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Jackson Memorial put its first tournament title of the season in its resume with a comeback win over Barnegat in the Ocean County Tournament final, while Jackson Liberty lacrosse made history with its first NJSIAA Tournament victory to highlight Thursday's action.

Also, the official state tournament brackets for baseball were released, with Colts Neck in Central Jersey Group IV being the lone Shore Conference squad to earn a No. 1 seed.


Jackson Memorial took home its first OCT crown since 2012 and its third in history with an 8-6 comeback win over Barnegat last night at Toms River East. The Jaguars now have a chance to be the rare team to win four tournament titles if they can repeat as Central Jersey Group IV and overall Group IV champs in addition to making a run in the Shore Conference Tournament.

Photo by Matt Manley

Jackson Memorial is a relentless team, and it came back from three different deficits in the game before finally taking the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ace Brandon Janofsky then came on in relief of Matt Castronuova and slammed the door with a 1-2-3 seventh. Castronuova, a football standout headed to Monmouth University, then body-blocked Janofsky to the ground to start the celebration.

We take it for granted now, but the rise of Jackson's program under head coach Frank Malta has been remarkable. They have become a steady producer of Division I talent, and you can pencil them in for a division or tournament title, or both, just about every year.

As for Barnegat, it was another frustrating night for a program that has become a regular postseason contender. The Bengals were undone by a defense that committed five errors, including three in the decisive bottom of the sixth. The good news is that they scored six runs after having been shut out in three tournament finals last year. They showed the ability to close in the division race this year with a pair of wins over Jackson Liberty that gave them the outright Class B South crown, but are still looking to get over the hump to win their first tournament title in program history. Their last shot is coming up next week in a very tough South Jersey Group II bracket.

As for the playoff brackets, here is my quick take on everything involving the Shore teams. It's going to be hard to duplicate last year's run, when a Shore Conference-record three teams won NJSIAA Group titles, including St. John Vianney taking the Non-Public A crown and finishing No. 1 in the state. Shore Regional looks to defend its Group I crown, while Jackson Memorial is the defending Group IV champ.

Central Jersey Group IV will be an all-out rumble. Jackson Memorial is the defending champion, while Colts Neck is the No. 1 seed and No. 6 Manalapan and No. 7 Marlboro are also contenders. Freehold Township has upset potential as the No. 15 seed against No. 2 Hunterdon Central, a top 15 team in the state, and same goes for Brick Memorial, which faces Jackson for the third time this season in the first round. Howell will also look to surprise as the No. 12 seed, and could see Jackson, which it plays on Saturday in the SCT Round of 16, for potentially a third time this season in the CJ IV quarterfinals.

Mario Ferraioli and Colts Neck enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Colts Neck could also potentially have a very tough game on its hands in the quarterfinals if it runs into No. 9 Old Bridge and Zach Attianese is on the mound. The junior lefty was the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year last year and has committed to North Carolina.

In Central Jersey Group III, the Shore is the underdog because No. 1 Northern Burlington and No. 2 Steinert are two of the top 15 teams in the state. The Jackson Liberty-Ocean winner will get first crack at Northern Burlington barring a monumental first-round upset, while Wall is on Steinert's side of the bracket as the 6 seed. Middletown South and Middletown North meet for the third time this season in the first round, with South being the favorite. The Eagles have the pitching to make a run in this section and are on Northern Burlington's side of the bracket.

Central Jersey Group II has been a fairly wide-open bracket in recent seasons, and looks that way again this year. There is no overwhelming favorite. It's almost unfortunate that Manasquan and Monmouth play each other in the first round, because both are capable of making a run. The winner of that game may be the Shore's best bet in the bracket, with No. 9 Manchester, No. 10 Raritan, No. 14 Matawan and No. 16 Point Boro all entering as underdogs.

Shore Regional is the No. 6 seed as the defending champion in Central Jersey Group I, and the Blue Devils certainly have a good shot to repeat, especially if they can line it up so that James Kelly is on the mound in the championship game. Third-seeded Point Beach is another team that has made runs in this bracket before, and they could play Shore in the quarterfinals.

In South Jersey Group IV, Toms River North is a formidable team at No. 2, but the Mariners are going to have their work cut out for them in what is usually one of the toughest public brackets in the state. Top-seeded Eastern, which plays Brick in the first round, is a top 10 team in New Jersey, so the Vikings are the primary obstacle, but Williamstown and Cherry Hill West are two teams on Toms River North's side of the bracket that also look to be tough outs. Toms River East will travel to Williamstown in the first round looking to spring the upset.

Toms River North and Joey Rose will look to make a run in South Jersey Group IV as the No. 2 seed. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The Shore's best bet in South Jersey Group III is third-seeded Toms River South. The winner of a potential Highland-Mainland quarterfinal could be the Indians' biggest obstacle to the final, where top-seeded Ocean City is a good bet to be waiting. Central will try to make an underdog run as the No. 12 seed.

Barnegat is a returning finalist in South Jersey Group II, where Buena is the defending champ. Returning to the final means the Bengals will most likely have to go through top-seeded Haddonfield in the semifinals, with Buena potentially making a run on the other side of the bracket behind ace Denny Brady.

Once again, Non-Public South A is one of the toughest gauntlets in the state, which St. John Vianney navigated successfully last year in stunning favorite Gloucester Catholic. Gloucester is the favorite this year as the No. 2 seed and a top-five team in the state, with fifth-seeded St. Augustine, which hosts Donovan Catholic in the first round, also a threat. Top-seeded St. Joseph's-Metuchen is also a battle-tested squad, but not quite on the level of those other two.

Red Bank Catholic, which has had plenty of success in the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournaments in recent years, will look to get over the hump as the No. 3 seed after several early exits. Christian Brothers Academy, the No. 4 seed, could see St. Augustine in the quarterfinals. Last year the Colts decided to successfully chase the SCT title with ace Luca Dalatri while falling to St. John Vianney in the state tournament, but if they decide to go after this bracket by lining up Dalatri, they will be especially tough.

The defending champion Lancers could have a great showdown against No. 3 RBC in the quarterfinals if both teams advance, but St. John Vianney has a formidable challenge in the first round on the road against one of South Jersey's best teams in Bishop Eustace. However, the Lancers routed Bishop Eustace 10-0 last year, so they know how to get it done against that program. Winning this bracket puts that team in line to make a run at No. 1 in the state because waiting in the Non-Public A final will probably be a top-five team in the state like Don Bosco Prep, St. Peter's Prep, or Seton Hall Prep after the smoke clears in North Jersey.

In Non-Public South B, No. 2 St. Rose and No. 5 Mater Dei Prep are the Shore's best chances in a wide-open bracket. Mater Dei Prep won the Class B Central title by beating St. Rose in their most recent meeting, but they wouldn't meet in this bracket until the championship game, which is certainly possible.


Lacey and Jackson Liberty were the lone Shore Conference teams to advance in the NJSIAA Tournament from Thursday's action, with Jackson Liberty making history with its first state tournament victory.

The Lions beat Absegami 14-5 in South Jersey Group III for their historic win thanks to a game-high four goals by senior Mike Roche and three goals apiece from juniors Matt Ferullo and Tyler Kalmowitz. Junior goalie Chris Mulholland had 10 saves and junior Chris Stefanowicz had 12 ground balls to lead the defensive effort. Next up is most likely a trip next week to top-seeded Shawnee, which plays its first-round game on Saturday.

Another group of Lions, Lacey, won the lone all-Shore match-up of the day by beating Colts Neck 8-5 in South Jersey Group III. Lucas Sirotniak had a hat trick to lead the way and sophomore Connor Wilson had a strong all-around game. Lacey will play the winner of today's game between favorite Clearview and 14th-seeded Mainland in the quarterfinals next week.

More on Friday: 

On tap for this weekend: The bulk of the SCT baseball Round of 16 is tomorrow, but there is one game today as 15th-seeded Manasquan heads to No. 2 Toms River North.

In lacrosse, the NJSIAA Tournament rolls on with eight teams involved in first-round action today. There are two all-Shore match-ups as No. 16 Marlboro heads to undefeated Southern in South Jersey Group IV, and Class B North rivals Red Bank and Ocean face off on the turf in Ocean in South Jersey Group II.

I'll end with Kyle Lona's double off the top of the fence for Jackson Memorial last night, and then the Padres groundskeeper from last night to get your weekend started.