Baseball – SSN Top 10, May 1
The turn of the calendar to May signals the intensifying of the schedule with more tournament games and last-ditch pushes for a division title. Remarkably, one division title was decided days before May 1, as Point Pleasant Borough clinched the Class B South title for the first time in 10 years on a walk-off home run by Josiah Gliddon to beat Lakewood on Friday.
There are now also less than two weeks until the Shore Conference Tournament is seeded, so along with division titles being decided, it will also be time to begin scrutinizing each team’s resume. Some key match-ups remain on the schedule and many of them are happening this week.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (13-5, 7-3) Last Week: 1
Most teams that went 2-2 during a week, sit in second place in its division and have a team with a 10-game winning streak breathing down its neck would have relinquished its top spot and would likely have slipped to least two spots. This is not most teams, however, and the defending No. 1 team in N.J. with a battery like Luca Dalatri and Brandon Martorano will have to be thrown off the perch. That might have happened if the Colts bowed out of the Monmouth County Tournament on Saturday. Instead, CBA beat the two teams that beat them earlier in the week.
2. Middletown South (13-2, 9-2) Last Week: 2
The Eagles have all the qualifications of a No. 1 team, except one major one: they haven’t beaten the team ahead of them. Middletown South will have a chance to run its winning streak to 11 Monday against CBA and effectively gain the inside track at the No. 1 seed. Even if the Eagles swing and miss on Monday, they get another crack in Saturday’s Monmouth County Tournament semifinals.
3. Red Bank Catholic (13-1, 9-0) Last Week: 3
With only one loss, RBC is also in the mix for the No. 1 spot, but the Caseys will have to keep racking up the victories. Either Middletown South or CBA figure to be No. 1 next week since the two A North powers play each other twice in six days, but if one gets swept, RBC is positioned to move up to No. 2 and jump to No. 1 if the Caseys can capture the Monmouth County Tournament crown.
4. Point Pleasant Boro (14-0, 11-0) Last Week: 4
The Shore’s last remaining unbeaten team and first team to claim an outright division title is a lot like Middletown South in that the Panthers are deep and have a lot of different options to beat teams on the mound and at the plate. Almost all of B South is under .500 and while that does hurt Point Boro some degree when evaluating the strength of the division, it’s also a credit to the Panthers for burying everyone.
5. Toms River North (9-5, 6-4) Last Week: Not ranked
For the second straight week, a team goes from unranked to No. 5. After Middletown North pulled it off last week, Toms River North does the same this week and in the Mariners’ case, it’s all about recent performance. Outside of a pair of Class B Central teams (St. Rose and Point Pleasant Beach), Toms River North is the highest scoring team in the Shore Conference and the Mariners are starting to find some pitching to go along with it.
6. Freehold Boro (9-7, 6-5) Last Week: 9
The Colonials won five in a row before running into a CBA team Saturday determined to pay them back after Freehold beat the Colts just two days earlier. Freehold Boro has two standout starters (Steve Rullo and Dan Chiusano), a legitimate stopper out of the bullpen (James Manos) and a pair of position players (Tom Holdorf and Nick Zuppe) who can do the job on the mound as well. The offense has also shown signs of taking off, which could mean the Colonials are poised for another push this season.
7. Brick Memorial (10-5, 6-3) Last Week: Not ranked
The Mustangs are technically in first place in Class A South – by percentage points over Toms River South – so there is a case for them to be a couple spots higher. On the other hand, the Mustangs have gone cold at the plate and their return to the top 10 has more to do with attrition at the bottom of the rankings than it does with a great week. Overall, however, Brick Memorial has been a top-10 caliber team from day one.
8. Middletown North (8-7, 6-5) Last Week: 5
Losing to Middletown South in walk-off fashion and to CBA on Kenny Campbell’s no-hitter would not have dropped the Lions much, if at all, but throw in a loss to Brick to open the season and Middletown North did lose some steam after entering the week on a seven-game winning streak. Middletown North has had plenty of pitching and will look to kick-start the offense this week, which should be a manageable goal with both games against Middletown South, CBA and Freehold Boro in the rearview mirror.
9. Toms River South (10-5, 7-4) Last Week: Not ranked
The Indians return to the Top 10 this week after a brief absence and are in the thick of the chase for the Ocean County title. Everything is still on the table for Toms River South – the Indians remain percentage points behind Brick Memorial for the A South divisional lead and will host Point Beach on Wednesday in the OCT quarterfinals. If Toms River South can beat Brick Memorial on Tuesday, it’s going to be hard to stop the Indians from winning at least a share of the A South title.
10. Howell Last (8-6, 5-6) Week: 6
The Rebels have struggled since their fast start, but they managed to survive a couple of tight MCT games against St. Rose and Freehold Township and now find themselves in the semifinals against RBC. Beating No. 14 and 22 seeds to get there is not the most daunting road, but getting to the MCT semifinals with a winning record and a recent history in the top 10 is enough to keep Howell in.
Marlboro (7-7, 4-5) Last Week: 7 – For the second straight year, the Mustangs have followed up a fast start with skid, which currently stands at six losses in the last seven games.
Ocean (14-5, 7-3) Last Week: 8 – The Spartans dropped a game to Colts Neck for the second time this season this past week and also lost a competitive game to RBC in the MCT. With the most wins in the conference, Ocean is still right on the top-10 bubble.
Jackson Memorial (6-8, 6-5) Last Week: 10 – Jackson is on one of the more confounding slides you’ll see in high school baseball. One of the Shore’s best programs of the last 10 years is 1-8 in its last nine games and the lone win was the one-inning completion of a suspended game against Toms River North.
On the Bubble
Brick (7-7, 3-7) – The Green Dragons are actually in last place in A South, yet they have wins over No. 5 Toms River North and No. 8 Middletown North and are also still alive in the Ocean County Tournament.
Manasquan (6-4, 6-3) – The Warriors did not enter the Monmouth County Tournament and because of that, they have not played anyone outside of Class A Central outside of Wall – a game they lost. Still, the Warriors have been dominant lately with Jack and Tommy Sheehan on the mound.
Jackson Liberty (8-5, 5-5) – A win over Jackson Memorial two weeks sent the Jaguars into a tailspin but it also began a climb for the Lions, who have been the most consistent B South team outside of Point Boro.