Just when the top 10 appeared to stabilize a little bit this week, the two teams with the inside track for the top two spots in the rankings lost out-of-division games on Saturday. Wall lost a 15-inning classic to Freehold Township for its first loss of the season, while Jackson Liberty stunned Jackson Memorial thanks to a late grand slam by Howard Taylor and another big-game performance from Dan Serreino on the mound.

With those wins, Freehold Township and Jackson Liberty enhanced their top-10 résumés, although only one breaks through this week. Class B South is beginning to look like more of a factor thanks to Jackson Liberty’s win over its crosstown rival and Barnegat’s win over Toms River North last Monday, which should be clear in the rankings.

St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic remained in the top 10 last week despite some struggles and while they both proved that to be a wise decision for the time being by snapping out of it this week, neither climbs all that much just yet.

Tournament season begins this week with the Monmouth County Tournament, which means more eyebrow-raising results are likely in store.

 

1. Toms River East (7-1, 6-1) Last Week: 2

With Wall’s loss to Freehold Township on Saturday, Toms River East gets a crack at the No. 1 spot thanks to an impressive 6-1 record in a dog-eat-dog, Class A South division. The Raiders are built for anything that a high school baseball season might throw at them because they have three quality starting pitchers in C.J. Hirschy, Anthony DeBlasio and Jeff Cannova. With those three leading the way, Toms River East has allowed just over two runs per game so far this season.

2. Wall (8-1, 6-0) Last Week: 1

The Crimson Knights have played some close games this season, but were on a run of three straight 10-run wins before tripping up against Freehold Township in 15 innings. This Wall team is not one that is going to consistently overwhelm any and all opponents, so this loss was bound to happen at some point, especially without either Tyler Swiggart or Ryan Orender on the mound. If it becomes a trend, then maybe Wall drops out of the top five, but for right now, the Crimson Knights aren’t going too far.

3. Jackson Memorial (7-2, 6-1) Last Week: 3

Like Wall, Jackson took a loss on Saturday that hurt its chances to be this week’s No. 1 team, but did not knock the Jaguars out of top-five contention. None of Jackson Memorial’s four hottest pitchers started the 8-3 loss to Jackson Liberty while the Lions threw senior Seton Hall University recruit Dan Serreino at a Jaguars offense that has been hot-and-cold this season. In the grand scheme of things, that is a much bigger win for Jackson Liberty – which has righted the ship after a 1-4 start – than a bad loss for Jackson Memorial.

Nick Cardace and Freehold Township swung their way into the Top 10 this week. (Photo by Matt Manley)

4. Freehold Township (5-3, 3-3) Last Week: Not ranked

This is a prime example of a team whose quality wins carry more weight than losses to unranked teams. The Patriots have a deep lineup and have had some good pitching at times this season, and that has manifested itself against the best teams on their schedule. Of the Patriots’ five wins, four of them have come against the top two teams in Class A North (CBA and Colts Neck), the Class B North leader and previously-ranked No. 1 team in the Shore (Wall) and Class B South leader (Manchester). The losses have also all been close: 4-3 to Howell, 3-1 to Manalapan and 11-9 to Middletown South.

5. CBA (5-2, 5-2) Last Week: 6

The Colts bounced back from an 8-5 loss to Middletown North to begin the week by beating Colts Neck and Manalapan. While sophomore right-hander Luca Dalatri was great again on the mound (seven innings, six hits, one earned run, no walks and six strikeouts), the bigger development for CBA has been the emergence of junior pitcher Mike Garvey. After a solid first outing in a win over Marlboro on April 12, Garvey delivered a four-hit shutout in a win over Manalapan on Saturday, which means if the Colts can cut back on the errors and continue hitting, they will be tough to beat come May.

6. Barnegat (5-2, 3-2) Last Week: Not ranked

The Bengals make their top-10 debut in the No. 6 spot behind wins over St. John Vianney and Toms River North, with the Vianney win coming at the end of last week. Outside of a 1-0 loss in eight innings to Manchester on opening day and a 7-5 hiccup against Point Boro, Barnegat has been impressive and has been so even without top two pitchers Jason Groome and Seamus Brazil on the mound. Barnegat beat St. John Vianney with sophomore Jared Kacso on the mound and beat Toms River North behind a four-hitter by junior John Corbett – with both Kacso and Corbett making their first career varsity start in each game.

7. St. John Vianney (5-4, 5-2) Last Week: 8

After an 0-3 week dropped St. John Vianney from the No. 2 spot in last week’s top 10, the Lancers began the slow climb back toward the top five with a strong 2-1 week. Vianney overcame five errors to handle Holmdel, 15-5, and beat Rumson-Fair Haven aces Morgan Maguire (five innings) and Shane McCarthy (2 innings), 5-2, on Saturday. Perennial South Jersey power Washington Township outlasted St. John Vianney, 6-4, in nine innings on Saturday night, but considering the bounce-back offensive week and standout pitching of senior left-hander Justin Chin, the Lancers seem to be back on solid ground.

8. Shore (6-1, 4-1) Last Week: 9

The Blue Devils have quietly slipped into first place in Class A Central and have played well enough at the start to earn the No. 2 seed in the Monmouth County Tournament, which kicks into high gear this week. Shore has put together one of the better pitching staffs in the Shore Conference during the early part of the season, with Andrew Schulz, Matt Cosentino and James Kelly all throwing the ball well thus far. While the offense has been good, considering that Cosentino has not gone off on one of his torrid stretches yet (he’s still 8-for-18 with nine walks and four extra-base hits), there may be some potential to get even better at the plate.

9. Red Bank Catholic (7-2, 6-2) Last Week: 10

The Caseys appear to have recovered from the two-game skid of two weeks ago and, more importantly, the RBC pitching appears to be falling into place. After giving up at least six runs in four of five games, RBC has held opponents to five over its last two behind strong outings from Jack Kissinger and Al Molina. After serving as a closer for last season and the beginning of this year, Molina started and pitched six dominant innings in a 9-5 win over Monmouth (he left with a 9-1 lead after six) and appears as though he will increase his innings for the Caseys. The offense has been steady from the start, so if the RBC pitching catches up, the Caseys will continue to climb back toward the top of the rankings.

10. Colts Neck (5-2, 4-2) Last Week: Not ranked

The Cougars finally crack the top 10 after giving Luca Dalatri a scare in a 3-2 loss to CBA and beating Middletown North behind a one-hit, 16-strikeout performance by Gianni Magliaro. Colts Neck is 4-1 in one-run games after playing two more one-run games this week and will look to continue its clutch ways through the remainder of a trying A North schedule. Robbie Warendorf and Magliaro have done yeoman’s work carrying the starting pitching load, but junior left-hander Chris Murphy (12 scoreless innings, two hits, three walks, 12 strikeouts, and 3-for-3 in save opportunities) has quietly been the team’s pitching star while performing as arguably the best relief specialist in the Shore Conference.

 

Dropped Out

Toms River South (6-3, 4-3) Last Week: 4 – Some lingering pitching questions and Russell Messler’s hamstring issue remain concerns for the Indians, but Toms River South has still hung around in A South.

Toms River North (4-5, 3-4) Last Week: 5 – After looking like one of the top teams in the Shore during a 4-0 start, things have unraveled a bit for the Mariners during a five-game losing streak. Stayed tuned, however, because no team lives more by the mantra that “it’s not how you start, but how you finish.”

Monmouth (6-3, 4-3) Last Week: 7 – The Falcons remain in the Class A Central hunt thanks to a wild, come-from behind win over Manasquan. After running into Morgan Maguire and Al Molina on the mound this week, the task of winning a division title, however, just got a lot tougher.

 

On the Bubble

Jackson Liberty (5-4, 3-3) – The Lions were a mess during a 1-4 start to the season and are all of a sudden one of the Shore’s hottest teams after putting up 38 runs in 17 innings this week, capped by an 8-3 win over Jackson Memorial.

Rumson-Fair Haven (5-3, 4-3) – The Bulldogs clearly have the pitching to contend with Maguire, Shane McCarthy and Chris Drummond, but the defense will have to come around in order to make one last push for a division title and a subsequent postseason run.

Manchester (5-4, 5-2) – The Hawks would be a better candidate for the top 10 if not for a loss to Raritan, but then again, that came against Raritan ace Bruce Strickland, and the Hawks also have wins in games started by Barnegat’s Jason Groome and Central’s Andrew DiPiazza.