High School Baseball: Shore Conference Top 10, April 9
A little more than a week has passed in the 2013 Shore Conference baseball season and already, we have all been reminded that baseball is a funny game.
Take Class A North, for instance: The Shore Conference's deepest division does not have a team with a record better than 2-1, nor does it have one with a record worse than 1-2. Christian Brothers Academy entered the season as the preseason No. 1 team and already, the Colts find themselves in a battle just to keep up in the division.
Class A South has been similarly crazy, although our preseason pick – Jackson Memorial – is off to a 3-0 start. With so many good teams in each of those divisions, the top 10 is likely to feature a heavy dose of teams from both A North and A South. The result of the madness is five new teams in the top 10 with eight of the 10 teams coming from the two big-school divisions.
1. Red Bank Catholic (3-1, 3-0) Last Week: 2
The good news for Red Bank Catholic in its 3-0 loss to Randolph on Saturday is that the Caseys put runners on base and got a good pitching performance from Shane Drumm in his first varsity start. The Caseys have had a little bit of trouble with runners in scoring position in their last two games, but the pitching has been good and the offense is still pretty loaded. With CBA slipping up against division rival Middletown South, the Caseys take over the top spot heading into Saturday’s showdown vs. the Colts.
2. Jackson Memorial (3-0, 3-0) Last Week: 3
The Jaguars are off to another fast start in 2013 and they have done it by overcoming a few slow starts with the bats. Of the 24 runs Jackson Memorial has scored through three games, 17 of them have come in the sixth inning or later. It took an eight-run eighth inning for the Jaguars to pull away for an extra-inning win over Brick Memorial on opening day and five unearned runs in the top of the seventh buried Toms River North two days later. The best development for the Jags so far has been the strong pitching, which appears to be reloaded as Jackson Memorial replaces its top two starters from a year ago.
3. Middletown South (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: Unranked
No team in Class A North has a record better than 2-1 and none has a record worse than 1-2, a surprise to no one who plays in, coaches in, or just watches the division on a regular basis. The Eagles move into the top spot with wins over CBA and Middletown North and a one-run loss to Manalapan. The pitching has been as good as usual for the Eagles, but the offense is still a work in progress. In each of Middletown South’s two wins, it took defensive mishaps by the opposing team to rally for wins. Still, when a team does not make mistakes and the opponent does, that means the team in question is the better team. Right now, Middletown South looks sharp.
4. Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: 1
The Colts showed off their loaded pitching staff this week, which includes freshman and hard-luck loser against Middletown South, Luca Dalatri, to go with three high Division I recruits. John McCarren, Joe Dudek and Matt Pidich all shined in their respective season debuts, with Pidich earning a no-decision after five shutout innings against Middletown South. CBA’s offense appears poised for a big season as well, so as long as the Colts clean up the mistakes in the field, they are still in line for a big year despite the hiccup on Friday.
5. Wall (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: Unranked
No team has been more dominant out of the gate than the Crimson Knights, outscoring their opponents – two of which were preseason top 10 teams in Freehold (No. 9) and Brick Memorial (No. 10) – 31-3. The lineup has been on fire from top-to-bottom and all three of its starters have been both effective and efficient. Jake Malone, Tyler Swiggart and Steve Coltrain each allowed one run in their starts, although none needed to be all that sharp with the hitters providing so much offense.
6. Brick (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: Unranked
The Green Dragons flew under the radar somewhat coming into the season, but a walk-off win over Toms River East and a win over a quality Mater Dei Prep club vaults Brick into the top 10. Senior Tyler Wicker has been the hero on offense, knocking in three runs in the opening day win over Southern, driving in the game-winning run with a single in the victory over Toms River East and going 2-for-3 in the win over Mater Dei.
7. Toms River East (3-1, 3-1) Last Week: Unranked
Outside of a walk-off loss to Brick, the Raiders have been untouchable to begin the season. They have already defeated the two other Toms River public schools, which includes a win over Toms River North right-hander and Duke University recruit Karl Blum. In a 14-6 win over Southern Friday, senior Christian Danyo set a school record by belting three home runs, while sophomore Jon Meola supplied the power with a two-run jack off Blum in the 2-1 win over the Mariners. Jackson Memorial will be a stiff challenge on Wednesday, but it appears Toms River East is once again a contender in Class A South.
8. Marlboro (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: Unranked
The Mustangs have quietly been one of the most consistent programs in the Shore Conference over the last few seasons and they have done it on the back of their pitching staff. Through four games this season, opponents are scoring only two runs per game against Marlboro and the four runs Manalapan scored in an extra-inning loss to the Mustangs was the only time Marlboro has allowed more than two runs in any game. With a deep pitching staff and a good defense, Marlboro is going to have a chance to win three or four games every week.
9. Toms River North (2-2, 1-2) Last Week: 4
The Mariners stay in the top 10 thanks to a seven-run seventh inning on Friday that turned a 4-3 deficit into a 10-4 win over Jackson Liberty. Losses to Jackson Memorial and Toms River East knock the Mariners down five spots from their No. 4 perch to start the season, but Toms River North has been a slow-starting team lately. Its defense abandoned it against Jackson Memorial and one swing of the bat by Jon Meola was the difference against Toms River East. Once the lineup starts swinging the bats, the Mariners will start to live up to the hype.
10. Jackson Liberty (3-1, 3-0) Last Week: 8
While Toms River North’s big seventh inning on Friday kept the Mariners in the top 10, that inning prevented the Lions from jumping into the top five. Jackson Liberty’s pitching has been its strong suit this season, but one bad inning against Toms River North is the only blemish to this point. With three wins in three games against Class B South competition, Jackson Liberty appears poised to roll to its second division title.
Colts Neck (1-2, 1-2) Last Week: 5 – Pitching is still a little bit of a concern, but Mike Pepio’s gem against Marlboro was a bright spot for the Cougars in a 1-2 week.
Manalapan (1-2, 1-2) Last Week: 6 – The Braves have played three one-run games so far this season and if not for a sub-.500 record, they would be comfortably in the top 10. One would expect them to be back in sooner rather than later.
Toms River South (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 7 – The Indians’ rally against Toms River East fell short on opening day, but it ignited a three-game winning streak in which Toms River South has won every game by one run. None of those wins, however, was against a top 10 team, so the Indians slip behind Toms River East and Brick in the pecking order.
Brick Memorial (1-2, 1-1) Last Week: 10 – There is no shame in losing to Wall or Jackson Memorial, but the 22 runs the Mustangs allowed in those two games has to be a little disconcerting.
Freehold (2-2, 1-2) Last Week: 9 – The Colonials are behind the eight-ball in B North with losses to Wall and Matawan and based on the first four games of the season, it appears that senior center fielder Jason Lundy is not going to see many pitches to hit this season.
On the Bubble
Howell (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: Unranked – The Rebels bounced back from a 10-1 loss to Marlboro on opening day by scoring 26 runs in their next two games, wins over Freehold Township and Colts Neck.
Freehold Township (2-2, 1-2) Last Week: Unranked – An extra-inning win over Manalapan gets the Patriots mentioned, but they needed nine innings to beat Manchester and dropped games to Howell and Middletown North, which were the bottom two teams in the division last year.
St. Rose (3-0, 3-0) Last Week Unranked – As always, St. Rose needs to keep racking up the wins in Class B Central to earn their way into the top 10 and on that front, so far so good.
Monmouth (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: Unranked – After getting rolled over by RBC to open the season, Monmouth has bounced back nicely with three straight wins thanks to the return of catcher Rich Burner from a concussion.