High School Baseball: Shore Conference Top 10, May 21
The new week welcomes a reshuffling of the top 10 deck, although no new cards will be introduced this week. Not only are the 10 teams from last week back for an encore, but it is hard to find many teams close to making an appearance next week.
On the other hand, the NJSIAA Tournament has been a proving ground for teams in recent years, most recently Freehold and Manalapan last year. Both of those teams were eliminated on Monday, so if there is to be a team that makes an unexpected run, it will not be one of the usual suspects. That means that, for now, the top 10 has a very familiar look.
1. Red Bank Catholic (24-2, 14-0) Last Week: 2
RBC returns to the No. 1 spot in the wake of Jackson Memorial’s first two losses since early April and just as the Caseys themselves are starting to get hot with the bats. After a loss to Red Bank on April 8, RBC scored at least nine runs in its next four games and even when the streak ended Saturday against Manalapan in the SCT round of the 16, the Caseys were able to pull out a 4-1 win. The competition continues to ratchet up this week with Wall in the Monmouth County Tournament final on Tuesday, Jackson Liberty in the SCT quarterfinal on Wednesday and Paul VI in the NJSIAA Non-Public A first round on Friday.
2. Jackson Memorial (21-3, 14-0) Last Week: 1
The Jaguars still might have the superior resume to RBC, but Jackson Memorial became the first of the two teams to lose a tournament game. The Jaguars began a week of redemption this week by taking out Manalapan in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV first round Monday after the Braves had eliminated the Jaguars in each of the past two seasons on the way to back-to-back Group IV championships. The redemption tour continues against Howell in the SCT quarterfinal on Wednesday and against perennial Group IV contender Steinert Friday in the sectional quarterfinal.
3. Toms River North (16-5, 8-5) Last Week: 5
The Mariners became the first Shore Conference team to knock off Jackson Memorial and they did it behind a pitching staff that is better than any at the Shore right now. A sore elbow forced senior Ron Marinaccio from that game after 68 pitches in five innings, but even if he is limited over the next two weeks, Toms River North still has enough with senior Karl Blum, junior Steve Slagmolen and sophomore Brett Hyers to keep chasing championships.
4. Wall (19-3, 10-2) Last Week: 6
The Crimson Knights continue to rise to the occasion in big games, with the latest example coming Friday in an extra-inning, 7-5 win over CBA in the Monmouth County Tournament semifinal. The Crimson Knights will be tested with a double-header on Tuesday, followed by a rematch with the Colts on Wednesday in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal. Wall will host Middletown North and its ace, Maine-bound right-hander Chris Stark, then travel to Lakewood to face Red Bank Catholic in the MCT final later in the night.
5. Christian Brothers Academy (17-4, 12-2) Last Week: 3
The Colts’ 13-game winning streak came to an end against Wall Friday in an extra-inning loss in the MCT semifinal. The good news for CBA is that Chase Stopyra has filled in quite nicely in the rotation with ace John McCarren (ankle) on the shelf for the rest of the season. Stopyra threw 13 shutout innings last week in beating both Marlboro and Brick and could now factor into the Colts rotation the rest of the way, even with CBA out of the MCT picture this week. The Colts will have a chance at revenge against Wall on Wednesday and will host Camden Catholic in the Non-Public South A first round on Friday.
6. Toms River South (18-7, 9-5) Last Week: 4
The Indians announced their candidacy for an NJSIAA sectional championship by knocking off South Jersey Group IV No. 3 seed Washington Township, which was the top-ranked team in South Jersey going into the week. The whispers about Toms River South prior to the season involved the words “rebuilding” and “down year” but neither of those have come to pass as the Indians are just two wins away from delivering coach Ken Frank another 20-win season.
7. Toms River East (12-9, 8-6) Last Week: 8
The Raiders season ended in heart-breaking fashion Monday in an 11-inning, 3-2 loss to Cherry Hill West in the Central Jersey Group IV first round. That followed up a 5-1 loss to Central Regional and right-handed ace Andrew DiPiazza in the SCT first round, a tough break considering we had the Raiders as a surefire top 10 seed and they ended up with a No. 12 and a match-up against the Shore’s most dominant pitcher this season. In the end, the resume is still very good and the Raiders will most likely hold onto their top 10 spot when all is said and done.
8. Jackson Liberty (16-7, 12-2) Last Week: 10
Prior to this past week, the Lions’ season had been marked by bad luck in non-divisional games against top opponents. That tide began to turn Saturday when James Sofield blasted a sixth-inning home run in support of pitcher Dan Serreino as Jackson Liberty beat St. Rose 1-0 to earn a shot at RBC on Wednesday. The Lions will also have a good shot to make a run in Central Jersey Group III as the No. 5 seed, so this week could be a season-defining one for Jackson Liberty.
9. Middletown South (13-10, 9-5) Last Week: 7
The overall resume of Middletown South might be a tad better than that of Jackson Liberty, but the Lions just beat Manalapan, which swept the regular season series from the Eagles. As far as recent play goes, it has been a mixed bag for Middletown South. The Eagles fell to struggling Howell in the SCT round of 16, but bounced back to beat defending Central Jersey Group III champion Freehold in extra innings Monday in the CJ III first round. The state tournament now has Middletown South’s full attention as the Eagles go for their second sectional championship in three years.
10. St. Rose (18-4, 14-0) Last Week: 9
The next couple weeks could be very interesting in the No. 10 spot because if any team outside the top 10 makes a run in the state tournament, it will be trying to unseat a St. Rose team that looks primed to make a run at a Non-Public B title. The record against top teams in the Shore does leave something to be desired, but the Roses have been in every game and 20 wins looks like a sure bet.
On the Bubble
Howell (12-10, 9-5) – The Rebels will have one last shot at a top 10 spot when they travel to Jackson Memorial Wednesday in the SCT quarterfinal.
St. John Vianney (14-8, 9-5) – The Lancers will have to win some games in the loaded South Jersey, Non-Public A bracket, but doing so would make them top 10 worthy.
Monmouth (13-9, 8-6), Brick (12-10, 7-7), Marlboro (11-11, 6-8), Brick Memorial (12-12, 6-7), Central (12-9, 8-6) – These five teams appear to be the candidates to make a surprise state tournament run and a major reason is that each has quality pitching at the top of the rotation.