Baseball – Shore Conference Top 10, April 14
More than any other sport, baseball results tend to take a turn toward the bizarre early in the season and this week was a prime example. As an example, last week’s No. 2 team, St. John Vianney, entered the week 3-0 and came out of it 3-3. The Class A South division race is shaping up to be a four-horse race to the finish, while A North, A Central and B South are completely up for grabs.
With that in mind, there are not too many leaps of faith this week, but there are some rewards for consistency and preseason status. Chances are, preseason top-five teams will get it together, while teams that have not had slip-ups deserve spots over teams with high peaks and low valleys. That probably changes down the road, but for now, here’s how the big picture looks.
1. Wall (5-0, 3-0) Last Week: 1
The Crimson Knights survived an extra-inning scare against Ocean and then left no doubt against St. Rose in a six-inning win. Wall will get a test from Matawan on Monday morning and a win would mean Wall is in prime position to run away with another B North title.
2. Toms River East (4-1, 4-1) Last Week: 3
The Raiders get the edge over the Jaguars on the strength of wins over both Toms River South and Toms River North and despite Jackson’s win over Toms River East. Those top A South teams are all beating each other early on and the Raiders also get a pass for losing to Jackson in a competitive game without either of their top two pitchers on the mound.
3. Jackson Memorial (4-1, 3-1) Last Week: 5
Once again, Jackson Memorial is arguably the most consistent team in the Shore Conference. The Jaguars have only one loss and they have neither scored nor allowed more than five runs in any game this season.
4. Toms River South (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: 8
Just like last year, the Indians appeared to have a lot of question marks after losing their opener and promptly answered many of those questions shortly after. This year, Toms River South has won five straight since an opening-day loss to Toms River East, including a 2-1 win over Toms River North.
5. Toms River North (4-2, 3-2) Last Week: 4
One of two top-five teams to lose multiple games this past week, the Mariners ran into a hot pitcher in Toms River East right-hander C.J. HIrschy and lost a close game to Toms River South. There is still plenty of offense and while the pitching could stand to improve a bit, it’s been mostly solid so far.
6. Christian Brothers Academy (3-1-1, 3-1-1) Last Week: 6
That tie officially comes off the board on Monday when CBA restarts its 9-9 tie with Middletown North from the beginning. CBA was finally able to keep an opposing offense in check without Luca Dalatri on the mound in a 3-2 win over Marlboro and if that becomes more the norm, the Colts will be awfully tough to handle for the other A North teams.
7. Monmouth (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: Not ranked
In a lot of ways, this Monmouth team has looked better than the Central Jersey Group II championship team, mainly in that it is a balanced team that defends behind its group of crafty, strike-throwers on the mound. Whoever wrote this before the start of the season should be feeling pretty foolish.
8. St. John Vianney (3-3, 3-2) Last Week: 2
An 0-3 week puts Vianney on unstable footing as a top-10 team, but in baseball, these things happen, even to talented teams. This is still a team with a whole lot to prove, but it will take another bad week to bump the Lancers, who will look to bounce back against Holmdel, Raritan and Rumson.
9. Shore (3-1, 1-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Blue Devils debut in the top 10 with a résumé short on quantity but not lacking for quality performances. Shore took out Red Bank Catholic on the road this week and has won three straight since a close loss to St. John Vianney to open the season.
10. Red Bank Catholic (4-2, 3-2) Last Week: 7
While the Caseys have played like an ordinary team, shortstop Al Molina was anything but ordinary over this past week. He went 10-for-12 at the plate with two home runs and a double for a Caseys offense that hasn’t had too much trouble scoring. The pitching and defense are behind at this point, but it’s still early to dismiss RBC in any way.
Central (3-3, 2-2) Last Week: 9 – Losses to Monsignor Donovan and Pinelands knock the Golden Eagles from the top 10, but they are still as dangerous as anybody when their ace, Andrew DiPiazza pitches.
Howell (2-4, 1-4) Last Week: 10 – Over their four-game losing streak, Howell has lost three one-run games and ran into the buzz saw that is CBA sophomore right-hander Luca Dalatri.
On the Bubble
Barnegat (3-2, 2-2) – After a win over St. John Vianney Saturday, it might be a mistake leaving the Bengals out. A loss to Point Boro was just enough to miss the cut…for now.
Colts Neck (4-1, 3-1) – The Cougars have started this year a lot like Howell did last year: Lots of new starters but enough ability to make some early noise.