Baseball – SSN Top 10, May 21
The finish line is in sight, but there is still plenty of baseball left in the Shore Conference baseball season, especially as it pertains to the Shore Sports Network Top 10. As the season moves away from divisional play, division records will have less on an impact on the rankings, which is reflected below.
1. Toms River South (19-3, 13-1) Last Week: 1
The No. 1 spot is worth debating for the first time since the second week of the season, but the Indians remain on top despite losing to Toms River North in the Ocean County Tournament final. Toms River South still has an outright Class A South championship to its name and the Indians won it by four games over the Mariners. As long as Toms River South is in the running for Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournament titles when Memorial Day rolls around, the No. 1 spot looks like it will remain unchanged into June.
2. Wall (18-5, 10-4) Last Week: 3
Wall has enough quality non-divisional wins and a slightly better divisional performance than Toms River North, so even though the Mariners boast a county championships, the Crimson Knights jump into the No. 2 spot. With so many interdivisional and tournament games to be evaluated, it’s easier to overlook the fact that Wall finished second in B North, especially given how much parity there was in that regular season.
3. Toms River North (17-6, 9-5) Last Week: 6
The Mariners won the Ocean County Tournament title for the second straight year by beating Toms River South and Southern – two teams that swept the Mariners during divisional play – in back-to-back games. The distant second-place finish in A South keeps Toms River North out of the top spot for the time being, but two wins over Middletown North give the Mariners the edge over Red Bank Catholic – the other county champion in the Shore Conference.
4. Red Bank Catholic (17-7, 7-7) Last Week: 4
Despite a .500 season within B North, RBC remains one of a handful of teams within striking distance of No. 1 in the Shore Conference. The Caseys are a perfect 10-0 outside of B North and most of those wins are against very noteworthy competition. Looking ahead, Red Bank Catholic will have an advantage in the Shore Conference Tournament this week because the Caseys don’t have to worry about playing a state tournament game until the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinal round on May 30.
5. Lacey (19-4, 12-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Since losing to Manchester in the Ocean County Tournament quarterfinals, Lacey has played some of its best baseball of the season. The Lions pounded Monmouth Regional on Monday, lost a 4-3 game at No. 1 Toms River South on Wednesday, and hammered Ocean County Tournament finalist Southern on Saturday in the Shore Conference Tournament. Lacey has a great opportunity to make a statement this week, with the South Jersey III playoffs getting underway early in the week and a trip to RBC in the SCT quarterfinals scheduled for Wednesday.
6. Christian Brothers Academy (17-7, 9-5) Last Week: Not ranked
CBA took down Freehold Boro Saturday for the third time in four tries, with Nick Hohenstein picking up his third win on the mound against the Colonials. Like RBC, CBA does not play a state tournament game until May 30, when the Colts will take on St. Joseph of Metuchen. That gives CBA a distinct advantage in the SCT quarterfinals because the Colts can pitch Blaise Venancio against Wall, while the Crimson Knights will have to worry about at least one round of the NJSIAA Tournament.
7. Freehold Boro (15-8, 10-4) Last Week: 5
The Colonials are out of the Shore Conference Tournament after losing to CBA on Saturday, but still have an A North title and a trip to the Monmouth County Tournament final on their resume. With three quality left-handed pitchers in Dan Chiusano, Tom Holdorf and Dan Della Valle, plus a balanced lineup, Freehold Boro should be considered a contender in the Central Jersey Group IV bracket, which opens this week.
8. Freehold Twp. (11-10, 8-6) Last Week: Not ranked
The Patriots debut in the top 10 after taking out two teams in the Shore Conference Tournament that were ranked last week. Freehold Township beat Middletown South in the opening round on Wednesday – two days after losing to the Eagles in a regular-season game – and then hammered second-seeded Monmouth Regional, 9-1. Freehold Township is running thin on pitching, with top two starters Mike Pirrotta and Bryan Reed both on the shelf with injuries, so balancing the Central Jersey Group IV and Shore Conference Tournaments this week will be a challenge.
9. Monmouth (16-6, 11-3) Last Week: 2
Two lopsided losses to Lacey and Freehold Township last week drop Monmouth from No. 2 to No. 9. B North proved itself as the best division in the regular season, but the postseason has not been as kind, with only RBC and Wall advancing to the SCT quarterfinals. Still, Monmouth is a 16-win team that emerged as champion from a deep B North field, so the Falcons are a state-tournament run away from jumping back into the top-five discussion.
10. Southern (14-8, 8-6) Last Week: 10
The Rams keep their spot at No. 10 after reaching the Ocean County Tournament final. The week ended with Southern’s pitching wearing down in one-sided losses to Toms River North and Lacey, but the Rams will have a chance to hit the reset button this week, when they embark on their mission to make noise in a very tough South Jersey Group IV bracket as a No. 11 seed.
Manasquan (10-10, 9-5) Last Week: 7 – The Warriors are just 1-5 in games against teams outside of B North and their last two losses (to Rumson and Pinelands) came with standout right-hander Connor Muly on the mound. Despite the recent struggles, taking Muly and Tommy Sheehan into the state tournament format should keep Manasquan confident in the face of adversity.
Middletown North (13-9, 8-6) Last Week: 8 – It’s tough to leave Middletown North out this week considering the Lions just beat Nick Hohenstein and CBA on Monday, but a second loss to a Toms River North team that Southern beat twice, plus three losses to Monmouth block Middletown North for now.
Middletown South (12-10) Last Week: 9 – Just when it looked like Middletown South had A North’s number with wins over Freehold Boro and Freehold Township, the Eagles dropped a pair of games against Freehold Township (in the SCT) and Marlboro to end the week.
In the Running
Jackson Liberty (15-9, 10-4) – Jackson Liberty might be the next team in line for the top 10, but an 11-0 loss to Southern in the OCT is holding the Lions back at the moment.
Manalapan (15-9, 8-6) – For the second time this season, the Braves could not keep up with RBC, losing to the Caseys, 13-2, in the SCT round of 16.
Colts Neck (13-11, 7-7) – The Cougars fought hard to give themselves a chance in the seventh inning against Wall on Saturday, but fell in the SCT round of 16.
Pinelands (12-10, 8-6) – The Wildcats are the Cinderella story of the SCT after knocking off both Manasquan and St. Rose in the first two rounds of the tournament. Pinelands will take on top-seeded Toms River South on Wednesday.
Brick (13-8, 9-5) – The Green Dragons finished tied for second in Class A South, but are 0-2 in tournament games with a trip to Pennsauken in the Central Jersey Group III opening round scheduled for Monday.
St. Rose (21-3, 14-0) – The Purple Roses have enough wins to jump back into the top 10 by the end of the year, but only if they can make a championship run in the South Jersey Non-Public B bracket, in which traditional powerhouse Gloucester Catholic is the No. 1 seed.