A fast start earned the Colts Neck baseball team a high seed in the 2014 Monmouth County Tournament and the Cougars took advantage of the draw by reaching the MCT final, where they ultimately lost to Christian Brothers Academy.

This year presents a familar story for Colts Neck, only this time the Cougars would like to finish the tournament the way they start it: No. 1.

On the heels of a 7-0 start to its season, Colts Neck is the top seed in this year's Monmouth County Tournament, beating out the likes of defending champion CBA (No. 2), fellow unbeaten Red Bank Catholic (No. 3) and No. 4 Marlboro. Colts Neck will play the winner of a first-round game between No. 17 Manasquan and No. 16 Middletown South - the latter of which pushed the Cougars to the brink in an 11-inning classic in the MCT quarterfinals last year at FirstEnergy Park. Manasquan, meanwhile, boasts five Division I baseball commits on its roster and has a left-handed ace in sophomore Tommy Sheehan who could present a tough draw for whichever team has to face him.

CBA entered the season as the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and the No. 3 team in the state, according to the Star-Ledger, but lost out on the No. 1 seed because of a 10-0 loss in six innings to a 4-4 Freehold Boro team its last time out. Despite the rough game, CBA still boasts junior right-hander Luca Dalatri, who carried the Colts to the final last year on his way to an 11-0 season with a 0.39 ERA. CBA will play either No. 18 Shore Regional or No. 15 Mater Dei Prep, the former of which hung tough with CBA and actually scored off Dalatri before the Colts pulled away for a convincing win in last year's MCT.

Red Bank Catholic is the other unbeaten team in the tournament after holding on to beat Wall on Tuesday. The Caseys have a different makeup this season with less home run power, but have played defense and made contact for a pitching staff that has thrown strikes. RBC will play either No. 19 St. Rose - which also beat Wall by a run - or a No. 14 Raritan club that has already knocked off Manasquan and Shore this season.

No. 4 Marlboro might be the team best built for the tournament based on its deep pitching staff that has been dominant to this point. The Mustangs have already taken down Howell, Middletown South, Manalapan and Middletown North and lost to Luca Daltari and CBA, 1-0, in eight innings. The Mustangs will have to play either No. 13 Wall or No. 20 Rumson-Fair Haven, both of which boast notable frontline starters - Ryan Orender for Wall and Morgan Maguire for Rumson.

No. 5 Ocean suffered its first loss of the season Tuesday in a 2-0 home defeat against Matawan, which did not enter the tournament. Ocean's pitching has been even better than that of Marlboro with respect to runs allowed, although four of the Spartans' games were against out-of-state teams in Myrtle Beach, S.C. No. 12 Freehold Township is the likely second-round opponent for Ocean, although No. 21 Holmdel has shown some prowess on the mound over its last two games.

Freehold Township catcher Joe Silvestrone hit five home runs in two games last week against Manalapan and Jackson Memorial, and he keys and offense that has exploded since an unassuming couple of games to start the season.

Howell enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed thanks to four nail-biting victories - two of which were walk-off wins over Freehold Township and Freehold Boro. With three one-run wins and a 7-5 win over Manalapan, Howell has actually been outscored by six runs despite its 4-2 record. The Rebels could very well see Manalapan again, as the No. 11 Braves look to get by No. 22 Long Branch to set up a showdown with Howell. Manalapan has been on the wrong side of some close games, including one-run losses to Marlboro and Middletown South, as well as an extra-inning loss to Freehold Boro.

While Monmouth is not among the ranks of the unbeaten in the Shore Conference, the Falcons are unblemished within the Class A Central division and have been rather dominant in their 4-0 A Central start. Their lone loss is to Ocean, 7-0, and they have yet to play St. John Vianney or Manasquan. Marlboro could see No. 10 Freehold Boro, which remains a real wild card in light of its 10-0 win over CBA on Saturday. The Colonials will first have to get through Red Bank Regional in order to get a crack at Monmouth.

Both No. 8 Middletown North and No. 9 St. John Vianney got byes into the round of 16 and will play one another in their first game. Middletown North has lost two straight after a 3-0 start - which included wins over Howell and Freehold Township. St. John Vianney, meanwhile, was no-hit by Manasquan's sibling duo of Tommy and Jack Sheehan, but is 4-0 in its other four games.

 

Monmouth County Tournament Seeds

1. Colts Neck

2. CBA

3. Red Bank Catholic

4. Marlboro

5. Ocean

6. Howell

7. Monmouth

8. Middletown North

9. St. John Vianney

10. Freehold

11. Manalapan

12. Freehold Twp.

13. Wall

14. Raritan

15. Mater Dei Prep

16. Middletown South

17. Manasquan

18. Shore

19. St. Rose

20. Rumson-Fair Haven

21. Holmdel

22. Long Branch

23. Red Bank

 

Schedule

Opening Round

To be played by Saturday, April 25

(23) Red Bank at (10) Freehold

(22) Long Branch at (11) Manalapan

(21) Holmdel at (12) Freehold Twp.

(20) Rumson-Fair Haven at (13) Wall

(19) St. Rose at (14) Raritan

(18) Shore at (15) Mater Dei Prep

(17) Manasquan at (16) Middletown South

 

Round of 16

To be played by Saturday, April 25

(9) St. John Vianney at (8) Middletown North

(17) Manasquan/(16) Middletown South winner at (1) Colts Neck

(18) Shore/(15) Mater Dei Prep winner at (2) CBA

(19) St. Rose/(14) Raritan winner at (3) Red Bank Catholic

(20) Rumson-Fair Haven/(13) Wall winner at (4) Marlboro

(21) Holmde/(12) Freehold Twp. winner at (5) Ocean

(22) Long Branch/(11) Manalapan winner at (6) Howell

(23) Red Bank/(10) Freehold winner at (7) Ocean

 

Quarterfinals

Saturday, May 2 at higher seed

 

Semifinals

Saturday, May 9 at higher seed

 

Championship

Friday, May 15

At FirstEnergy Park, 7 p.m.