Baseball – Final Shore Conference Top 10
For the second straight year, the season ends with a Shore Conference team on top of the statewide rankings. That makes the No. 1 spot in the Shore Conference rankings elementary, but the rest of the top 10 allows for plenty of debate considering that Christian Brothers Academy was the only Shore Conference team to win a postseason championship.
It’s not necessarily by design, but postseason success was weighed as a major plus for teams in the top 10 and that is evident in the fact that of the top five teams in the following rankings, none of them were outright division champions. How teams performed when stacked up against the best competition was, as always, a big factor in how teams finished up in the rankings.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (27-5, 10-4)
There have been Shore teams with fewer losses and Shore teams with more total wins, but no Shore team has had a better season than the one CBA just had, and only the 2004 Wall team can hold up the five trophies that the Colts just secured for the trophy case at the Academy. Winning Class A North, the Monmouth County Tournament and the Shore Conference Tournament would probably be enough to finish No. 1 at the Shore in most years and certainly would have been enough this year. By winning the Non-Public A title and finishing the year on a 14-game winning streak, CBA nailed down the top ranking in the state and a No. 23 ranking in the country, according the MaxPreps. With Luca Dalatri and Brandon Martorano set to return next season, as well as breakout center fielder Cid Porter, CBA should be the team to beat again in 2016.
2. Red Bank Catholic (20-9, 11-3)
There are a few teams that have a pretty good case to be No. 2 and RBC gets the nod as the most complete team from start-to-finish. The Caseys did not deal with the injury issues that Jackson Memorial or Colts Neck did and did not win a division like Toms River North or Middletown South did, but the Caseys put together a 20-win season against a quality schedule, reached the Shore Conference Tournament final by beating Colts Neck and Jackson Memorial in consecutive rounds, and only bowed out of the NJSIAA Tournament when they did because they ran into Bishop Eustace. The 2015 season was a big one for RBC to show that even after graduating some high-level Division I talent, the Caseys can restock and remain competitive with the Shore’s best.
3. Jackson Memorial (22-7, 10-4)
When healthy, Jackson Memorial was the second-best team in the Shore Conference this season, particularly when Brandon Janofsky was on the mound. With a full squad, they rolled through Class A South the second time through the schedule and won the Ocean County Tournament. Even after Janofsky was shut down, Jackson Memorial beat Wall to reach the SCT final and the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals, where they lost in 13 innings. Injuries are part of the game and perhaps they cost Jackson Memorial a spot in the rankings, but the Jaguars should be commended for playing the hand they were dealt as well as they did and having a great 2015 campaign.
4. Wall (20-8, 10-4)
Between a lukewarm start and a devastating three-day stretch that saw Wall lose to Allentown in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III first round on Monday, CBA in the Monmouth County final on Tuesday and Jackson Memorial in the SCT quarterfinals on Wednesday, the Crimson Knights enjoyed a run as the Shore’s hottest team, which included a stretch in which Wall won 17 of 18. Replacing catcher Dan Wondrack (nine home runs) and two-way talent Ryan Orender along with Nick Martinez and Brendan Barcas will be a challenge, but a nice group of underclassmen joined the mix this season as well.
5. Middletown South (21-9, 10-4)
If not for two convincing losses at the hands of Wall, Middletown South would have a pretty good case to be the No. 2 team in the final rankings. The Eagles had the Shore’s longest winning streak at 14 before CBA matched that mark with a 14-game streak to end the season. Middletown South also matched CBA during the season by tying the Colts for the Class A North championship and beat them in the second meeting. Middletown South was also the closest to beating CBA during its championship run when the Eagles had the Colts down 5-1 in the seventh inning during an SCT quarterfinal meeting. Middletown South will return a senior-heavy squad that will again challenge CBA during the Class A North schedule in 2016.
6. Colts Neck (21-4, 14-0)
The Cougars were unbeaten in Class B North and earned the No. 1 seed in all three tournaments – Monmouth County, Shore Conference and Central Jersey Group IV – but won just one game between those three tournaments. Running into Middletown South and Red Bank Catholic in the MCT and SCT, respectively, did not help the Cougars, nor did an injury to Marist-bound first baseman Tyler Kapuscinski. A broken hamate bone in his hand ended Kapuscinski’s season before the end of the division schedule and Colts Neck was never quite the same. Despite the early exits in the tournament, a 21-4 season with a 14-0 mark in a division that also includes both Red Bank Catholic and Wall is a top-five season most years.
7. Freehold Boro (16-13, 6-8)
Although 2015 could be considered an “up-and-down” season for the Colonials, they were competitive in every game, they reached the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals and they beat the No. 1 team in the Shore both times they met in Class A North. Not only did Freehold Boro beat CBA twice, but they shut them out twice, including once by a score of 10-0.
8. Manalapan (18-10, 8-6)
There are some teams below this spot in the rankings who have defeated Manalapan, but any 18-win team with wins over No. 1 and No. 2 – including a Monmouth County Tournament game against Red Bank Catholic – is going to fall somewhere in the top 10. Like Middletown South, Manalapan will return a slew of seniors next year, so CBA will have plenty of competition as it tries to repeat.
9. Manasquan (14-11, 7-5)
Manasquan was another team that had CBA down late in a game in May before ultimately losing to the state’s No. 1 team, 13-5, in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. That run to the SCT semis catapulted Manasquan into the top 10 picture after the Warriors went 7-5 in the Class A Central division race. That division season did include a pair of wins over division champ St. John Vianney, an example of Manasquan’s penchant for playing to its competition. With Tommy and Jack Sheehan returning next season, the Warriors will have a pitching foundation to contend again in 2016.
10. Toms River North (17-6, 12-2)
Like Colts Neck, Toms River North had a stellar regular season that was affected by a key injury. The Mariners won the Class A South title and later made it to the South Jersey Group IV semifinals before losing to eventual Group IV runner-up Williamstown. Toms River North was an offensive force early in the year, but the defense and lineup took a hit when shortstop Mike Nyisztor went down with a shoulder injury and right fielder Jeff Ciervo battled hamstring problems starting around the same time, which coincided with the start of the team’s struggles. Those two will both be back, along with Oklahoma State commit Joe Rose as the Mariners look to get back to the top of A South and climb higher in the postseason.
Shore (17-11, 6-6) – A run to the SCT quarterfinals and the CJ I final had the Blue Devils again in the mix for a top 10 spot this season.
Toms River South (19-9, 10-4) – The Indians lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to eventual sectional champ Mainland in the South Jersey III semifinals. Without a lot of preseason buzz, Toms River South still pulled out a 19-win season
St. John Vianney (13-8, 8-4) – After graduating nearly its entire 2014 Non-Public A championship team, the Lancers still won a Class A Central title with a host of new faces that will be back next year.
Marlboro (12-9, 7-7) – The year started out like one that could go down in the Marlboro record books, but the Mustangs hit a slump in the middle of the year that they seemed to snap out of during the tournament season. Unfortunately for Marlboro, those three tournaments ended with a trio of hard-fought losses, one of which was a forfeit loss.
Barnegat (15-11, 10-4) – The Class B South champs also made a run to the Ocean County Tournament final behind a strong one-two punch of seniors Seamus Brazil and John Corbett.
Mater Dei Prep (17-8, 13-1) – The Seraphs won their first division title since 2002 and their 17 wins were the most for the program since 1995, making 2015 a banner year for Mater Dei baseball.