In many seasons, the Class B Central race is less a race and more a foregone conclusion. St. Rose has been the dominant force in the division for almost as long as it has existed and last year was another one of those seasons. The Purple Roses won all 14 of their B Central games and won all of them by at least seven runs – 10 by 10-run rule.

St. Rose will again be the heavy favorite to not only win B Central but do so with a perfect record, unless one of the other teams on an upswing can step up and knock off the talented Purple Roses. Point Pleasant Beach would seem to be the No. 1 contender, but Mater Dei Prep should remain competitive and Keansburg returns a strong group as well.

The bigger question for St. Rose and the division is can any of the teams make noise come postseason time. The Roses fell in last year’s NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B final to powerhouse Gloucester Catholic, while Point Beach and Keansburg will be in search of a memorable run through Central Jersey Group I.

 

In predicted order of finish

St. Rose

Head Coach: Rich Lanko, second season
2017 Record: 24-4 (14-0, first in B Central)
Key Returners: Riley Maypother (Sr., 3B/RHP), Brody Maypother (Sr., C), Will Gannon (Sr., SS/RHP), John Crowley (Sr., OF/RHP), Sammy Sestito (Sr., RHP), Mario Bove (Sr., OF), Nick Schmidt (Sr., RHP)
Key Losses: Brandon Mology (RHP/2B), Brendan Hueth (OF), Joe Volpe (SS), Brian DiPasquale (RHP/1B), Andrew Baier (RHP), Tommy Blaes (OF)
Key Newcomers: Frank Bellezza (Jr., 2B/SS/RHP), Dan Rose (Sr., OF), Evan Peeke (Jr., 3B/RHP), Phil Morelli (Sr., 1B/3B), Robert Rothery (Sr., 2B/SS), Patrick Ferrante (Jr., OF), Zack Alesika (Jr., 1B/RHP), Carter Vanderslice (Sr., 2B), Dominic Renia (Sr., 2B), Vinny Mastria (Sr., 1B), Jack Trabattoni (Sr., OF), Jeff DeFazio (Jr., OF/RHP), Nick Marini (Sr., LHP)

St. Rose senior Will Gannon. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Every year, St. Rose simultaneously has both an easy road into the top 10 teams in the Shore Conference and a hard road. The Purple Roses are almost a lock to win all 14 division games when their roster is as good as it has been over the past couple of seasons, which both gives them a pristine record and a chance to line up their pitching to face the better teams on their schedule. On the flip side, they also have very few opportunities to pick up impact wins, so when St. Rose gets a chance to beat a top 10 caliber team, it can’t let the chance go by.

Fortunately for the Purple Roses, they will have some chances to pick up impact wins and a team capable of taking advantage. Although the Roses graduated two top pitchers, an All-Shore centerfielder and a starting shortstop, they return brothers Riley and Brody Maypother off of eye-popping statistical seasons (not an anomaly in Class B Central). Riley is committed to East Tennessee State University and in addition to hitting the ball about as hard as anybody in the area, he also can reach 90 miles-per-hour with his fastball, which he will be throwing more this year after pitching 15 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run last year. Brody will be his and every other St. Rose pitcher’s catcher after an All-Shore season as a junior.

Leadoff hitter Will Gannon also returns to the lineup and will shift from second base to shortstop, giving St. Rose the same kind of weaponry at the top of the lineup that it had last year. Gannon will also get some innings on the mound, as will two-way senior John Crowley, who hit .364 and was also one of three St. Rose pitchers to toss a no-hitter last year. Right-hander Sammy Sestito also hurled a no-hitter and returns to the rotation this season, while senior Mario Bove takes over a starting outfield spot as a senior after getting a handful of starts and at-bats as a junior. There is enough talent back to once again breeze through B Central and with games against Jackson Memorial, Freehold Township, Marlboro and Wall, St. Rose will have four chances to validate their status as a top 10 team in the Shore Conference.

 

Point Pleasant Beach

Head Coach: Angelo Fiore, fifth season
2017 Record: 12-11 (10-4, second in B Central)
Key Returners: John Nista (Sr., RHP/3B), Josh Yates (Sr., 2B/RHP), Phil Antoniotti (So., SS/RHP), Chris Russo (Sr., LHP/OF), Kenny MacPherson (Sr., OF), Jude Lovegren (Sr., INF), Vincent Storino (Sr., C), Max Alia (Jr., 1B), Aidan Conway (So., OF), Joey Favatto (So., OF), Mihalis Hrisafinis (Jr., OF), Luke Frauenheim (Sr., UTIL), Jean Verrier (Sr., OF/P)
Key Losses: Kevin Donnelly (DH/LHP)
Key Newcomers: Luke Testa (Fr., P/OF), Jeff Wall (Fr., P/OF), David Teranova (Fr., C), Matt VanBrunt (Fr., P/OF), Alex Glen (Fr., OF/INF), Steven Hrisafinis (Fr., P/OF), Will Jarvis (Sr., OF/P), Johnny Langeveld (Sr., UTIL), Jake Lorenzo (Sr., P), Joe Coakley (Fr., 1B/OF), Anthony Lipari (Sr., P/1B)

Of the teams behind St. Rose in the B Central pecking order, Point Beach is clearly the team with the best chance to knock off the defending champions, as the Garnet Gulls have done a number of times over the last decade. Last year got off to a rough start with an injury to two-way senior Kevin Donnelly that prevented him from pitching, although he still had a big season with the bat. Donnelly is the only loss from the 2017 starting lineup and he was the designated hitter, so the Garnet Gulls will boast experience all over the diamond and throughout the lineup.

Senior right-hander John Nista and senior left-hander Chris Russo give Point Beach a one-two punch from both sides of the rubber at the top of the rotation and their performance will likely be the key to the Garnet Gulls’ season. Both had their moments a year ago, while both also had some games in which they just didn’t have it. Big years from the two starters – Nista going to Kean University and Russo to the College of New Jersey – will give Point Beach a chance to beat St. Rose and would certainly give them a great shot at making a run in the Group I tournament.

Point Beach should be solid around the infield with Nista playing third base when he does not pitch and double-play partners Phil Antoniotti and Josh Yates back as well. Antoniotti made a strong impression as a freshman shortstop, while Yates has been a steady player for the Garnet Gulls for three years prior. Max Alia and Jude Lovegren will also be part of the infield, while senior Vincent Storino handles the catching. Senior Kenny MacPherson leads the outfield corps and sophomore Aidan Conway is a candidate to emerge after getting time as a freshman. The bats should be a strength for Point Beach and the returning experience and new blood mesh, the Garnet Gulls will be one of the Shore’s more improved teams.

 

Mater Dei Prep

Head Coach: Pat Riddell, 14th season
2017 Record: 8-12 (8-6, third in B Central)
Key Returners: Joe Profaci (Sr., OF), Mike Dunne (Sr., C/OF/RHP), Ryan Turner (Sr., OF/1B), Sean Turner (So., SS/RHP), Patrick Mastro (So., OF/RHP), Greg Bender (Sr., RHP/3B), Matt Carrigy (Sr., RHP/UTIL), Chase Hardy (Jr., 2B/RHP)
Key Losses: Kyle Dowlen (SS), Vinny Stanziale (RHP/3B), Rob Lynch (1B/LHP), Kevin Olaussen (1B/LHP)
Key Newcomers: Thomas Olausen (Sr., 1B), Justin Tumulty (Sr., RHP/SS/2B), Rob Cassin (Jr., C)

Last year, the Seraphs won a competitive scrap for the third spot in the B Central standings and while they have had enough success in the past several years to set the bar higher, finishing third in B Central this season is once again a realistic goal for Mater Dei given advantages in experience at Point Beach and a significant talent gap separating it from St. Rose.

Pitching will be somewhat of an unknown for Mater Dei heading into 2018, with right-handed workhorse Vinny Stanziale graduating last spring. Seniors Mike Dunne, Greg Bender and Matt Carrigy will step forward for more innings, while sophomores Patrick Mastro and Sean Turner look to establish themselves as long-term solutions in the rotation. Turner is also the projected starting shortstop, while bender lines up to start at third.

Senior outfielder Ryan Turner is the team’s top returning hitter and classmate Joe Profaci and Mastro also provide experience in outfield spots. Junior Chase Hardy will jump into the open spot at second base and can also provide some innings. Seniors Thomas Olausen and Justin Tumulty will also contribute in their first varsity baseball seasons, as will junior Rob Cassin. If the pitching surprises, Mater Dei can give Point Beach a challenge in at least one of their two meetings and keep the Seraphs competitive against the better teams on the schedule.

 

Keansburg

Head Coach: Ryan Lillis, second season
2017 Record: 8-14 (7-7, tied fourth in B Central)
Key Returners: Justin Alessi (Sr., SS), Paul Eckleberry (Sr., OF/RHP), Joe Osterbye (Sr., C), Liam Meyer (Jr., CF), Liam Riecks (Jr., INF/OF/RHP), Gabe Torres (Jr., INF/RHP)
Key Losses: Matt Gibney (2B/RHP), David Clayton (3B), Hunter Gorski (OF)
Key Newcomers: Miguel Crespo (Sr., OF), Michael Flynn (Sr., OF), Jamaal Gordon (Sr., OF), Danny Vital (Sr., OF), Derek Martinez (Jr., OF), Thomas McKeon (Jr., OF), Frank Sautner (Jr., OF/C/1B), Christopher DeSantis (So., P), Justin Hicks (Jr., OF), Anthony Prestino (So., OF), Brandon Rizzi (So., OF), Jesse Berecsky (Fr., 1B), Louis Chalmers (Fr., C/INF)

If there is a wild card team in B Central this year, Keansburg fits the bill. The Titans return most of their starting unit from a year ago and that group turned in a competitive season that included a walkoff win over Mater Dei. Replacing Matt Gibney, a leader on the infield and the pitching staff, will be the toughest challenge for the remaining players, but there are a lot of candidates to pick up the production.

Keansburg’s lineup will be a strength, led by juniors Liam Meyer and Liam Reicks. Meyer is a three-year starter in center field and was one of the division’s top hitters a year ago, while Riecks showed signs of big things to come as a two-way contributor last year. Senor Justin Alessi also turned in a strong season a year ago, hitting .333 with 14 stolen bases and 24 runs scored, while classmate Joe Osterbye returns behind the plate after hitting .432 as a junior.

The pitching is less established than the offense, but senior right-hander Paul Eckleberry returns after a solid first season on the mound in 2017. Riecks also gave Keansburg some innings a year ago and junior infielder Gabe Torres will take the mound this season as will. Among Keansburg’s wave of newcomers, sophomore Christopher DeSantis is the most likely to help in the pitching department, while a host of football and basketball players join the fold to provide some athleticism for second-year coach Ryan Lillis. There is work to be done, but the ceiling for Keansburg this year is cracking into the top three in B Central while challenging Point Beach in divisional play in the Group I Tournament.

 

Keyport

Head Coach: Kyle Keelen, seventh season
2017 Record: 9-12 (7-7, tied fourth in B Central)
Key Returners: Colin Fernandez (Sr., RHP/OF), Zack Whitehead (Sr.), Lucas Dant (So., RHP/INF), Matt Twigg (Jr., OF)
Key Losses: Christian Smith (SS/RHP), Shane Chandler (CF), Jackson Aumack (2B), Cody Young (OF), Kyle Johnson (3B/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Tyler Ely (Jr.), Matt Russo (So.), Chris Johnson (So.)

Two seasons removed from a trip to the Central Jersey Group I championship game, Keyport will undergo a retooling of sorts this season while still hoping to remain competitive with the teams in the top half of the B Central standings. The Red Raiders had high hopes last year for a follow-up to the CJ I run and a season sweep of Point Beach provided a season highlight, but the Red Raiders ultimately settled for a 7-7 divisional record and an early exit in the state tournament.

Replacing shortstop and ace Christian Smith and talented centerfielder Shane Chandler will be Keyport’s toughest challenges, not to mention plugging holes at second base and in the outfield. Senior Colin Fernandez will be this year’s leader, heading up the rotation after a strong junior season on the mound and hitting in the heart of the order as an outfielder.

Sophomore Lucas Dant and Matt Twigg got a helping of time last year and will see larger roles this year, with Dant slotting in behind Fernandez in the rotation. Along with Dant, sophomores Matt Russo and Chris Johnson give Keyport hope for the future and with an early breakout for the sophomore trio, the Red Raiders can have a season similar to the one they had last year.

Edit, March 30: Per Keyport coach Kyle Keelen, Roan Maxwell is no longer on the team. He was listed in the original post.

 

Henry Hudson

Head Coach: Matt Mancini, second season
2017 Record: 8-11 (7-7, tied fourth in B Central)
Key Returners: Liam Hagan (Jr., 3B/C), Tim Farrell (Jr., SS/RHP), Grady Hendrickson (So., 3B/OF/RHP), Mike Mohr (Sr., 1B/C/RHP), Blaise Cauvin (So., 2B/OF), Casey Haupt (So., OF), Mike Hoey (So., OF), Matt Payne (Jr., P/OF), Tom Doherty (Jr., P/OF), Mike Adams (So., 2B), Nick Brown (So., OF), Garrett Shine (So., OF), Justin Murphy (So., 1B), Josh Winters (Jr., C/1B)
Key Losses: Brendan Carlstrom (LHP/1B/OF), Ryan Doegler (3B/RHP), Tom Colantino (C)
Key Newcomers: Trevor Hendrickson (Fr., UTIL), Aaron Lynch (Fr., 2B)

Of the 47 Shore Conference teams, Henry Hudson might have been the most pleasant surprise in 2017. There have been plenty of years in which the Admirals would be thrilled to win three divisional games and last year, with an army of young players emerging as starters, Henry Hudson went 7-7 in Class B Central and flirted with a .500 record. Now the Admirals return high numbers from that team and are hoping to build on last year’s success.

Although the Admirals have plenty of players back from last year, they will have to replace three key spots. Brendan Carlstrom was a four-year standout on the mound and in the lineup for Henry Hudson and losing him is a significant blow to both the pitching and offense. Ryan Doegler also served as a leader on the mound and in the infield, while Tom Colantino did the catching. It will be up to juniors Tim Farrell and Liam Hagan to grab the torch from that senior group and lead Henry Hudson into a big two-year stretch for the program, which has only one senior back from last year – Mike Mohr, who will pitch, play first base and could wind up getting time at catcher.

Hudson’s sophomores also give the program a bright immediate future, led by Grady Hendrickson, Blaise Cauvin, Casey Haupt and Mike Hoey. If Hendrickson can emerge with Farrell as reliable starting pitchers in B Central, Henry Hudson will have a chance to make noise over the next two years.

 

Ranney

Head Coach: Tory Principe, first season
2017 Record: 3-12 (3-11, seventh in B Central)
Key Returners: Kiran Shah (Sr., OF/RHP), Ethan Gavin (Jr., 2B/SS/RHP), Ryan Batista (Jr., C/1B), Benny Kraushaar (Jr., 2B/RHP), Jacob Field (Jr., 1B/P), Cole Redman (Jr., 3B/C)
Key Newcomers: Charles Chropuvra (Fr., OF/LHP), Deven Bhatnagar (Fr., SS/3B/RHP), Ryan Krauashaar (Jr., OF/RHP)

The Panthers are looking to take a step forward in B Central this season after boasting a team without any regular senior contributors a year ago. Even this season, outfielder and right-handed starter Kiran Shah is the only senior back from last year’s starting lineup and classmate Dylan Costanzo is the only other senior on Ranney’s entire roster. The Panthers will be young, but there is enough talent for them to start climbing up the standings after a seventh-place finish a year ago.

Juniors Ryan Batista and Ethan Gavin are the team’s top two offensive players from a year ago, with Batista heading into his third varsity season after two productive campaigns at the plate to open his career. He hit .410 as a sophomore while handling the catching duties and Gavin posted a .388 average as the team’s shortstop. Fellow juniors Benny Kraushaar, Jacob Field and Cole Redman all return as starters as well.

Freshmen Charles Chropuvra and Deven Bhatnagar will make an instant impact for Ranney, with both joining Shah, Gavin, Kraushaar and Field on the pitching staff and playing in infield spots on other days. Junior Ryan Kraushaar is also a first-year varsity player with a chance to play in the outfield and on the mound. The juniors will be the core of the team, but a good showing from the freshman duo could give Ranney a boost in B Central going forward, perhaps as soon as this year.

 

Asbury Park

Head Coach: Johnny Grasso, 12th season
2017 Record: 0-14 (0-14, eighth in B Central)
Key Returners: Devin Nash-McGee (Sr., SS), Luis Rodriguez (Sr., C), Alex Peavey (Jr., P), Kyrie Moore (Sr., 1B), Tylil Tulley (Sr., P)
Key Losses: Henry McGee (1B/OF), Christian Bragg (3B)
Key Newcomers: Jansi Mendez (So., OF), Bismarck Garcia (Sr., P), Deris Martinez-Urbina (So., 2B), Jamier Cancel (Sr., 2B), Nasir Jones (Sr., P), Jarred Chathuant (Fr., 3B), Lazarus Chathuant (Jr., C)

Despite going winless in 2017, Asbury Park boasted one of the division’s most exciting players in returning senior Devin Nash-McGee. As a junior last year, Nash-McGee set the single-season school record with 26 hits and led the Shore Conference in hitting at .634 and on-base percentage at .681. He also finished second in slugging percentage (.927) and stolen bases (24).

Nash-McGee can play shortstop or center field depending on where he is needed and will hit at the top of Asbury Park’s lineup. The Blue Bishops also have an experienced catcher back in senior Luis Rodriguez, who hit .343 with 10 RBI as a junior. Senior Kyrie Moore is also an experienced hitter back in the lineup.

Seniors Alex Peavy and Tylil Tulley head up a pitching staff that will have to step up for Asbury Park to become more competitive in divisional play. They have the dynamic leadoff hitter and a solid catcher – two great building blocks for any team – and with a little growth on the pitching side, the Blue Bishops could sneak up on a few teams in B Central.

 

Division Lineup (With 2017 Stats)

Brody Maypother, Sr., Catcher, St. Rose (.472/.529/.819, 12 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 21 R, 30 RBI)

Riley Maypother, Sr., 3B, St. Rose (.520/.576/.987, 12 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 34 R, 37 RBI)

Josh Yates, Sr., 2B, Point Beach (.418/.481/.493, 5 2B, 24 R, 13 RBI, 20 SB)

Will Gannon, Sr., SS, St. Rose (.380/.485/.494, 7 2B, 1 3B, 33 R, 21 RBI, 8 SB)

Devin Nash-McGee, Sr., SS, Asbury Park (.634/.681/.927, 6 2B, 3 3B, 22 R, 8 RBI, 24 SB)

Kenny MacPherson, Sr., OF, Point Beach (.387/.479/.453, 4 2B, 12 R, 13 RBI, 6 SB)

Liam Meyer, Jr., CF, Keansburg (.317/.351/.476, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 5 SB)

Ryan Turner, Sr., OF, Mater Dei Prep (.288/.433/.385, 2 2B, 1 HR, 17 R, 12 RBI, 5 SB)

John Nista, Sr., 3B/RHP, Point Beach (.422/.493/.719, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 17 R, 25 RBI, 7 SB)

 

Division Rotation (With 2017 Stats)

John Crowley, Sr., RHP/OF, St. Rose (4-0, 27 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 20 K, 0.78 ERA)

Sammy Sestito, Sr., RHP, St. Rose (4-1, 27.2 IP, 18 H, 13 BB, 19 K, 2.28 ERA)

Chris Russo, Sr., LHP, Point Beach (5-4, 31.2 IP, 35 H, 10 BB, 32 K, 5.31 ERA)

Paul Eckleberry, Sr., RHP/OF, Keansburg (2-3, 27.2 IP, 26 H, 14 BB, 25 K, 3.04 ERA)

Colin Fernandez, Sr., RHP, Keyport (3-1, 27.1 IP, 26 H, 18 BB, 23 K, 3.07 ERA)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Phil Antoniotti, So., SS, Point Beach

Liam Riecks, Jr., 1B/RHP, Keansburg

Patrick Mastro, So., OF/RHP, Mater Dei Prep

Ethan Gavin, Jr., 2B/SS/RHP, Ranney

Tim Farrell, Jr., SS/RHP, Henry Hudson

 

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