion Manasquan.
Connor Muly, Sr., RHP, Manasquan
Muly is the 2017 Shore Sports Network Pitcher of the Year after completing his first full season as a varsity starter. Read more about Muly’s breakout season for the Warriors.
Anthony Elefante, Sr., RHP, Lacey
If there was one word to describe Elefante’s season on the mound, “overpowering” is the first one that comes to mind. The senior right-hander led the Shore Conference in strikeouts-per-seven innings with 11.56 – the result of 82 punchouts in 49 2/3 innings. While Elefante works off an effective fastball, his curveball is the pitch that set him apart this year and confounded most of the teams that faced him. The only teams to beat him this season were a dangerous Jackson Liberty team that knocked off Toms River South and Steinert during a two-week stretch in May and a Highland Regional club that won the South Jersey Group III title.
During his tear through Class B South, Elefante struck out a dozen or more batters in one outing three times, joining Manasquan left-hander Tommy Sheehan as the only Shore Conference pitcher to accomplish that feat this year. Elefante struck out 12 in five innings against Point Pleasant Beach in his first start of the season and also fanned a dozen in a one-hit shutout vs. Triton in the opening round of the South Jersey Group III playoffs. The Lions right-hander set his career mark in a two-hit shutout of Donovan Catholic, in which he struck out 15 Griffins. On top of the lofty strikeout numbers, Elefante also pitched Lacey to a key inter-divisional win over Monmouth Regional on May 15 just before the Shore Conference Tournament seeding meeting.
Elefante’s bat also did plenty of talking this season as well, particularly in the middle of May. Beginning with the win over Monmouth, Elefante went 10-for-20 over his team’s final seven games, including a double, two home runs and eight RBI. He homered in the win over Monmouth and also went deep in a Shore Conference Tournament win over Southern. Against fellow first-teamer Austin Nappi of Red Bank Catholic, Elefante went a clean 3-for-3 with a go-ahead RBI single before RBC rallied in the bottom of the sixth. The loss was one of three very tough ones for the Lions in tournament play, but Elefante and Co. still managed to carry the program back to prominence during its 21-win, Class B South championship season.
Justin Fall, Sr., LHP, Toms River South
For the second straight year, Fall served as the anchor of the Toms River South staff. The 6-foot-5 left-hander returned with an improved fastball and while his control sometimes wandered (28 walks in 54 1/3 innings) it rarely hurt him because he was so hard to hit. He allowed four hits or fewer in six of his nine starts and one of the other three starts was a six-hit shutout against Long Branch in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III Tournament. The other two were against No. 1 Toms River North and both were wins for Fall and the Indians despite the Mariners collecting seven hits in both showdowns.
Fall’s minor struggles came mostly in the middle of the season, as the St. John’s-bound southpaw was on his game at the very beginning and very end of his senior year. He pitched a four-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and one walk in the opener vs. Jackson Memorial and gave up two unearned runs on two hits and a walk while striking out seven in a six-inning complete game against Toms River East one outing later. He closed out the season with the shutout of Long Branch and with 5 1/3 strong innings against eventual Group III champion Allentown, which finished off a four-run rally in the sixth after Fall left the game. Fall allowed two runs on three runs and two walks while striking out nine against the Redbirds.
With a chance to hit full-time this year, Fall also showed off a sweet swing while finishing second on the team in RBI (19) and slugging percentage (.543). The all-around effort as a senior was a fittingly impressive finish to a memorable three-year career, which includes a 12-2 record, 122 strikeouts and a 1.32 ERA in 111 innings over the last two seasons.
Austin Nappi, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
Of all the numbers throughout the three All-Shore teams, there are two on Nappi’s stat-line that are particularly interesting. First of all, Nappi struck out 29 batters in 67 innings. While pitchers of all types have made All-Shore First Team, that strikeout total is especially low for a first-team player. In the new era in which counting pitches is part of the rules, however, Nappi’s embrace of contact is an asset, not a liability. The reason the junior right-hander was able to win three more games than anyone else in the Shore Conference was because he finished games without running up his pitch count, often making him available again on just three, sometimes two, days of rest. The numbers bear that out, as Nappi appeared in 13 games this season, including 11 as a starter, and stuck around long enough to earn a decision in all 11 of his starts.
On top of appearing in a lot of games, Nappi also did plenty to win them. While his strikeouts were one stat that jumped off the back of his baseball card for how few of them there were, his walk total should elicit the same reaction. The Caseys right-hander walked only four batters in 67 innings, which gave him the best walk rate (0.42 walks per seven innings) of any Shore Conference pitcher with more than 20 innings of work, and did so despite throwing from a drop-down arm-angle that most players Nappi’s age have not yet harnessed.
Digging deeper into Nappi’s season, he also showed he was not afraid to take on the Shore’s best teams and he won nearly all of those battles. Eight of the 10 teams Nappi beat this year had winning records and the two wins against teams that had losing records – Long Branch and Ocean – came on opening day and in a Monmouth County Tournament game. Among Nappi’s victims this season were Wall, Freehold Boro, Toms River South, Lacey, Colts Neck and Manalapan – the last of which was the only team Nappi defeated twice. RBC won the Monmouth County Tournament and reached the final of the Shore Conference Tournament thanks to Nappi, who went a combined 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in the two tournaments. While the Caseys graduate a lot of offensive firepower, Nappi will be back as the steady hand at the top of the rotation.