High School Baseball – Shore Conference Top 10, April 30
The first three-plus weeks of the season belonged to the larger schools in the Shore Conference, but this past week, the little guys finally landed a few body blows. Class A North has been the most competitive division all year and not only did Christian Brothers Academy take a major step in making sure the preseason favorite will end up winning the division title, but the teams chasing CBA had rough weeks. Howell lost to a Shore team that had lost 10 straight games, Manalapan lost to Marlboro and won unconvincingly against Barnegat and Red Bank’s junior varsity team, Marlboro needed extra innings to beat Keyport, and Middletown South lost to Wall in a regular-season game.
In Ocean County, Manchester scored some points for Class B South by taking down red-hot Toms River South on Monday, which should benefit Jackson Liberty and Monsignor Donovan when the Ocean County Tournament is seeded on Wednesday. Amidst the madness, St. Rose just keeps winning and it finally paid off for the Roses this week.
While the middle of the top 10 remains a shuffled deck, the top three are as obvious as they have been all season. The three teams we expected to be there at the beginning are still there – albeit in a different order – and that’s been the only predictable part of the season so far.
1. Red Bank Catholic (12-1, 11-0) Last Week: 1
It appears Class A Central all but belongs to the Caseys. RBC already clinched a share of the division title with a win over Raritan on Monday and can lock up the whole thing with one more win or a St. John Vianney loss. RBC’s pitching had cooled off after a fast start, but with strong outings from John Selden, Mike Rescigno and Tom Puza over the last three games, the Caseys have to feel like they have a championship level trio.
2. Jackson Memorial (11-1, 10-0) Last Week: 2
Red Bank Catholic has a week in which it was the comeback kid of the Shore Conference and just as the Jaguars have stayed with the Caseys in the rankings, they also equaled them in drama this last week. Jackson has won four straight games by one run and two of those were walk-off wins in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Jaguars trailed Toms River North 7-3 and rallied for an 8-7 last Wednesday and this past Sunday, they came back from a 3-2 deficit in the sixth to beat Jackson Liberty on a walk-off hit by Spencer Young. Junior Matt Guarino has been in the middle of Jackson’s offense all year and this past week, he drove in the winning runs against Toms River North and the lone run in a 1-0 win over Lacey.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (8-3, 8-2) Last Week: 5
While it may seem as though CBA has assumed control of Class A North thanks to a five-game winning streak, the Colts still only lead Howell by one game in the standings. The Colts have played better than anybody else in the division lately and this week, CBA will have a chance to gain some real distance on the rest of the field with games against Freehold Township and Howell. Meanwhile, senior right-hander John McCarren is on a roll on the mound, having thrown two straight shutouts – including a six-inning no-hitter – to up his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 14.
4. Toms River South (9-4, 7-3) Last Week: 6
Despite losing to Manchester on Monday, the Indians move up two spots to No. 4 this week on the strength of two easy wins in the division and more probably more importantly, a rough week for the public schools in Class A North. Toms River South’s offense has been hot-and-cold so far this year, but the pitching and defense have been reliable. Despite the hiccup against a tough Manchester team, the Indians have the formula to keep racking up wins.
5. Toms River North (8-4, 6-4) Last Week: 7
Senior Ron Marinaccio was on the mound when things came unraveled for the Mariners in a crushing loss to Jackson Memorial on Wednesday in which they took a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Not only did the Mariners bounce back against Toms River East in the next game, but so did Marinaccio. The University of Delaware commit struck out a career-high 14 in a five-hit shutout to get Toms River North back on track in a win over its crosstown rival.
6. Wall (10-2, 7-1) Last Week: 8
The Crimson Knights have a strong case to be the No. 4 team this week after wins over Ocean and Middletown South, but the loss to Toms River North on April 19 keeps them a spot below the Mariners. The good news for Wall is that after falling to Freehold on April 23, the Colonials then did the Crimson Knights a favor by beating Matawan, which means Wall is back in the driver’s seat in the Class B North division title race. Matawan visits Wall on Friday, which could be the Knights’ chance to lock up the division title.
7. St. Rose (11-0, 10-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The Purple Roses are finally in after going nearly an entire month without a loss. The strength of schedule still is not great, but it gets to the point that St. Rose should not be punished for continually winning games, regardless of who those games are against. As the Roses prepare for a potential division-title-clinching game against Point Beach and Monmouth County Tournament game against Manalapan, the Roses have the pitching to put together a good week against a tough schedule. As the tournament time comes around, St. Rose now finally gets to put that talent to the test.
8. Howell (7-4, 7-3) Last Week: 4
The Rebels got a taste of humble pie on Friday night in a 10-5 loss to Shore Regional, which had been on a 10-game losing streak heading into the game. Prior to that loss, this past week was a prosperous one for Howell, which beat both Freehold Township and Colts Neck to sweep the season series against each. Howell may not have fallen so far if not for Middletown South dropping below .500 and some other iffy performances by teams in Class A North later in the week.
9. Colts Neck (7-5, 5-5) Last Week: 9
The Cougars may have missed their shot at sneaking in the back door to win Class A North, but they have played good baseball for the entire year and took care of business against Shore in the Monmouth County Tournament opening round on Saturday. The pitching has not been as good as CBA, Marlboro or Middletown South, nor the offense as good as CBA or Howell, but the Cougars have been pretty steady in scoring and preventing runs and that has them in the mix in the division and also makes them dangerous in the coming weeks.
10. Brick (8-4, 6-4) Last Week: Not ranked
The Green Dragons appeared to be at a crossroads after dropping three out of four games to fall from 4-0 to 5-3, but the pitching has come alive and turned things back around for Brick. Trevor Mastria, Evan Lobato and Brian Henry all contributed with big pitching performances over the past week and the Green Dragons have won three of four, with the lone loss coming to Toms River East in the bottom of the seventh inning. The division title is out of reach, but if the pitching stays hot, Brick will be a tough out in the Ocean County Tournament, which starts this Saturday.
Middletown South (5-6, 5-5) Last Week: 3 – The Eagles still have some quality wins, but there are too many worthy teams to try to squeeze in a sub-.500 team. The pattern has been good-week-bad-week all year, so expect Middletown South to bounce back in the days ahead.
Brick Memorial (6-6, 5-5) Last Week: 10 – The Mustangs have been oh-so-close to taking off on a couple of occasions this season, but just haven’t been able to find their way in close games. Maybe their fortunes will change come tournament time.
On the Bubble
Jackson Liberty (9-4, 8-2) Last Week: Not ranked – The Lions are the next team in, not just because of their own doing, but because Manchester did its division a favor by beating Toms River South.
St. John Vianney (9-3, 7-3) Last Week: Not ranked – The Lancers don’t have any eye-opening wins, but since an ugly loss to Shore in the second game of the season, only No. 1 Red Bank Catholic has been able to beat Vianney.
Monsignor Donovan (11-2, 7-2) Last Week: Not ranked – The Griffins pitching has been its rock and with a win over aforementioned Manchester and one more shot against Jackson Liberty, Monsignor Donovan has to be considered a serious Top 10 candidate.
Marlboro (8-5, 5-5) Last Week: Not ranked – The pitching is undeniably good, but a scare against Keyport has to raise some questions about how long the Mustangs can stick around in the tournaments, even with a great staff.