Baseball – Top 10, May 23
Although the Top 10 picture comes into sharper focus with each passing week, the next two weeks is when teams will cement their final spots. Class A North has been prominent in the Top 10 all year long and Freehold Borough’s win over Toms River North on Saturday only solidified the division’s stronghold on the rankings.
That doesn’t mean the rest of the divisions are hurting for representation. Point Boro is still strongly in the mix after rallying to beat Ocean, while Colts Neck has surged into the picture to join Red Bank Catholic from B North. Toms River North and Toms River South, meanwhile, continue to jockey for top-five positioning and it is now the Indians who are in position to climb now that newly-crowned OCT Toms River North is out of the SCT.
With only three weeks left to go, the No. 1 spot is still up for grabs, but the team that has held the spot all year remains on top, at least for now.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (18-7, 9-5) Last Week: 1
It’s hard to dispute the notion that CBA is the best team in the conference when Luca Dalatri is on the mound and with the way the Colts ace has pitched this year, they could very well be the most formidable team in the state. Although CBA is far more vulnerable when Dalatri does not pitch, the Colts still defend well and they have enough to threaten in both the SCT and NJSIAA Non-Public A Tournament.
2. Middletown South (20-4, 11-3) Last Week: 2
No team in the Shore Conference is better suited to handle three games in one week than this Eagles team. Other than a lack of a dominant starting pitcher, there is no flaw on this Middletown South team and what the Eagles lack in a high Division I arm they make up for with six quality pitchers who can get big outs. For one game, CBA with Luca Dalatri pitching is the best team in the Shore Conference. Over the course of a three-game or four-game week, it is Middletown South.
3. Toms River North (16-7, 9-5) Last Week: 3
Although the Mariners slipped up in the SCT Saturday, they remain the No. 3 seed based on an OCT championship win over Toms River South and a 14-2 win over an RBC team that looks to be among the next in line.
4. Toms River South (19-7, 10-4) Last Week: 6
The Indians make the jump to No. 4 thanks to an outright A South title that was not clinched at the time of the last ranking, as well as RBC’s recent mini-slump. Toms River South played three competitive games against Toms River North and the Indians’ pitching has emerged as one of the better rotations in the Shore Conference now that Trevor Wagner and Justin Fall are both clicking.
5. Red Bank Catholic (20-5, 13-1) Last Week: 4
Although RBC has hit an offensive slump over the last two weeks, it’s worth noting that in that time, the Caseys have faced the top three teams in these rankings. Losing all three means RBC is not a top-three team, but it also gives the Caseys a very firm grasp of a top-five ranking based on strength of schedule. RBC can make a statement on Wednesday against Point Boro in the SCT, which could well earn the Caseys another shot at CBA should the Colts survive Middletown North.
6. Point Pleasant Boro (20-3, 14-0) Last Week: 5
A loss to Shore on Sunday doesn’t hurt too much in the rankings because the Panthers are coming off a thrilling nine-inning win over Ocean in the SCT round of 16 on Friday. The one-spot drop in the rankings is more due to Toms River South’s improving profile than anything Point Boro did wrong. The Panthers’ schedule takes a sharp incline this week with a game at RBC on Wednesday and a likely showdown against Tommy Sheehan and Manasquan on Thursday if the seeds hold true in the Central Jersey Group II bracket.
7. Middletown North (14-9, 8-6) Last Week: 9
The Lions caught a bit of a break when Barnegat lost in the first round of the SCT because it meant they did not have to go through Jason Groome to reach the tournament quarterfinals. Then again, Tyler Ras threw the ball well enough Saturday to shut out a lot of teams, so it’s possible it wouldn’t have mattered. The Lions could see Luca Dalatri on three days rest on Wednesday against CBA, but they are adequately tested to keep advancing in both the SCT and the Central Jersey IV tournaments.
8. Freehold Boro (13-10, 6-8) Last Week: Not ranked
Just like last year, the Colonials have the look of a postseason-ready team and will look to keep that going this week against South Brunswick Monday and Toms River South in the SCT on Wednesday. Dan Chiusano has emerged as the hot hand on the mound after throwing a perfect game on Wednesday against Tommy Sheehan and Manasquan.
9. Colts Neck (15-6, 11-3) Last Week: 10
The Cougars have put together a 10-1 stretch over their past 11 games, with the only loss coming to Freehold Township in a 10-inning game in the Monmouth County Tournament. Colts Neck knocked off Red Bank Catholic during the run and just beat Marlboro in the SCT round of 16 on Friday. Mike D’Ottavio and Mario Ferraioli continue to carry the Cougars on the mound and Dillon Pellechia has been a solid addition to the rotation as well.
10. Marlboro (12-9, 8-6) Last Week: 7
The Mustangs hold on to a top-10 spot as a top-half team from Class A North that also has wins over No. 1 and 2 in the rankings – the only team in the Shore Conference that can claim as much.
Brick (14-10, 6-8) Last Week: 8 – The Green Dragons again hit the Toms River South wall Saturday, losing to the Indians for the fourth time this season and second time in eight days in a tournament setting.
Next in Line
Ocean (18-8, 10-4) – The Spartans will try to recover from a heartbreaking loss to Point Boro and make the most out of a No. 4 seed in Central Jersey Group III.
Howell (11-11, 6-8) – With wins over CBA and Delbarton, Howell is still a dangerous team, although the Rebels were no match for Middletown South on Friday in an 11-1 loss in five innings.
St. Rose (19-5, 13-1) – The Purple Rose have held their own against teams outside of B Central this season (6-4) and are coming off a tough SCT first-round loss to Manalapan.
Brick Memorial (15-10, 9-5) – The Mustangs beat both Toms River North and Manalapan since the last rankings came out and got a boost with the return of James Donlon to the lineup.
Jackson Liberty (11-10, 7-7) – With four freshmen in the starting lineup, the Lions are beginning to round into form at the right time despite being one of the youngest teams you’ll find.
Manalapan (12-14, 6-8) – The Braves are two games under .500, yet have comfortably outscored their opponents this year. Close losses have bit Manalapan and if some luck goes their way over the next couple of week, the Braves are capable of a Central Jersey Group IV run.