The Shore Daily, 5/26/15
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I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend as we get ready to hit the home stretch of the 2014-15 scholastic sports season.
Eleven Shore Conference baseball teams will try to keep their state title dreams alive today, including seven public teams looking to advance to Friday's sectional championship games. The biggest underdogs are a pair of No. 14 seeds that have had the magic so far in the postseason. Freehold Boro heads north to face No. 2 Hunterdon Central, a perennial playoff contender, in Central Jersey Group IV, while Matawan travels to No. 2 Governor Livingston, another annual playoff threat, in Central Jersey Group II, with lucky cantaloupe "Dieter Johnson" surely making the ride with the Huskies.
Middletown South also has a tough obstacle on the road in top-seeded and state-ranked Northern Burlington in Central Jersey Group III. However, the Eagles are a battle-tested team with multiple pitchers they can throw at you, so they certainly have a good shot to pull the upset after Ocean nearly beat the Greyhounds in the previous round in a 2-1 loss.
Toms River South, no stranger to postseason success, will also be looking to advance to a sectional final when it travels to second-seeded Mainland, the No. 16 team in the state, in South Jersey Group III. Senior Ray Ligouri has been an all-around contributor to help lead the way, and outfielder Jake Ryan also has been clutch for the Indians.
Three other public teams will be on their home fields. Defending Group IV champion Jackson Memorial welcomes Old Bridge after an exhilarating comeback from a six-run deficit to beat Hillsborough in extra innings in the quarterfinals for coach Frank Malta's 300th career win. Today looks to be an even tougher test as Old Bridge is expected to start junior lefty Zach Attianese, one of the top pitchers in the Northeast. The North Carolina recruit was the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year last season.
Shore Regional has bludgeoned its first two playoff opponents by the 10-run rule, and the defending Group I champions are the favorite again to advance when they welcome seventh-seeded Florence today in Central Jersey Group I. They have developed some pitching depth behind ace James Kelly in the course of the season, while the offense has gotten contributions from throughout the lineup during the postseason.
Toms River North should have a battle on its hands against visiting Williamstown, the No. 3 seed and No. 19 in the state, in South Jersey Group IV. Williamstown is considered a top 10 team in South Jersey and beat a solid Cherry Hill West team in the last round. Tyler Apt, Williamstown's top pitcher, threw five innings in their previous game, so it's set up for the Mariners to get another step closer to a title.
In the non-public brackets, Christian Brothers Academy and Red Bank Catholic both have tough tests at home in Non-Public South A, while Mater Dei Prep faces a quality opponent on the road at Marist and St. Rose enters as the favorite at home against Holy Spirit in Non-Public South B.
CBA faces St. Augustine in a quarterfinal match-up of two of the Top 20 teams in the state. The Colts also have the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals tomorrow, so it remains to be seen if they go with ace Luca Dalatri today or tomorrow, although it will most likely be today. RBC will look to open some eyes around the state when it welcomes the No. 2 team in the state, Bishop Eustace. If the Caseys pull it off, they are announcing themselves as a prime contender for the sectional title.
The Shore Conference coaches have also released this year's Carpenter Cup roster, filled with the Shore's top talent for the annual tournament in Philadelphia featuring all-star teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Jersey Shore is the defending champion after riding the monster pitching staff last season led by Dalatri, former Barnegat star Jason Groome, Rutgers freshman Ryan Wares from Howell, Seton Hall hurler Dan Serreino from Jackson Liberty and more.
One of the standouts picked to this year's team, Freehold Township senior catcher Joe Silvestrone, announced his college commitment on Tuesday.
Usually with the Carpenter Cup roster, there's the annual, "How in the world did that guy get left off?" Top players often have commitments with their summer travel teams or other conflicts, so they are withdrawn from consideration at the beginning. It also goes according to areas of need. If there are a ton of great pitchers available, inevitably someone talented may get left off, while a lesser player at another position may make it because the team is thin at that spot.
There are some mashers in that lineup, and one player who pops out to me is Ocean pitcher Blake DeMeter. He was the king of the hard-luck loss during a strong career for the Spartans, so this tournament could be his chance to shine among some great talent. Also, Brick infielder Carmen Sclafani, a Rutgers recruit, is the rare player who will play in the Carpenter Cup for baseball and the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic in July for football.
In case you missed it, St. John Vianney rising senior quarterback Anthony Brown verbally committed to Boston College over the weekend, taking one of the top Shore Conference recruits from the Class of 2016 off the board.
Brown joins Red Bank Catholic offensive lineman Liam Smith (Duke) and Red Bank Regional wide receiver Sadiq Palmer (Syracuse) as FBS commits from the current Shore junior class. Given his progression in a short time, Brown certainly looks to have a shot to go up to BC and challenge for playing time immediately.
More on Tuesday:
- Jackson Memorial baseball is now up to No. 9 in the state.
- Fun to see that Mike Trout still keeps track of New Jersey high school baseball and is well aware that Ramsey's Ashton Bardzell is one home run away from tying Trout's single-season state record of 18.
- The offers keep rolling in for Roselle Catholic basketball phenom Naz Reid, an Asbury Park resident.
- Former Freehold Township and Monmouth University standout Brad Brach is part of a Baltimore Orioles' bullpen that has found its groove.
- Colts Neck grad Anthony DeSclafani had a strong start over the weekend for the struggling Reds to help reverse a recent skid.
- The man who is helping aid the ongoing remarkable recovery of Olympian Amy Van Dyken, who was paralyzed in an ATV accident.
On tap for today: As detailed above, the NJSIAA Baseball Tournament continues today with the public sectional semifinals and the non-public sectional quarterfinals. Coming up tomorrow is the Shore Conference Tournament baseball semifinals and the NJSIAA Group I boys lacrosse final between Rumson-Fair Haven and Mountain Lakes.
I'll end with an uplifting story of an Argentine surfer who gave up winning a prestigious contest to instead let a paralyzed man ride a wave with him.