2023 Shore Sports Network Baseball Preview: Class A Central
The Class A Central division is home to the two Shore Conference programs with the most wins over the past two seasons and those two local rivals will be going at it during the opening series of the season this year. Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven have each won 44 games over the past two seasons, with Rumson winning the 2021 Monmouth County Tournament championship, the 2022 Class A Central title and the 2022 Central Jersey Group II title, while RBC was claimed the 2021 Class A Central championship along with each of the last three Shore Conference Tournament titles dating back to 2019.
The RBC-RFH rivalry will be intense, but it could also very well be over before the season hardly gets going, which means the rest of the division schedule could decide the division champion – which could conceivably be a team other than Red Bank Catholic or Rumson. Wall joins Class A Central this season after a long, successful run in Class B North and one year after winning 23 games and reaching the championship games of both the MCT and Central Jersey Group II tournament. Wall should see its rivalry with Rumson ratchet up after Rumson walked off the Crimson Knights in the CJ II final.
Monmouth figures to be the other contender for the division title this season, with the Falcons benefitting from the return of two key bridge-year seniors. The Falcons had a sneaky-good season in 2022 and should be considered among the four teams in the running.
Raritan, Shore and Holmdel don’t have the look of division champions on paper, but Raritan is program with an recent history of success, Shore took a major step forward in 2022 while becoming a Group I contender and Holmdel’s roster is loaded with experience after boasting very little of it a year ago. Even if those teams don’t find themselves in the race for first in May, all three could have a major say in the outcome because all three are capable of springing an upset.
Life in A Central continues to get tougher as the division gets deeper and the teams at the bottom get used to competing against the likes of RBC, Rumson and now Wall. The individual talent in the division is second-to-none compared to the rest of the Shore – including a whopping four returning all-division or All-Shore catchers – and that should be reflected in the success of the teams this season.
In predicted order of finish
Red Bank Catholic
Over the past two seasons, Red Bank Catholic has tied for the most wins in the Shore Conference (44) while winning back-to-back Shore Conference Tournaments, a 2021 Class A Central title and earning a trip to the 2021 South Jersey Non-Public A championship game. Even with all of those accomplishments, it still feels like the Caseys have left some accomplishments on the table considering the impressive talent throughout the roster: they were one out away from winning a sectional championship in 2021, lost an extra-inning heartbreaker to Middletown South in the 2022 MCT, got picked off at home by CBA in the 2022 state tournament and finished behind both Rumson-Fair Haven and Monmouth in the 2022 Class A Central division race.
Red Bank Catholic’s blend of dominance during the season and disappointment to end it is an illustration of how cruel a baseball season can be. To battle that cruelty in 2023, the Caseys are boasting a roster that coach Buddy Hausmann thinks might be the best he has had in his 16 years as head coach of his alma mater. RBC returns 181 innings of experience in the pitching staff, which will also be adding three transfers with considerable varsity experience to a group that was already six-deep to begin with.
Senior right-hander and George Washington commit Alex Stanyek leads the rotation after showing over the past two seasons that he thrives on the mound in a big game. A year ago, he faced off against opposing aces Ben Schild (Middletown South), Colin Reilly (CBA) and Zach Crotchfelt (Jackson Memorial) and was brilliant each time out, guiding RBC to wins over CBA and Jackson Memorial and departing the Middletown South MCT game before a decision could be rendered.
As excited as the Caseys are to have Stanyek for another year, what follows in the rotation might be equally exciting. Juniors Declan Leary and Steve Svenson were lights-out as sophomores, with Leary earning an All-Shore selection and Svenson sacrificing some volume to serve as a dominant relief option while mixing in some starts. Beyond those top three, RBC boasts 6-foot-5 sophomore right-hander and Virginia commit Ryan Prior, sophomore Notre Dame outfield commit Dylan Passo and Marist commit Ethan Marzo – the latter of whom is a transfer from St. Joseph by the Sea in Staten Island.
Beyond that group, RBC has pitchers that most programs would love to have – including a few pitchers whose old programs likely wish were still around. Brandon Hendrickson was the top pitcher at Henry Hudson a year ago and transferred to RBC in search of a chance to face better competition. Senior left-hander Anthony Nannini exhibited quality stuff out of Jackson Liberty’s bullpen as a junior and Brian Burnett also came over from Mater Dei Prep after it closed. The list to this point hasn’t even included Dominic Mallamaci, who performed at an all-division level as a sophomore before a preseason injury slowed him down in 2022.
The lineup is not as experienced as the pitching staff, but it won’t lack for star power. Stanyek, catcher Shane Andrus and Alabama commit Sean Griggs all return coming off All-Shore seasons and first baseman Frank Scrivanic has been one of the Shore’s top clutch hitters in his two varsity seasons to date. Passo and junior centerfielder Matt Bruno will give RBC a complete returning starting outfield when Stanyek is not on the mound and Svenson is ready to make an impact at the plate when he is not doing so on the mound.
The question marks in the lineup will be up the middle on the infield, where RBC graduated its starting group from 2022. Senior Christian Condon will give the Caseys a solid, dependable all-around player at second base, while Max Dantoni leads a group of underclassmen that could begin to make an impact this season. That group includes two freshmen – catcher Aiden Funk and third baseman Charlie Stumberger – who are blocked by All-Shore players, but are talented enough that they might find roles sooner rather than later.
The competition for the top spot in the Shore Conference will be intense: Ranney returns just about everyone from a state championship team, Middletown South has a solid group around what might be the best pitcher in the state (Schild) and Rumson – as it has in each of the past two seasons – poses a major threat to RBC within its own division. With all that being said, RBC has the kind of pitching staff that has the depth to get through four-game weeks and the top-of-the-rotation talent to match up against the state’s best lineups. If it all comes together and the Caseys can remain solid in in the middle of the diamond, 2023 could be a special year.
Red Bank Catholic at a Glance
Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann, 15th season
2022 Record: 20-9 (10-4, third in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Matt Scrivanic (SS), Jack Meyers (OF), Nico Gonzalez (2B), Jake Jacobsen (OF), Andrew Gonzalez (2B), Ashton Mejias (RHP)
Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Shane Andrus, Sr. (.337/.400/.568, 3 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 18 R, 31 RBI, 7 SB)
First Base: Frank Scrivanic, Sr. (.353/.477/.412, 2 2B, 1 3B, 18 R, 12 RBI)
Second Base: Christian Condon, Sr.
Shortstop: Max Dantoni, So.
Third Base: Sean Griggs, Jr. (.374/.500/.659, 9 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 30 R, 24 RBI, 8 SB)
Leftfield: Dylan Passo, So. (.318/.472/.424, 3 2B, 2 3B, 21 R, 15 RBI, 5 SB); V.J. Muscillo, Jr.
Centerfield: Matt Brunner, Jr. (.328/.391/.328, 14 R, 11 RBI, 6 SB)
Rightfield: Alex Stanyek, Sr. (.375/.447/.558, 7 2B, 4 HR, 26 R, 27 RBI, 8 SB); Brendan Kopec, Sr.
DH: Steve Svenson, Jr.; Brendan Kopec, Sr.; Aiden Funk, Fr. (C)
Nick Fastiggi, Sr., 1B
Al Delia, Jr., 2B
A.J. Sciametta, So., SS
Charlie Stumberger, Fr., 3B
James McDonald, Jr., OF
Alex Stanyek, Sr., RHP (34.1 IP, 3-0, 0.82 ERA, 11 H, 19 BB, 55 K)
Steve Svenson, Jr., RHP (45.1 IP, 5-1, 1.54 ERA, 31 H, 19 BB, 56 K)
Declan Leary, Jr., RHP (48.2 IP, 7-3, 1.15 ERA, 41 H, 9 BB, 56 K)
Ryan Prior, So., RHP (24.1 IP, 3-3, 4.32 ERA, 18 H, 2 BB, 24 K)
Ethan Marzo, Sr., RHP – Transfer from St. Joseph by the Sea (N.Y.)
Dom Mallamaci, Sr., RHP (17.1 IP, 1-1, 4.44 ERA, 18 H, 18 BB, 13 K)
Anthony Nannini, Sr., LHP – Transfer from Jackson Liberty (10 IP, 1-1, 5.60 ERA, 7 H, 7 BB, 19 K)
Dylan Passo, So., LHP (10.2 IP, 1-1, 4.59 ERA, 12 H, 4 BB, 12 K)
Brandon Hendrickson, Jr., RHP – Transfer from Henry Hudson (31 IP, 3-3, 2.93 ERA, 27 H, 20 BB, 59 K)
Brian Burnett, Jr., RHP – Transfer from Mater Dei Prep
Alex Stanyek – George Washington University
Frank Scrivanic – Seton Hall University
Ethan Marzo – Marist College
Shane Andrus – Drew University
Dom Mallamaci – Marymount University
Brendan Kopec – King’s College
Steve Svenson – Seton Hall University
Sean Griggs – University of Alabama
Ryan Prior – University of Virginia
Dylan Passo – University of Notre Dame
The ending to the 2022 season for Rumson-Fair Haven baseball was a mix of triumphant and disappointing – as many seasons around the state are for teams that make deep tournament runs that ultimately end in defeat. The Bulldogs won their first NJSIAA sectional championship since 2004 in the most dramatic of fashions – on a two-out, two-strike, two-run single by Charlie Tallman to clinch the title on bottom-of-the-seventh walk-off hit. Three days after the student body came pouring out onto Hal Lorme Field at Rumson to celebrate the historic win, the Bulldogs’ season ended with a loss at Haddon Heights and there would be no trip to the state final.
In its quest to get back to that same position in 2023, the Bulldog got some sour news. Tallman, who was set to exercise his option to play a bridge year as a junior-college student playing with his high-school alma mater, injured his shoulder and will miss the season after having surgery, according to coach Owen Stewart. Tallman was a Second-team All-Shore shortstop as a senior, a two-year starter and a fiery tone-setting for the Bulldogs on the field and in the dugout.
Without Tallman, the offense loses some length, but will still have plenty of potential. Rhode Island commit Reece Moroney – who missed part of his otherwise stellar junior year with a hand injury – will shift to shortstop – which will be the fourth position he has played in the last three years. Moroney was also an adept centerfielder, as well as a third baseman and a second baseman. He will pair with senior Griffin Shenman as the Rumson double-play combination, while the infield corners will be manned by two more seniors who earned big-game experience last year – first baseman Spencer Hobson and third baseman Aaron Del Tin.
While the infield should be a strength for Rumson, the Bulldogs’ best returning bat will be the senior squatting behind the plate. Owen Kenney put up a monster junior season as the RFH backstop, capped by a run of four straight games with a home run during his team’s four NJSIAA Tournament wins.
As experienced as the infield is, the outfield will be a proving ground for three first-year starters. Juniors Gavin Kiley and Jack Tava are lined up to be two of the starters, while sophomore Parker Shenman has impressed the coaching staff early on in making a play for another starting position. Seniors Brayden Dill and Cade LaGrassa are also in the mix for at-bats and fellow senior Cal Champeau is a leading DH candidate to round out the lineup.
Whatever growing pains the batting order or defense might encounter, Rumson has the pitching to make up for a lot of it. Rutgers commit John Goodes was the team’s co-ace along with current Wake Forest freshman Charlie Jones and will assume the role of staff ace as a senior. Classmate and Richmond commit Jackson Hinchcliffe will push him for that ace title after the right-hander got off to a fast start in 2022 and pitched less down the stretch when the Bulldogs lined up their innings to get as much of Jones and Goodes as possible. This year, Hinchcliffe will be plan 1-B to Goodes’s 1-A.
Senior Matt Bruno gives Rumson a George Washington commit as its No. 3 starter, while Champeau and junior left-handers Jackson Gallagher and Maverick Maguire provide quality depth. In a division that is home to a Red Bank Catholic team with seemingly bottomless depth in its pitching staff, the Bulldogs have a group of hurlers who can compete. With the way the Bulldogs have battled the Caseys over the past two years, they should be considered, at the very least, co-favorites in A Central as they try to win a second straight division championship.
Rumson-Fair Haven at a Glance
Head Coach: Owen Stewart, third season
2022 Record: 22-5 (13-1, first in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Charlie Jones (RHP), Brian Doherty (CF), Matt Rigby (1B), Johnny Bruno (OF), Liam Murphy (RF)
Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Owen Kenney, Sr. (.371/.500/.786, 5 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 26 R, 15 RBI, 4 SB)
First Base: Spencer Hobson, Sr. (.250/.357/.417, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 R, 13 RBI)
Second Base: Griffin Shenman, Sr. (.217/.400/.391, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI)
Shortstop: Reece Moroney, Sr. (.475/.507/.576, 4 2B, 1 3B, 20 R, 13 RBI, 7 SB)
Third Base: Aaron Del Tin, Sr. (.206/.311/.286, 2 2B, 1 HR, 9 R, 10 RBI)
Leftfield: Parker Shenman, So.
Centerfield: Gavin Kiley, Jr.; Cade LaGrassa, Sr.
Rightfield: Jack Riva, Jr. (0-for-8, 1 R, 1 RBI); Brayden Dill, Sr.
DH: Cal Champeau, Sr. (UTIL)
David Hendrickson, Sr., OF
Roman Sakele, Sr., 1B
Aidan Mishking, Jr., UTIL
Gavin D’Aponte, Jr., 1B
Conor Delaney, So., C
Max Mazzucca, So., C/1B
Charlie Tallman, Sr., SS (Injured) (.400/.475/.655, 12 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 24 R, 26 RBI, 14 SB)
John Goodes, Sr., RHP (47.2 IP, 9-1, 1.62 ERA, 25 H, 15 BB, 52 K)
Jackson Hinchliffe, Sr., RHP (30.1 IP, 5-0, 2.54 ERA, 23 H, 15 BB, 42 K)
Matt Bruno, Sr., RHP (18.2 IP, 2-2, 3.37 ERA, 12 H, 15 BB, 21 K)
Cal Champeau, Sr., RHP (11.2 IP, 1.80 ERA, 4 H, 5 BB, 14 K)
Jackson Gallagher, Jr., LHP (12.2 IP, 1-0, 2.76 ERA, 5 H, 11 BB, 12 K)
Maverick Maguire, Jr., LHP
Roman Sakele, Sr., RHP
Ryan McCaskill-Schock, Sr., RHP
Colin Freer, Jr., RHP
Owen O’Toole, So., RHP
John Goodes – Rutgers University
Charlie Tallman – Sacred Heart University
Jackson Hinchliffe – University of Richmond
Matt Bruno – George Washington University
Reece Moroney – University of Rhode Island
Cal Champeau – Skidmore College
Griffin Shenman – Susquehanna University
Spencer Hobson – Muhlenberg College
Rumson’s first baseball sectional championship in 18 years came at the expense of Wall, which was one strike away ending the Central Jersey Group II championship in three straight at-bats with its most dominant pitcher – Andrew Fischer – on the mound. It took a 13-pitch walk to extend the inning, a double by a leadoff hitter who had a cast removed from his hand one day earlier, and a two-strike hit with the game on the line to beat Fischer and Wall, sending the Crimson Knights players home with so much to recount for the next calendar year.
All Fischer has done since giving up that winning rally is hit seven home runs in the first month of his collegiate career at Duke, so if the Crimson Knights take after their 2023 leader, they will be just fine. Losing Fischer and fellow All-Shore slugger Nick Lovarco leave Wall with two significant lineup holes to fill, but between a group of high-level returnees and a deep, experienced pitching staff, the Knights are set-up nicely for a strong follow-up to 2022.
Senior shortstop and Seton Hall commit Gabe Cavazzoni already has an All-Shore selection under his belt and junior teammate and catcher Jake Howlett is trending in that direction after a breakout season in 2022. Those two returnees give Wall standout players at two critical positions and will be capable middle-of-the-order hitters in the Crimson Knights lineup. The other returning starter is senior Colin MacDermant, who makes the move to centerfield, where his speed (17 stolen bases in 2022) will play better than it did at first base, where he played as a junior while Lovarco patrolled center.
To fill out the rest of its lineup, Wall will lean on a group of players who gained big-game experience as pitchers but are hoping to step in as depending hitters as well. Senior Matt Johnson is the most experienced of the two-way talents and will play first when he is not on the mound, while junior T.J. Legere takes over at second base and senior Zach Szatkowski is in line for DH at-bats.
Juniors Mike Horowitz, Sean Killea and Greg Desserich will also be key newcomers, with Horowitz taking over at third base and Killea and Desserich leading the pack in the corner outfield competition.
The many unknown commodities on the offensive side have been a focus on coach Jim Rochford and the Wall staff, but they can rest easy knowing the pitching staff boasts plenty of talent and big-game experience. Johnson emerged as Wall’s workhorse during an All-Shore junior campaign, winning nine straight appearances before taking a no-decision in the sectional final at Rumson. Szatkowski will once again follow Johnson in the rotation, with juniors Triur Brown and Legere back after pitching key innings for Wall. Brown was actually third on the team in innings pitched, ahead of Fischer, and was a capable starter and multi-inning reliever who faced quality competition as a sophomore.
In a division that includes three others teams with deep, imposing pitching rotations, Wall is coming armed with enough firepower to keep up. The task of beating out Red Bank Catholic, Rumson and Monmouth for a division title will be extremely difficult, but getting through Wall will also be difficult for those three contenders. When the regular-season is complete, Wall should be plenty battle-tested to make another run at a championship.
Wall at a Glance
Head Coach: Jim Rochford, third season
2022 Record: 23-7 (11-3, second in Class B North)
Key Losses: Andrew Fischer (3B/RHP), Nick Lovarco (CF), Jerry Winchester (RF), Nick Colbert (2B), Jackson Coan (LF), Ryan O’Neill (1B/DH)
Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Jake Howlett, Jr. (.340/.411/.468, 6 2B, 2 HR, 15 R, 24 RBI)
First Base: Matt Johnson, Sr. (.147/.326/.206, 2 2B, 7 R, 3 RBI)
Second Base: T.J. Legere, Jr.
Shortstop: Gabe Cavazzoni, Sr. (.337/.431/.439, 8 2B, 1 3B, 31 R, 19 RBI, 18 SB)
Third Base: Mike Horowitz, Jr.
Leftfield: Sean Killea, Jr.
Centerfield: Colin MacDermant, Sr. (.237/.338/.288, 3 2B, 15 R, 13 RBI, 17 SB)
Rightfield: Greg Desserich, Jr.; Adam Switzer, Sr.
DH: Zach Szatkowski, Sr.; Adam Switzer, Sr. (C/OF/INF)
Mason Adam, So., OF
Jake Childs, Sr., OF
Aiden Cannon, Jr., OF
Bobby Minall, Sr., OF
Jon Cofone, Jr., INF
Dane Rue, So., INF
Matt Johnson, Sr., RHP (62.1 IP, 9-2, 1.91 ERA, 57 H, 15 BB, 64 K)
Zach Szatkowski, Sr., RHP (52.2 IP, 6-2, 2.39 ERA, 55 H, 25 BB, 54 K)
Triur Brown, Jr., RHP (28 IP, 3-1, 1.44 ERA, 19 H, 9 BB, 36 K)
T.J. Legere, Jr., RHP (14 IP, 1-0, 6.50 ERA, 18 H, 13 BB, 12 K)
Andrew Tuetenburg, Sr., RHP
Keith Sredronsky, Sr., RHP
Mike Horowitz, Jr., RHP
Justin Castellucia, Jr., RHP
Dane Rue, So., RHP
Gabe Cavazzoni – Seton Hall University
Matt Johnson – Gettysburg College
Monmouth’s 14-10 record suggests 2022 was a solid showing for the Falcons, but it might not do their performance justice. After beating Red Bank Catholic in extra innings early in the year, Monmouth climbed into the early version of the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and went on to finish ahead of the Caseys and behind Rumson for second place in the 2022 Class A Central division standings. While finishing second behind another public school does not net a team like Monmouth an official championship of any kind, it was a feather in the collective cap for a team that has reason to be even more optimistic in 2023.
No team in the Shore Conference, with the possible exception of Ranney, will benefit more from the Bridge Year Rule than Monmouth will. Its two frontline starters – Christian Zito and Aiden Denton – are both back as fifth-year starters while attending classes at Brookdale and will once again head up the Falcons pitching rotation. Zito was an All-Shore two-way player in 2022, hitting better than .400 while also posting an ERA of 1.37 in 51 innings on the mound. Denton, meanwhile, took the ball against some hefty competition and still posted a 2.35 ERA. Zito’s numbers looked better at the end of the year, but Denton has made a case for himself as Monmouth’s top arm – something to which several opposing coaches with testify.
Regardless of which of the two fifth-year seniors gets the ball, Monmouth will have a great chance to win with either on the mound and coach Paul Crivello is hoping to find some dependable depth options whenever they can’t pitch. Sophomore Collin Denton, junior Mike Milevoi and senior Joe Esposito all got outs on the mound, but the trio combined for just 11 innings and using Esposito to record important outs would require Crivello to pull an all-division catcher from behind the plate at an important juncture of the game.
Esposito and Zito are the top returning offensive players for Monmouth – a duo that stacks up very well against Wall’s duo of Howlett and Cavazoni, right down to the positions all four of them play. Monmouth will also feature both Denton brothers in the middle of the diamond and trio of Aiden, Collin and Zito will spend most of the season interchanging between second base, shortstop and the pitcher’s mound.
Milevoi and the outfield trio of sophomore Will Theobald, junior Evan Booth and senior Brian Boccino all got some varsity looks at the plate, with Milevoi taking over at first base having logged a starter’s share of plate appearances as a junior. Booth, meanwhile, got only 15 at-bats, but managed to pick up five hits – including a double and a home run – in that small sample. Theobald is ready for a greater role as a sophomore, while Boccino third baseman Caelin Szymanski will be under-the-radar contributors. Another x-factor sophomore is Bobby Davidson, who could see some fill-in time at first base and catcher, depending on which of Milevoi and Esposito provides the best work on the mound.
The competition at the top of Class A Central will be extremely high-level and Monmouth is as well-equipped to play at that level as it has been in some time. The Falcons could very well end up the top public school in the division and perhaps even better than that by the end of the divisional schedule. Come late may, when it is time to lean on two top pitchers with a few key outs from the rest of the staff, Monmouth should be at its best.
Monmouth at a Glance
Head Coach: Paul Crivello, ninth season
2022 Record: 14-10 (11-3, second in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Zach Lopes (2B/RHP), Chris Theobald (3B), James Kelly (CF/LHP), Andrew McKinley (OF)
Monmouth Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Joe Esposito, Sr. (.397/.500/.575, 10 2B, 1 HR, 7 R, 31 RBI)
First Base: Mike Milevoi, Jr. (.276/.306/.379, 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 R, 7 RBI); Bobby Davidson, So.; Caelin Szymanski, Jr.
Second Base: Aiden Denton, Fifth-Year Sr. (.333/.429/.372, 3 2B, 11 R, 15 RBI); Christian Zito, Fifth-Year Sr. (.403/.565/.537, 6 2B, 1 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI); Alejandro Ocelotl, So.; Evan Booth, Jr.
Shortstop: Collin Denton, So. (.194/.351/.194, 5 R, 5 RBI); Christian Zito, Fifth-Year Sr.; Aiden Denton, Fifth-Year Sr.
Third Base: Caelin Szymanski, Jr.; Christian Zito, Fifth-Year Sr.; Aiden Denton, Fifth-Year Sr.
Leftfield: Brian Boccino, Sr. (1-for-11, 3 R, 1 RBI); Brandon Geiger, Jr.
Centerfield: Will Theobald, So. (1-for-10, 11 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB); Ian Clancy, Sr.
Rightfield: Evan Booth, Jr. (5-for-15, 1 2B, 1 3B, 9 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB); Ian Clancy, Sr.; Brandon Geiger, Jr.
DH: Mike Milevoi, Jr.; Bobby Davidson, So.; Brandon Geiger, Jr.
Dominick Migliaccio, Jr., INF
Christian Zito, Fifth-Year Sr., RHP (51 IP, 5-3, 1.37 ERA, 42 H, 15 BB, 70 K)
Aiden Denton, Fifth-Year Sr., RHP (47.2 IP, 4-3, 2.35 ERA, 47 H, 17 BB, 41 K)
Collin Denton, So., RHP (4.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 K)
Mike Milevoi, Jr., RHP (3.1 IP, 1-1, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB)
Joe Esposito, Sr., RHP (3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 6 K)
Evan Booth, Jr., RHP
Kodey Stafford, Sr., RHP
Aiden Denton – Barry University
Christian Zito – Bloomsburg University
In the seasons leading up to 2022, Shore had been something of a punching bag in Class A Central, with the Blue Devils running out teams that were no match for the likes of Red Bank Catholic and whichever other contenders made up the top of the Class A Central standings. From 2017 to 2021, Shore went 11-43 in divisional play and never won more than four division games in any of those four seasons, culminating with a 0-14 divisional record in 2021.
In 2022, Shore punched back. Facing a division slate that saddled the young Blue Devils with two games apiece vs. Rumson, Red Bank Catholic, Monmouth and Ocean, Shore went 6-8 in the division. One of the six wins was a stunning, 10-6 win over RBC three days after the Caseys pummeled the Blue Devils, 23-0, on opening day.
With some the significant step of beating a top team and finishing .500 a year ago, Shore will attempt to continue building back toward state championship contention nine years after the Blue Devils last won the Group I championship. This year’s team lost just two starters from a year ago, although senior Cole Stefanelli will be unable to pitch this season due to an arm injury after finishing second on the team in innings, ERA, strikeouts and wins.
On the plus side, Stefanelli will be able to hit as the team’s DH after hitting .364 with a team-high 18 RBI a year ago. The senior will be part of a balanced offense that goes from a developing group of juniors and sophomores a year ago, to a group of varsity-seasoned upperclassmen. Juniors E.J. Stefanelli, Joe Santi and Jake Pennell give Shore experience, ability and ceiling at the three key up-the-middle positions, with Stefanelli catching, Santi at shortstop and Pennell in centerfield.
Senior John Dunleavy was a steady all-around performer at second base, with senior Christian Simonsen returning next to him at first base as well. Senior Lucas Rosa and junior Parker Fegan will be two quality returning hitters for the corner outfield spots, while senior Jeff Barham is ready for a full-time shot at third base after going 4-for-14 with a double and three RBI as a junior. Donovan Hughes – a key player on Shore’s 21-win basketball team this winter – is also a valuable piece of the offense who can roam centerfield and hold his own at the plate.
Group I school’s like Shore don’t always have the luxury of using players exclusively on the mound or in the field, but the Blue Devils have a standout pitcher-only in senior left-hander Rob Stock. The Shore ace’s junior season included a no-hitter as part of an overall strong stretch of performances down the stretch. Simonsen and Hughes will back Stock up in the rotation and Santi, Barham and Dunleavy will fill in with some key innings.
The Class A Central schedule is a chance for Shore to score some major power points in its pursuit of a top seed in the Central Jersey Group I section, where the Blue Devils are hoping to make a run at a title after losing to Middlesex in the 2022 sectional semifinal. It will be a big step for Shore to take, but the Blue Devils have grown up a lot over the past 12 months and their best could still be ahead of them.
Shore at a Glance
Head Coach: Jay Kuhlthau, fourth season
2022 Record: 12-12 (6-8, tied fourth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Rylan Fegan (OF/LHP), Rich Barton (1B/RHP)
Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: E.J. Stefanelli, Jr. (.367/.513/.450, 3 2B, 1 3B, 19 R, 8 RBI, 10 SB)
First Base: Christian Simonsen, Sr. (.190/.385/.349, 2 2B, 4 R, 4 RBI, 3 SB)
Second Base: John Dunleavy, Sr. (.343/.378/.371, 2 2B, 12 R, 15 RBI, 5 SB)
Shortstop: Joe Santi, Jr. (.311/.414/.338, 2 2B, 21 R, 6 RBI, 11 SB)
Third Base: Jeff Barham, Sr. (4-for-14, 1 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI)
Leftfield: Lucas Rosa, Sr. (.320/.370/.347, 2 2B, 13 R, 8 RBI, 12 SB)
Centerfield: Jake Pennell, Jr.; Donovan Hughes, Sr. (2-for-18, 1 R, 3 RBI)
Rightfield: Parker Fegan, Jr. (.256/.385/.349, 2 2B, 1 3B, 8 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB)
DH: Cole Stefanelli, Jr. (.364/.462/.409, 3 2B, 20 R, 18 RBI, 7 SB)
T.J. Miner, Jr., C
C.J. Sears, Jr., 3B
Rob Stock, Sr., 1B
Blake Himich, Sr., OF
Charlie Deusch, Sr., 1B
Rob Stock, Jr., LHP (43 IP, 4-2, 2.28 ERA, 28 H, 14 BB, 48 K)
Christian Simonsen, Sr., RHP (21 IP, 1-1, 4.33 ERA, 18 H, 20 BB, 17 K)
Donovan Hughes, Sr., RHP (18 IP, 0-2, 3.89 ERA, 18 H, 14 BB, 15 K)
Joe Santi, Jr., RHP (6 IP, 0-2, 6.00 ERA, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K)
Jeff Barham, Sr., RHP (3.2 IP, 2-0, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 K)
John Dunleavy, Sr., RHP (7.2 IP, 7.30 ERA, 13 H, 8 BB, 11 K)
Blake Himich, Sr., RHP
Cole Stefanelli, Sr., RHP – Injured, will not pitch (30.1 IP, 3-3, 2.54 ERA, 25 H, 18 BB, 30 K)
Donovan Hughes – County College of Morris
Regardless of what Raritan has graduated over the past couple decades, the Rockets have almost always been a program that bounces back and remains competitive. That is what made last year’s 6-16 campaign so surprising, as Raritan struggled to get outs on the mound and could not slug its way to victory on most days. It was the lowest win total the Rockets have put up since 2014 and this year’s group is a competitive bunch that is intent on right the ship.
Two of Raritan’s top three innings-eaters are back this season and will be looking to elevate their performance in order to keep Raritan’s offense within striking distance. John Molnar made key strides as a sophomore in 2022 and should be ready to learn from some of the challenges he faced on the mound while posting a 5.38 ERA, but also posting numbers that suggest that ERA could have been much lower: a nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, more than one strikeout per inning and fewer than one hit allowed per inning. His co-star at the top of the rotation is Rowan commit Giancarlo Lamberti, who has the arm to be a shutdown ace for the Rockets if he can improve at pounding the strike zone.
Seniors Dan Fedorco, Alex Pante and Stephen McCabe will all get key innings as well for Raritan, while junior Phil Kramer and sophomore Jimmy Nichols look to elevate their games on the mound to help the Rockets improve in the pitching department.
At the plate and in the field, Raritan has some talent to replace, but a good core to build around as well. Senior Billy Tigar slides over from third base to shortstop after leading the team in doubles (eight), extra-base hits (nine) and RBI (19) in 2022, while classmates Fedorco and Dan Callicari reprise their roles as starting outfielders. McCabe battled through injury to hit .220 last year and a clean bill of health has him primed for a bounceback year as a two-way player who will man the other outfield spot.
Senior Robert Mulligan gives Raritan experience behind the plate, which should only help the pitching staff. On the right side of the infield, coach Jeff Struble will be trying out a new combination of starters, with senior Dan Moreno in line for the first-base job and junior Joe Rotando and sophomore Sean Burnett in play at second.
There is enough of a foundation on offense and a strong track record of generating runs to make Raritan a competitive team again in a very difficult Class A Central division. Ultimately, though, it will come down to the pitching taking a significant leap forward and while getting to the level that would allow Raritan to compete at the top of the division is probably overly ambitious, it should improve enough that the Rockets are back in play during the postseason.
Raritan at a Glance
Head Coach: Jeff Struble, 10th season
2022 Record: 6-16 (3-11, tied seventh in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Alex Dekis (RF), Rob Scarola (1B), Ben Hutchins (RHP/DH), Justin Rivera (SS)
Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Robert Mulligan, Sr. (.189/.279/.216, 1 2B, 3 R, 5 RBI)
First Base: Dan Moreno, Sr.
Second Base: Joe Rotando, Jr.; Sean Burnett, So.
Shortstop: Billy Tigar, Sr. (.354/.423/.523, 8 2B, 1 HR, 18 R, 19 RBI, 6 SB)
Third Base: John Molnar, Jr. (.306/.405/.416, 4 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI); Allen Warren, So.
Leftfield: Dan Fedorco, Sr. (.309/.406/.545, 1 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 13 R, 12 RBI, 8 SB); Jimmy Nichols, So.
Centerfield: Dan Callicari, Sr. (.259/.403/.396, 4 2B, 2 3B, 11 R, 7 RBI, 18 SB)
Rightfield: Stephen McCabe, Sr. (.220/.385/.360, 3 2B, 2 3B, 10 R, 7 RBI); Alex Pante, Sr.
DH: Alex Pante, Sr.
Aidan Scarola, Jr., C
Matt Melendez, So., C
Phil Kramer, Jr., 1B
Sean Burnett, So., 2B
Travis Evernham, So., SS
Josh Nichols, So., OF
John Molnar, Jr. RHP (40.1 IP, 3-4, 5.38 ERA, 38 H, 14 BB, 41 K)
Giancarlo Lamberti, Sr., RHP (20.2 IP, 0-4, 7.45 ERA, 23 H, 31 BB, 25 K)
Stephen McCabe, Sr., RHP
Dan Fedorco, Sr., LHP (6 IP, 0-1, 5 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 2 K)
Alex Pante, Sr., LHP (12 IP, 4.67 ERA, 10 H, 8 BB, 9 K)
Dan Moreno, Sr., RHP
Phil Kramer, Jr., LHP (2.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 5 K)
Jimmy Nichols, So., RHP (11.1 IP, 0-1, 3.09 ERA, 4 H, 3 BB, 4 K)
Alan Warren, So., RHP
Sean Burnett, So., RHP
Billy Tigar – Montclair State University
Dan Fedorco – Rutgers University-Newark
Giancarlo Lamberti – Rowan University
Dan Calicari – University of Dayton (Football)
Like Raritan, Holmdel went 3-11 in Class A Central divisional play in 2022 and found life difficult with a pitching staff that struggled to get outs against the many potent lineups in the division. The Hornets return the majority of their pitching from a season ago and that group will try to get back on the proverbial horse in order to compete against some of the Shore’s best teams.
Junior left-hander Luke Buda had the most success out of all of Holmdel’s starters in 2022, pitching to a 4.37 ERA while leading the team in innings. Senior Elliot Chun followed close behind in innings, but was victimized by a high walk total during his junior campaign. Junior Joe Barbarino has a chance to emerge as a top option on the mound after getting a taste of varsity pitching as a sophomore, while seniors Max Woodward and Brandon Cieplensky will each have a key role to play on the mound in getting Holmdel through the tough A Central schedule.
With the exception of Buda, Holmdel’s pitching staff will be part of the attack at the plate as well. Chun is slated to start at shortstop, Woodward will be one of Holmdel’s top returning bats while manning third base, Cieplensky is back at first base and Barbarino will fill in at several spots depending on who is on the mound. Second baseman Conor Capaci also returns with varsity experience and sophomore catcher Matt Iulo is the lone newcomer out in the field for the Hornets.
The outfield is where Holmdel will get most of its production, particularly if the Hornets can get junior James Vallillo back from a foot injury that cost him just about all of his junior season in basketball this past winter. Vallillo hit better than .300 as a sophomore, while rightfielder Tim Haggerty hit .426 during a monster offensive junior season in 2022. Sophomore Nick Rakoski, meanwhile, held his own as a freshman starer in centerfield and whether it is with Vallillo back in left or Woodward taking his place, Holmdel’s outfield should be the source for a good deal of its offense.
The pitching remains a major question for Holmdel, but inexperience put the Hornets behind the eight-ball a year ago and that won’t be a problem this season. With seven starters back and a group of pitchers that were thrown into the fire a season ago, there is potential for the Hornets to do something similar to what Shore did a season ago – when the Blue Devils were picked to finish last in the division and went on to knock off RBC and Ocean on the way to a fourth-place finish in the division.
Holmdel at a Glance
Head Coach: Chris Arecchi, sixth season
2022 Record: 6-16 (3-11, tied seventh in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Sean Brescia (1B), Alex Price (C), J.V. Lobifaro (RHP)
Holmdel Around the Diamond
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Matt Iulo, So.
First Base: Brandon Cieplensky, Sr. (.216/.403/.294, 4 2B, 9 R, 12 RBI, 8 SB)
Second Base: Connor Capaci, Sr.; Elliot Chun, Sr.
Shortstop: Elliot Chun, Sr. (.242/.390/.273, 1 2B, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB); Joe Barbarino, Jr. (.209/.306/.256, 2 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB)
Third Base: Max Woodward, Sr. (.438/.471/.531, 1 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 6 RBI, 7 SB); Joe Barbarino, Jr.
Leftfield: James Vallillo, Jr. (.311/.354/.467, 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 3 RBI, 6 SB); Max Woodward, Sr.
Centerfield: Nick Rakoski, So. (.204/.457/.250, 1 2B, 10 R, 4 RBI, 8 SB)
Rightfield: Tim Haggerty, Sr. (.426/.573/.611, 6 2B, 2 3B, 12 R, 17 RBI, 23 SB)
DH: Brayden Savage, Jr. (C)
Luke Buda, Jr., LHP (33.2 IP, 2-3, 4.37 ERA, 43 H, 10 BB, 17 K)
Joe Barbarino, Jr., RHP
Elliot Chun, Sr., RHP (31 IP, 1-4, 6.55 ERA, 42 H, 24 BB, 21 K)
Max Woodward, Sr., RHP
Brandon Cieplensky, Sr., LHP
Class A Central Lineup
Shane Andrus, Sr., Catcher, Red Bank Catholic
Frank Scrivanic, Sr., First Base, Red Bank Catholic
Reece Moroney, Sr., Shortstop, Rumson-Fair Haven
Gabe Cavazzoni, Sr., Shortstop, Wall
Sean Griggs, Jr., Third Base, Red Bank Catholic
Alex Stanyek, Sr., Rightfield/RHP, Red Bank Catholic
Christian Zito, Fifth-Year Sr., UTIL/RHP, Monmouth
Owen Kenney, Sr., Catcher, Rumson-Fair Haven
Joe Esposito, Sr., Catcher, Monmouth
Class A Central Rotation
John Goodes, Sr., RHP, Rumson-Fair Haven
Declan Leary, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
Matt Johnson, Sr., RHP, Wall
Steve Svenson, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
Jackson Hincliffe, Sr., RHP, Rumson-Fair Haven
Class A Central Breakouts to Watch
Dylan Passo, So., Outfield, Red Bank Catholic
Ryan Prior, So., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
Colin MacDermant, Sr., Centerfield, Wall
Zach Szatkowski, Sr., RHP, Wall
John Molnar, Jr., Third Base/RHP, Raritan
Mike Milevoi, Jr., First Base/RHP, Monmouth
Griffin Shenman, Sr., Second Base, Rumson-Fair Haven
Joe Santi, Jr., Shortstop, Shore
Nick Rakoski, So., Centerfield, Holmdel
Giancarlo Lamberti, Sr., RHP, Raritan