The beginning of the baseball season is usually good for some upsets, both because teams are not always up to speed due to various factors – weather, youth, etc. – and because we don’t necessarily know who the real favorites are yet. During the first five days of the season, only four of the preseason top 10 teams had a perfect week, another is still technically unbeaten because of a tie, and another four lost one game to another top 10 team.

Plenty more Top 10 showdowns are in store over the next several weeks so change is going to be the norm on the list. The question is, will two or three teams entrench themselves at the top for the duration of the regular season, and perhaps beyond? If that is to happen, the top four candidates to do so have emerged.

St. John Viannney celebrated coach Mike Morgan's 100th win following a big win over Red Bank Catholic on Saturday. Will the Lancers be posing for championship pictures in May? (Photo by Matt Manley)

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

The Crimson Knights rallied for a win over Brick Memorial, which on the surface might seem like a sign of weakness because it was so close, but Brick Memorial is much, much better than its 0-3 record. Wall didn’t use Tyler Swiggart or Steve Coltrain to win the game which makes it a strong non-division win that Wall can hold up to whomever might question the Knights.

2. St. John Vianney (3-0, 3-0) Last Week: 5

The first order of business for St. John Vianney this season was to beat the three other projected top four teams in A Central – Rumson, Shore and Red Bank Catholic – and the Lancers made a resounding statement by beating all three by a combined score of 27-10. The lineup has proven deep and the pitching has been solid so far, so this stacked senior class might really have something here.

3. Toms River East (2-0, 2-0) Last Week: 6

Another senior-heavy team, the Raiders showed their experience with an opening-day win over Toms River South and later beat a solid Brick team. C.J. Hirschy and Anthony DeBlasio look like a formidable one-two pitching punch in Class A South and the Raiders will unleash those two again this week, starting with a showdown against Toms River North on Monday.

4. Toms River North (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: 7

If the top three teams are champions of experience, the Mariners are proof that talent knows no age limits. Toms River North has come out of the gate swinging, putting up 12 runs in a game started by Jackson Liberty senior James Sofield and five runs against a Jackson Memorial team that posted shutouts in its other two games. Sometimes young talent takes time to settle in, and other times, it’s just talent.

5. Jackson Memorial (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 2

The Jaguars may have a loss, but they have already proven to be a team that is hard to score on because of their strike-throwing staff and solid defense. The offense should come around as well and even if it turns out to be a modest offense and a pitching staff that’s less than dominant, the Jaguars will still win a lot of games with that defense.

6. Christian Brothers Academy (1-0-1, 1-0-1) Last Week: 4

CBA is one of a couple top teams that played a very sloppy game early in the season and as much as that might seem like a mark against a team, it’s not necessarily the case. After a seven-error game in a rare tie (due to darkness) against Middletown North, the Colts brought their gloves in a 6-0 win over Middletown South, although they didn’t need to use them much with Luca Dalatri punching out 11 in a one-hitter.

7. Red Bank Catholic (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: 3

Saturday just wasn’t a good day for Red Bank Catholic, which kicked the ball eight times in an 11-5 loss to St. John Vianney. Defense usually gets better as the season goes on and the Caseys will most definitely be sharper on the artificial surface at Count Basie Park, but questions in the pitching staff and offense remain after beating two rebuilding offenses in Monmouth and Rumson and getting knocked around by St. John Vianney.

8. Toms River South (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 10

After a tough loss in a hard-fought opening-day game against Toms River East, the Indians responded with two wins over Lacey and Central at home, similar to what they did last year after dropping the opener to Toms River East. While Toms River South has no discernible ace, the Indians have showed some depth on the mound in the early going and the bats came alive after a quiet opening day.

9. Central (1-1, 1-0) Last Week: 9

The Golden Eagles used their top two pitchers to beat Jackson Liberty and took a pretty good beating from the Toms River South offense in a loss to the Indians on Saturday. The good news is that Andrew DiPiazza looks even better this year, their other pitchers can keep them in games and there is some punch in the lineup when fully healthy. This is still a different team with DiPiazza on the mound, but so is any team.

10. Howell (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked

The Rebels get the nod this week after being the only team on the preseason bubble to survive the first five days of the regular season without losing. The offense has not really set the world on fire, but the Rebels got good pitching performances from John Monahan and Zach Loroesh, as well as some solid defense overall. The bats should eventually come around, but for now, nothing wrong with living off pitching and defense.

 

Dropped Out

Jackson Liberty (0-3, 0-2) Last Week: 8 – The Lions’ question marks coming into the season stemmed from the lineup on offense and that remains after they scored seven runs in three games.

 

 

On the Bubble

Ocean (2-0, 2-0) – The Spartans will get a crack at Wall Tuesday and appear to have the pitching to stay in the B North race, no matter the result of the first meeting.

St. Rose (2-0, 2-0) – The Purple Roses will get a chance to prove themselves against some of the Shore’s best eventually, and as long as they keep winning in the division, they are a candidate to move up.

Freehold Twp. (1-1, 0-1) – The loss to Howell was the result of an untimely error and the talent remains to win more games like that. At some point though, the Patriots have to start winning those close A North games.