The baseball season is nearly a month old, and after this past week, the Top 10 looks more like the original installment from the first day of April. Seven of the preseason top 10 teams are in this week’s version and two of the teams that are not could be considered on the fringe. Just another example of the cream rising to the top when given enough time. With that being said, the next month makes or breaks the season so even if it bodes well to be among the Shore’s best on April 26, there is still plenty of work to be done.

 

1. Christian Brothers Academy (11-1, 7-1) Last Week: 2

The Colts had one rough Saturday against Freehold Boro and have otherwise lived up to the preseason No. 1 billing. They had their hands full this week against both Marlboro and Mater Dei going into their half of the sixth and opened up both games en route to a pair of comfortable wins. A knee injury to first baseman John Moschella could prove to be a big loss for the offense, but for the time being, CBA has hitting throughout the lineup.

2. Toms River North (8-2, 7-1) Last Week: 1

Although the offense has not hit much lately for Toms River North, the Mariners have still been tough to beat because of their steady pitching. Anthony Elefante and Brandon Janofsky both pitched noteworthy games against Toms River North this past week, which overshadowed very good games pitched by Brett Hyers and Doug Molnar for the Mariners. As long as this turns out to be a brief slump for the offense, Toms River North is still right where it wants to be at the end of April.

3. Colts Neck (11-2, 8-0) Last Week: 5

Toms River North’s steady starting pitching from game-to-game is what separates the Mariners from a team like Colts Neck, which has been nearly impossible to beat with one of its top two or three pitchers on the mound and has been beaten when it’s had to dig deep into the rotation. Mario Ferraioli and Chris Murphy pitched in the two big divisional games this week against Red Bank Catholic and Ocean, and Colts Neck won both of those games. On the flip side, neither was available against a red-hot Middletown South team that threw top starter Austin Markmann and beat the Cougars on Thursday in the Monmouth County Tournament.

4. Red Bank Catholic (9-1, 7-1) Last Week: 4

After taking their first loss of the season Tuesday against Colts Neck, the Caseys have bounced back in a manner that good teams do. They shut out Ocean on Thursday and survived an extra-inning battle with Matawan on Saturday to get back on track, which leaves the Caseys in position to hang around with Colts Neck in the division race as May approaches.

5. Marlboro (7-4, 5-3) Last Week: 3

Marlboro is on a three-game losing streak officially, but they don’t take too much of a hit since one of those losses was a forfeit after they had defeated Wall on a walk-off home run. The deep pitching staff that had served the Mustangs so well during their 7-1 start showed a little more vulnerability this week, but outside of the nine-run sixth by CBA on Friday, nothing that happened this week suggests there is a leak in the proverbial dam.

6. Middletown South (9-5, 5-4) Last Week: Not ranked

An 0-4 start dropped Middletown South from No. 10 in the preseason rankings into the depths of the unranked, but during a 9-1 run since that start, Middletown South has played as well as any team in the Shore Conference. Not only are the Eagles executing in the pitching and defense department, but they are scoring runs in droves as well. During this seven-game winning streak, Middletown South is averaging 8.3 runs per game, including 9.3 over the last six.

Kyle Johnson is hitting .455 with seven extra-base hits for resurgent Jackson Memorial (Photo by Matt Manley)

7. Jackson Memorial (7-4, 5-3) Last Week: Not ranked

Like Middletown South, Jackson Memorial plunged out of the top 10 thanks to a slow start, which was a 1-4 open to the season in the Jaguars’ case. Jackson Memorial has since won six in a row and has also been raking at the plate, scoring 8.7 runs per game over their last seven. More importantly, the Jackson Memorial staff is finally healthy, with Chris Hawryluk returning in a relief appearance last week and Brandon Janofsky tossing a two-hit shutout Thursday against Toms River North in his first start of the season.

8. Toms River South (7-3, 6-2) Last Week: 7

Toms River South continues to live up to the “Hitting Indians” nickname this season, and on the frequent occasion that they have scored, the Indians have been tough to outslug. They have also been very good in close games, with last week’s extra-inning loss to Jackson Memorial the only instance in which the Indians dropped a game that was close in the late innings. The other two losses were by a margin of seven runs each to Toms River North and Red Bank Catholic, so even the losses are befitting of a team in the top 10.

9. Ocean (10-3, 4-3) Last Week: 8

The Spartans sported the Shore’s best pitching staff by ERA coming into the week and that pitching staff held up reasonably well against the top two teams in the B North division – Colts Neck and Red Bank Catholic. The offense has not been as consistent against the better teams on Ocean’s schedule, and the Spartans have even had trouble scoring against Red Bank and Matawan.

10. St. John Vianney (8-2, 5-2) Last Week: 6

The offense cooled down considerably this week and Monmouth University recruit and Shore Regional right-hander James Kelly might have had something to do with that. The Lancers also scored only two runs in an extra-inning game against Middletown North on Saturday, but the important caveat to that statistic is that St. John Vianney won the game 2-1 to advance to the Monmouth County Tournament quarterfinals. With a team of new starters, the first month of the season has gone about as well as one could have expected for the Lancers.

 

Dropped Out

Barnegat (6-4, 6-2) Last Week: 9 – Central had Barnegat’s number last year and that continued this past week when the Golden Eagles handed the Bengals their first divisional loss since opening day.

Donovan Catholic (8-4, 5-2) Last Week: 10 – After allowing 25 runs in their first 10 games, Donovan Catholic gave up 28 in one day. The Griffins dropped a double-header Saturday, including a 12-6 loss to Pinelands and a 16-0 loss to Middletown South.

 

On the Bubble

Manalapan (10-5, 3-5) – The Braves lead the Shore in total runs scored (115) and are just waiting for the pitching to come around some before they take off.

Raritan (8-3, 5-3) – Winners of four straight, Raritan has already swept preseason A Central favorite Manasquan, and that plus a 12-11 win over Monmouth have put the Rockets right in the thick of the divisional race.

Freehold (7-8, 4-5) – Wins over CBA and Marlboro keep the Colonials in the discussion, even if a 7-8 record suggests otherwise.

St. Rose (9-3, 7-1) – With Mater Dei Prep beating Shore, Class B Central now has a nice résumé outside the division. St. Rose has wins over Wall and Manasquan and the only thing holding the Purple Roses up in the rankings is a lopsided loss to Point Beach.

Wall (8-4, 4-3) – The Crimson Knights caught a break by notching a forfeit win over Marlboro and now they are in the mix for a Monmouth County title. A B North title may be too far gone, but Wall is capable of running the table, even against a tough field.