Baseball – SSN Top 10, April 30
The Monmouth County Tournament semifinals are just about set and Ocean County will be joining Monmouth in tournament season when the OCT starts on Saturday. The tournaments has the potential to make the top 10 picture even murkier because those wins tend to carry weight because not only is it a tournament win but it also gives only the teams that advance a chance to keep playing in big games. So while Wall is pretty squarely entrenched near the top of the rankings, the Crimson Knights will not have a chance to win two more tournament games now that they are out of the Monmouth County Tournament.
Speaking of Wall, the loss to Colts Neck on Saturday creates some further separation between Christian Brothers and the Crimson Knights, but Wall is still part of a very sturdy top-three teams. Beyond those three, however, there remains plenty of volatility and in addition to two new teams coming into the rankings, there is plenty of movement among the teams who remain in the field.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (14-1, 9-1) Last Week: 1
CBA has won 11 straight games and in order to keep the winning streak going, the Colts had to rally from a 12-4 deficit in the final two innings to beat Colts Neck before getting past Ocean and Middletown South in the Monmouth County Tournament on back-to-back days. The only team to beat CBA this year is the one that pays a visit to the Academy on Monday – Marlboro, which is desperate for a win after slipping to .500.
2. Wall (12-2, 10-0) Last Week: 2
After Colts Neck failed to put CBA away, the Wall nearly did the same to the Cougars, only to watch Colts Neck rally in the seventh inning and hand the Crimson Knights their second loss of the season. The loss is a disappointing one for a team that was building so momentum as a potential quintuple-crown winner, but Wall is still in prime position to win the B North title and head into the Shore and NJSIAA Tournaments a chance to do damage.
3. Jackson Liberty (10-1, 9-0) Last Week: 3
Like Wall, Jackson Liberty continues to tear through its division, including wins over Barnegat and Manchester this past week. To this point, the Lions have answered any challenges that have come up, even in losing to Wall, 4-3, but staying sharp heading into the Ocean County Tournament will be key. If the Lions can make it to Wednesday without losing, they will most likely be the No. 1 seed in the Ocean County Tournament.
4. Toms River North (9-4, 8-2) Last Week: 7
After an up-and-down start to the season, Toms River North has emerged as the likely challenger to Jackson Liberty for the top spot in Ocean County and despite a head-to-head loss to Jackson Memorial, the Mariners have shown in their overall body of work that they are worthy of the second spot in Ocean County. Toms River North also gets another shot at Jackson Memorial this week, although it will come on the day after the OCT is seeded.
5. Red Bank Catholic (10-4, 7-3) Last Week: 9
Despite starting the week with a loss to Ocean, Red Bank Catholic moves up because it bounced back with a win over Ocean and scored two resounding wins over Freehold Boro and Long Branch in the Monmouth County Tournament. The Caseys also benefitted from Jackson Memorial losing to Toms River South and Central, as well as Marlboro losing to Long Branch. RBC has demonstrated pitching depth and the offense has come alive since the loss to Ocean.
6. Monmouth (9-5, 6-4) Last Week: 10
Although Monmouth lost to RBC this week, the Falcons increased their stock by nearly rallying from a 6-2 deficit in that extra-inning defeat and also beating Middletown South and Holmdel since the last rankings slotted them at No. 10. Sunday’s MCT quarterfinal vs. St. Rose was bumped to Monday and Monmouth will have to get by a motivated Purple Roses team in order to reach the MCT semifinals against Raritan.
7. Jackson Memorial (10-4, 6-3) Last Week: 4
After entering the week as the A South front-runner, Jackson Memorial finds itself chasing Toms River North for the top spot following one-run losses to Toms River South and Central. The Jaguars got back on track with a win over Lenape on Saturday and will have a chance to jump back to the top of the rankings when they travel to Toms River North on Thursday. First, however, they will have to avenge a loss to Southern when the two teams meet on Tuesday.
8. Manalapan (11-5, 6-4) Last Week: 6
The Braves have dropped three of four after starting 10-2, including a loss to St. Rose in the Monmouth County Tournament first round. With two losses to a CBA team that is well out in front of the field in A North, the Braves will have to turn their attention to the public division title, which is the most wide-open race of any of the Shore Conference divisional races considering there are six teams within a game-and-a-half of one another.
9. Central (7-3, 5-3) Last Week: Not ranked
The Golden Eagles are back in the top 10 after picking up a win over Jackson Memorial and climbing back into the Class A South hunt. Senior Tom Ruscitti broke the school doubles record, then promptly started hitting balls over the fence. He hit his first three homers of the season last week, including two in the win over Jackson. With the season series vs. both Jackson Memorial and Toms River North over, the Golden Eagles could make a run for the top spot if they can beat the rest of the field.
10. Raritan (10-3, 6-2) Last Week: Not ranked
A two-loss week two weeks ago put the Rockets well outside the top 10 picture, but all it took was a big week to not only get back into the discussion but to actually break into the rankings for the first time this year. Raritan cooled off Rumson-Fair Haven to regain first place on Tuesday, then beat Freehold Township and Colts Neck on consecutive days to reach the Monmouth County Tournament semifinals.
Marlboro (6-6, 4-5) Last Week: 5 – Since beating CBA, Manalapan and St. John Vianney in the same week, Marlboro is 1-3 with 2 10-run losses to sub-.500 teams.
Freehold Township (6-6, 5-4) Last Week: 8 – Losses to Freehold Boro and Raritan drop the Patriots out of the rankings for this week.