Shore Baseball: Division Titles Decided, County Tournaments Heating Up
All six Shore Conference divisions crowned champions last week and the Ocean County Tournament whittled down the field to the final four teams as the postseason starts to heat up.
Red Bank Catholic, Jackson Memorial, Wall and St. Rose all locked down outright division crowns, while Christian Brothers Academy and Jackson Liberty clinched no worse than a tie for championships and can clinch outright titles this week.
Five of those six teams were favorites in the preseason to grab division titles, so Wall’s championship may have been the most impressive given that seven of the Crimson Knights’ eight starting position players graduated along with their top two pitchers. A reloaded team that only features one senior regularly in the lineup, pitcher Luke Malone, beat Matawan 5-3 on Friday to clinch the Class B North crown for the program’s fourth straight division title and the 10th in 16 seasons under coach Todd Schmitt.
“No one thought we were going to win the division but us,'' said Malone, who threw a complete game in the clinching win over Matawan. "This isn't a surprise. We knew we were going to do it.''
It was no surprise when the Shore Conference’s top three teams – RBC, Jackson Memorial and CBA – took care of business. RBC and Jackson Memorial have not lost to a Shore Conference opponent all season. The Caseys beat Shore 6-2 on Wednesday thanks to a 74-pitch complete game by John Selden to win Class A Central for their fifth straight division title.
The Caseys finished the week with their 12th straight win to hand the Shore Conference’s last undefeated team its first loss. Senior ace Mike Rescigno threw a two-hit shutout and second baseman Brendan Madigan ripped a clutch two-out, two-run double in the top of the seventh inning to beat St. Rose 2-0 in a nondivisional game. Earlier in the week, St. Rose clinched the Class B Central championship thanks to a brilliant performance by Jimmy Gowen in an 8-1 win over Point Beach. Gowen threw a four-hitter, striking out six, and Conor Gammond and Brad Currao back him up by each hitting home runs in the first inning.
Jackson Memorial clinched Class A South thanks to a bases-loaded RBI single by Joe DeMaio in the bottom of the seventh inning that hit the field umpire, bringing home Matt Guarino for a 4-3 win over Toms River East and the Jaguars’ third straight division title. That was the second walk-off win of the week in a season full of them for Jackson Memorial. The Jaguars continued their mastery of rival Jackson Liberty with a 4-3 win on April 28 on a game-winning RBI single by senior shortstop Spencer Young in the bottom of the seventh at FirstEnergy Park.
The Jaguars then went right from clinching a division title into defending their Ocean County Tournament championship as they advanced to the semifinals with wins over Lacey and Toms River East over the weekend. Young led the way in the quarterfinal win over Toms River East by going 2-for-3 with four RBI, including his first varsity home run, and senior Anthony Rocco improved to 5-0 on the mound. Jackson Memorial will host fifth-seeded Toms River South in the semifinals on Saturday as it tries to win back-to-back OCT titles for the first time in its history.
CBA has ripped off eight straight wins since starting the season 3-3 and emphatically clinched at least a tie for the Class A North title with an 11-0 rout of Howell keyed by four shutout innings from freshman star Luca Dalatri. The Colts capped the week by beating Freehold Township 8-3 to advance to the Monmouth County Tournament quarterfinals, where they will host the Howell-Long Branch winner. Chris Cordova, Will Morgan, Mike Caputo and Ryan Ramiz each had two hits and Anthony Critelli blasted a two-run homer in the win over the Patriots.
Jackson Liberty grabbed a share of its second division title in its short history by rolling to an 11-0 win over Monsignor Donovan on Thursday for a share of the Class B South crown. Junior Dan Serreino led the way with four scoreless innings on the mound and three hits at the plate. The Lions then went on to advance to the OCT quarterfinals before dropping a 1-0 heart-breaker to Toms River South on Sunday.
Monsignor Donovan shook off the loss to Jackson Liberty to make an underdog run to the OCT quarterfinals as the No. 6 seed. The Griffins continued their best season in recent memory to upset No. 3 Brick as their pitching staff continued its stellar spring. Senior Rich Power threw an eight-inning complete game as Monsignor Donovan rallied for a 2-0 win. Power allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked two, and the Griffins scored both runs on an infield error to deal a hard-luck loss to Brick’s Trevor Mastria, who threw all eight innings and did not allow an earned run while striking out eight, walking three and allowing seven hits.
The Griffins will travel to Toms River North for the OCT semifinals as senior Ron Marinaccio continues to dominate for the Mariners. The Delaware recruit threw a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over Brick Memorial in the OCT quarterfinals, striking out eight, to continue a strong season on the mound. Pitching was also the name of the game across town for Toms River South, which beat Jackson Liberty 1-0 to set up a third meeting of the season with Jackson Memorial. Casey Cranmer threw six shutout innings of relief to get the win, and Dylan DiPolvere hit an RBI single in the fourth inning for the game’s lone run.
In the Monmouth County Tournament, CBA and St. John Vianney advanced to the quarterfinals with wins on Saturday. The Lancers beat Ocean 5-1 thanks to five scoreless innings by sophomore Dan Schirmacher and a 3-for-3 day by junior catcher Anthony Santoro. They will play the winner of Monday’s St. Rose-Manalapan contest in a quarterfinal game that has to be played by Saturday.
In the coaching milestone department, Manchester’s John Musolf picked up his 200th career victory on Monday with a 5-1 upset win over Toms River South. Junior Devon Tomei threw a complete-game four-hitter and also went 3-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored to power the win. The next milestone coming up is Toms River East head coach Bill Frank, the third all-time winningest coach in Shore Conference history, who is two wins away from 500 heading into this week.
Perhaps the game of the week was a pitching duel between Brick Memorial’s Brian Cottrell and Central’s Andrew DiPiazza. Both pitchers received a no-decision in an eventual 4-3 win in 10 innings by the Mustangs. Cottrell allowed one earned run in 9 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits, striking out seven and walking four while throwing 128 pitches. He also scored the game-winning run to cap a two-run rally in the bottom of the 10th on an RBI single by Joe Pipher. DiPiazza allowed two unearned runs in eight innings, striking out 11 and walking four while throwing 135 pitches.
Individually, it was a big week at the plate for Holmdel first baseman Joe Sadler, who helped the Hornets to a 3-0 week. He had two doubles and three RBI in a 12-3 win over Rumson-Fair Haven, followed that by going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in a 13-10 win over Manasquan, and then went 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored in an 11-9 upset of St. John Vianney. Through May 1, Sadler was leading the Shore Conference in hits (27) and doubles (10), was in the top 10 in average at .540, tied for third in RBI (17), tied for sixth in runs scored (15), and his home run against St. John Vianney tied him with Toms River South’s Russell Messler for the Shore Conference lead with five.
It was also a good week for Point Boro senior Kurt Van Benschoten, who helped the Panthers build momentum with the postseason approaching. Van Benschoten was 3-for-5 with a double and four RBI in a 13-1 win over a Manchester team that had been playing well, and then went 3-for-4 with two doubles in a 9-8 win over Barnegat. He finished the week by going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in a 4-1 win over Central up at SUNY-Oneonta in New York after the Panthers took a trip to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. On Sunday, Van Benschoten, who played linebacker for the Panthers in the fall, was honored by the Shore Football Coaches Foundation as an Academic All-Shore selection.
As for this week, the OCT semifinals and MCT quarterfinals are expected to wrap up by Saturday, and the cutoff for the NJSIAA playoffs is Friday. Teams with a .500 record through their first 15 games automatically qualify for the postseason, and sub-.500 teams can still qualify based on power points if the 16-team bracket is not filled. You can see the latest power points here.
Saturday also marks the annual Titan 5K in Keansburg. A charity event run by the Keansburg baseball team and head coach Brian Kmak, the race goes to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured military members. Registration information can be found here.