Three Unbeaten Teams Left in Shore Conference Baseball
Two weeks into the season, there are only three undefeated teams left in the competitive Shore Conference baseball landscape.
Wall, Brick and St. Rose enter this week with unblemished records, and Brick will be tested immediately when it travels to Jackson Memorial on Monday afternoon for a game that will give sole possession of first place in Class A South to the winner. Wall and St. Rose look like the clear front-runners to win Class B North and Class B Central, respectively, and will look to keep racking up victories against divisional opponents this week.
Last week started with a Toms River showdown as resurgent Toms River East edged Toms River North 2-1 in Class A South thanks to a two-run homer by shortstop Jon Meola and a combined gem on the mound from starter Paul Schifilliti and reliever C.J. Hirschy. However, the Raiders ran into a hot Jackson Memorial team one game later and fell 8-1 as Jaguars senior lefty Anthony Rocco continued his excellent start by allowing one run on four hits in six innings to power the win.
Brick stayed right with the Jaguars in the Class A South race with an impressive 11-1 win in five innings over Toms River South in which junior catcher Brian Gallagher went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI to lead the way. While it was an up-and-down week for Toms River South, junior Russell Messler, a first-team All-Shore selection last year, had strong performance at the plate. He hit a three-run homer to help fuel a 7-6 comeback win over Southern and also went 2-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBI in a 10-2 win over Long Branch on Saturday night.
The Class B South race heated up last week as Barnegat knocked off division favorite Jackson Liberty 4-3 in eight innings when Justin Chasmar scored on a passed ball. He also finished 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored, and freshman Jason Groome and reliever Seamus Brazil only allowed a combined two earned runs on nine hits to keep the Bengals in it before they pulled out the victory.
One day later, Manchester handed Barnegat its first loss with a 5-1 victory powered by senior Jeremy Carney, who threw a complete-game five-hitter. It was a resurgent week for the Hawks, who shook off their slow start to beat Barnegat and then halt Point Boro’s three-game winning streak with a 3-1 win on Wednesday in which senior Ed White struck out 11 in a complete-game two-hitter.
The most dominant pitching performance in the division last week belonged to Central junior ace Andrew DiPiazza, who followed his season-opening no-hitter with a complete-game, three-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Monsignor Donovan in which he struck out 13. DiPiazza has now struck out 29 in 14 innings over two starts this season.
The team opening the most eyes early in the season is Howell, which won four games all of last season but is off to an impressive 4-1 start against a tough schedule. The Rebels have won four straight, including victories over Manalapan and Christian Brothers Academy last week. Junior Ryan Wares continued his red-hot start at the plate and on the mound by throwing a complete-game five-hitter in a 7-1 win over Manalapan in which he also hit a solo homer.
The Rebels then won a comeback thriller over CBA, rallying from a 5-0 deficit to pick up a 6-5 win thanks to a three-run homer by junior Mike Levy in the sixth inning. Zack Loroesh added an RBI single and two runs scored and also pitched four innings of scoreless relief to get the win.
Colts Neck also got right back into the Class A North race with a 6-3 win over Middletown South in which the Cougars scored three runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a 2-for-4 performance with three RBI by senior catcher Matt Kleinstein, a West Virginia recruit. Kleinstein also had a two-run triple in a 7-5 win over Freehold Township one game later.
Also in A North, Lafayette recruit Adam Ashenfarb continued a stellar start on the mound for Marlboro with a complete-game shutout in a 3-0 win over Middletown North. However, Marlboro ran into some tough pitching on the opposing side on Thursday when Middletown South bounced back from the loss to Colts Neck with a 3-1 win over the Mustangs. Senior Rob Grilli struck out 12 in a complete-game two-hitter for the Eagles, who rallied for all three runs in the top of the sixth inning, highlighted by a two-run single by outfielder Andrew Wisialko.
No. 1 Red Bank Catholic maintained its grip on the Class A Central race with wins over Raritan and Shore Regional before capping the week with a 5-1 nondivisional victory over CBA behind ace Mike Rescigno. The Maryland recruit allowed one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings in yet another outstanding pitching performance for a Caseys squad that had a team ERA of 1.18 entering that game. Catcher Mike Alescio added a pair of hits and three RBI and the Caseys also swiped seven bases in the win to remain unbeaten against Shore Conference competition.
It’s a free-for-all behind RBC in Class A Central, with Monmouth Regional, St. John Vianney and Rumson-Fair Haven tied for second with two divisional losses. Monmouth picked up wins over Long Branch and Shore before falling 11-7 to St. John Vianney, which was led by junior Evan Pietronico, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and six RBI. It was a huge week for Pietronico, who had 10 RBI in two games, as he also went 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI in a 9-8 win over Manasquan.
Holmdel also kept pace right behind the second-place group in the division, including a 5-3 win over Manasquan in which junior Joe Sadler hit his third home run in five games. Rumson-Fair Haven had a strong week with wins over Raritan and Holmdel. In the victory over the Rockets, Joey Spernal hit a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a 3-2 win.
Seven teams picked up their first victory of the season last week, including Ranney making some school history with a 10-9 win over Asbury Park in Class B Central. It marked the Panthers’ first win ever as a member of the Shore Conference, which they joined before this scholastic season. Freshman James Geraghty had three hits and a run scored, senior Madison Price went 2-for-3 with four runs scored and Stephen Jacobsen had 10 strikeouts to pick up the win on the mound.
Also in B Central, Mater Dei Prep showed it looks to be the team most likely to challenge St. Rose for division supremacy after a 10-2 win over last year’s divisional public champion, Point Beach. Senior Bobby Klatt and junior Matt Eckert each went 3-for-5 with two RBI in the win. Another team off to a good start is Henry Hudson, which beat Keyport 4-3 behind a strong all-around performance by Jim Trivett to improve to 4-1 and tie its win total from all of last season. Keyport also picked up its first win by outslugging Keansburg for an 18-9 victory behind freshman catcher Joe Ruth, who went 4-for-5 with a triple, and junior Jonathan Trigg, who had a double, triple and five RBI.
Southern picked up its first win with a 6-5 win in eight innings over Lacey in Class A South that ended on a game-winning RBI single by Nick Sinopoli, who had two hits and two RBI in the victory. Neptune also got into the win column with a 2-1 victory over Freehold in Class B North thanks to a complete-game five-hitter by Tommy Pasquella and a solo home run by Jason Richard. Lakewood picked up its first victory with a 12-4 win over Central in which sophomore Jaison Jerez went 3-for-4 with four RBI, three runs scored and two doubles, and senior Kristian Tate smacked a two-run homer.
A showdown shaping up in Class B North looks to be between unbeaten Wall, which knocked off Red Bank last week along with a nonconference win over Lawrenceville Prep, and Matawan. The Huskies are unbeaten in the division after comeback wins over Neptune and Red Bank last week. Senior Matt Rackett had a key three-run double in the 7-5 win over the Bucs, while senior Justin Harnett had a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning in the 6-5 win over the Scarlet Fliers that helped him improve to 3-0 on the mound.