Only three of the seven teams in last year’s Shore Conference Class A Central division – which was the same lineup of teams as this year’s Class A Central division – finished with a winning record, but that fact might incorrectly lead the casual observer to dismiss A Central as a weak division heading into 2024. It was, indeed, a top-heavy division and that is because the two best teams in the field each won 20 games and reached their respective NJSIAA Group championship games.

Of the other five teams, four posted a winning record outside of divisional play, with Raritan leading the way at 9-4 and Shore Regional going 9-5. With respect to the top-to-bottom strength of the division, 2024 should provide more of the same, but with a caveat: the race for the public division championship could be much tighter.

In predicted order of finish

1. Red Bank Catholic

Over the last five seasons, Red Bank Catholic has become the standard in Shore Conference baseball. The Caseys have won every Shore Conference Tournament since 2019 and last year, they added an NJSIAA sectional championship to their recent résumé. The 2023 team was loaded with experience and Division I talent and while the 2024 team will have slightly less of both, there is enough remaining and coming up in the program for RBC to keep up with its run of 20-win seasons while remaining the favorite to Class A Central, the Monmouth County Tournament and Shore Conference Tournament.

RBC rode hard-throwing right-hander Alex Stanyek to the Shore Conference and South Jersey Non-Public A Tournament titles, but its pitching depth allowed for coach Buddy Hausmann to deploy Stanyek in the team’s biggest games. That depth is still there, but took a hit when Seton Hall commit and senior right-hander Steve Svenson underwent season-ending surgery on his knee this week. That puts some additional pressure on returning right-handers senior Declan Leary and junior Ryan Prior. Both are Division I commits – Leary to Navy and Prior to Virginia – and have performed vs. quality competition at the varsity level but will have to take on more responsibility in the rotation with Svenson leaving a major void behind.

Red Bank Catholic sophomore Dylan Passo. (Photo: Robert Badders)
Red Bank Catholic junior Dylan Passo. (Photo: Robert Badders)

Senior Brandon Hendrickson transferred from Henry Hudson to RBC last year and sat for the first month of the season before getting a sampling of playing time. He will be called upon to pitch big innings to start the season, which is why he left the small, Group I program in search of a bigger stage. The x-factor in the pitching rotation is freshman Hunter Beattie, whose fastball is already creeping into the upper-80’s heading into his first high-school season. With Leary and Prior in place, he won’t have to star, but there are innings to be had and Beattie has the stuff to make in impact.

With some questions surrounding the pitching staff, RBC will turn to its lineup to win more games this season. Senior Sean Griggs and junior Dylan Passo are the cornerstone players in the lineup after both made the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Second Team in 2023 – Griggs at third base and Passo in the outfield. Passo makes the move to first base this year, giving the Caseys three Division I commits on the infield with Griggs (Alabama), Passo (Notre Dame) and junior Max Dantoni (Rutgers) at shortstop.

Red Bank Catholic junior Sean Griggs. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Red Bank Catholic junior Sean Griggs. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Dantoni will jump from the No. 9 spot in the order to the leadoff spot, which won’t be a stretch after Dantoni was the ideal second-leadoff hitter – high-contact, speed and discipline – once the lineup made it to him. Senior centerfielder Matt Brunner led the team in RBI last year and will slot into the No. 2 spot in the order while reprising his role as a standout defender up the middle. Senior Al Delia, sophomore catcher Aiden Funk, junior second baseman A.J. Sciametta and sophomore rightfielder Charlie Stumberger all move into starting spots after playing specialized roles a year ago.

Sophomore outfielder and West Windsor-Plainsboro South transfer Jake Frankiel rounds out the projected starting nine, which will be among the best in the Shore Conference. With four seniors projected for the opening-day starting lineup – Leary, Griggs, Brunner and Delia – RBC is set to remain a major player in the Shore Conference and Non-Public A for the next several years, but in order for this year special, the Caseys will have some issues to address in the rotation while hoping its junior-heavy lineup matures into a top-to-bottom machine.

Red Bank Catholic at a Glance

Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann, 16th season
2023 Record: 24-6 (10-2, first in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Alex Stanyek (RHP/OF), Shane Andrus (C), Frank Scrivanic (1B), Christian Condon (2B), Brendan Kopec (OF), Dom Mallamaci (RHP), Ethan Marzo (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Aiden Funk, So.

First Base: Dylan Passo, Jr. (.329/.476/.537, 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 R, 21 RBI, 5 SB)

Second Base: A.J. Sciametta, Jr.; Al Delia, Sr.

Shortstop: Max Dantoni, Jr. (.293/.398/.373, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 19 R, 14 RBI, 21 SB)

Third Base: Sean Griggs, Sr. (.396/.551/.621, 4 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 26 R, 14 RBI, 1 SB)

Leftfield: Jake Frankiel, So. (Transfer from West Windsor-Plainsboro South)

Centerfield: Matt Brunner, Sr. (.319/.340/.396, 5 2B, 1 3B, 11 R, 28 RBI, 4 SB)

Rightfield: Charlie Stumberger, So.

DH: Al Delia, Sr.

Other Hitters

James McDonald, Sr., OF

Tom Fitzsimmons, Jr., OF

Reyes Quinones, Jr., 1B

Alex Hammond, Jr., 2B

Braydon Harmata, So., SS/2B

Luke Lonczak, Fr., C/OF

Pitching Staff

Declan Leary, Sr., RHP (33.2 IP, 6-0, 1.04 ERA, 20, 17 BB, 26 K)

Ryan Prior, Jr., RHP (23 IP, 3-0, 0.61 ERA, 17 H, 18 BB, 24 K)

Brandon Hendrickson, Sr., RHP (14 IP, 3-0, 1.00 ERA, 3 H, 7 BB, 9 K)

Hunter Beattie, Fr., RHP

Luke Meyers, Jr., RHP

Justin Spitzfaden, Jr., LHP

Sean Minarick, Jr., LHP

Glen Popes, So., RHP

Joe Mauro, So., RHP

Steve Svenson, Sr., RHP – Injured, out for season (46.1 IP, 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 39 H, 12 BB, 43 K)

College Commitments

Sean Griggs – University of Alabama

Declan Leary – United States Naval Academy

Steve Svenson – Seton Hall University

Al Delia – Felician University

Dylan Passo – University of Notre Dame

Ryan Prior – University of Virginia

Max Dantoni – Rutgers University

2. Rumson-Fair Haven

Like its Class A Central rival Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven made it to the NJSIAA state finals, where the Bulldogs lost a pitchers’ duel to Pascack Hills. Despite losing its final game of the 2023 season, Rumson took a major step for the program by getting to the Group II final after losing in the Group II semifinal a year earlier. The Bulldogs have now won Class A Central, Monmouth County Tournament and Central Jersey Group II championships over the past three seasons and have established themselves as one of the most consistently solid programs in the conference.

This year will test the strength of the program, because the Bulldogs have graduated a lot of talent over the past two seasons. Junior Parker Shenman, senior Jack Riva and senior Aaron Del Tin are the only returning starters, with Riva back in a corner outfield spot, Del Tin shifting from third base to shortstop and Shenman playing a super-utility role early on after starring as the team’s centerfielder and leadoff hitter as a sophomore in 2023. Shenman and Riva were two of Rumson’s top hitters a year ago, so while there are only three experienced starters in the lineup, there is plenty of impact between the three of them.

Rumson sophomore Owen O'Toole. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)
Rumson junior Owen O'Toole. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)

The pitching staff faces a similar challenge in replacing four of its top five pitchers, including its top starters: Jackson Hinchliffe and John Goodes. Hichliffe was a First-Team All-Shore selection in 2023, but what made Rumson unique as a pitching staff was the Bulldogs’ three-headed bullpen trio of Owen O’Toole, Matt Bruno and Cal Champeau. As the only returning member of that trio, O’Toole is set for a much greater role on the pitching staff coming off a dominant sophomore campaign in which the right-hander pitched to a microscopic 0.31 ERA over 22 1/3 innings.

Senior left-hander Jackson Gallagher boasts varsity experience, but was slowed by a shoulder injury last year, while senior Maverick Maguire left-handers gave the team some important innings along the way as well. Two more southpaws join the rotation this season in sophomore Max Hinchliffe and freshman Cooper Jones, who will be thrown into the deep end of the pool this season as key underclass members of the rotation for a team with championship expectations.

Rumson-Fair Haven sophomore Parker Shenman. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)
Rumson-Fair Haven junior Parker Shenman. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)

The rest of the lineup will feature a pair of seniors ready to take on larger roles in first baseman Gabe D’Aponte and outfielder Gavin Kiley. If Shenman starts in center, Kiley can play rightfield or serve as designated hitter, but he is also a capable centerfielder if Shenman starts at second base or shortstop. Sophomore Alex Calebretta and junior Jacob Tobias are the other starting options at second base, while sophomore D.J. Ylagan slots in at third. The two projected junior starters are Max Mazzucca and Brayden Ward, with Mazzucca replacing four-year starting catcher Owen Kenney and Ward in the mix in rightfield.

Since Owen Stewart took over as head coach ahead of the canceled 2020 season, Rumson has been raising the bar for its program with each passing season. Meeting the growing expectations this season will be challenging, but those expectations, plus the talent that returns will be the foundation of what should be another season of contending for championships in Rumson.

Rumson-Fair Haven at a Glance

Head Coach: Owen Stewart, fourth season
2023 Record: 22-6 (9-3, second in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Jackson Hinchliffe (RHP), John Goodes (RHP), Reece Moroney (SS), Owen Kenney (C), Cal Champeau (RHP), Matt Bruno (RHP), Spencer Hobson (1B), Griffin Shenman (2B), Brayden Dill (OF), Cade LaGrassa (OF), Roman Sakele (1B/RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Max Mazzucca, Jr.

First Base: Gavin D’Aponte, Sr.

Second Base: Alex Calebretta, So.

Shortstop: Aaron Del Tin, Sr. (.211/.333/.268, 4 2B, 13 R, 3 RBI, 1 SB); Parker Shenman, Jr.

Third Base: D.J. Ylagan, So.

Leftfield: Jack Riva, Sr. (.388/.488/.567, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 21 R, 21 RBI, 4 SB)

Centerfield: Parker Shenman, Jr. (.337/.412/.547, 6 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 15 R, 18 RBI, 9 SB); Gavin Kiley, Sr.

Rightfield: Brayden Ward, Jr.; Gavin Kiley, Sr.

DH: Brayden Ward, Jr.; Gavin Kiley, Sr.

Other Hitters

Conor Delaney, Jr., C

Nick Harvey, Sr., OF

Donovan Kane, Jr., OF

Jacob Tobias, Jr., 2B

Shane Sullivan, Sr., INF

Aiden Morris, Sr., INF

Luke Gallagher, So., C

Pitching Staff

Owen O’Toole, Jr., RHP (22.1 IP, 2-1, 0.31 ERA, 10 H, 7 BB, 28 K)

Jackson Gallagher, Sr., LHP (11.2 IP, 2-0, 2.40 ERA, 6 H, 7 BB, 17 K)

Maverick Maguire, Sr., LHP (14 IP, 6.00 ERA, 10 H, 15 BB, 22 K)

Max Hinchliffe, So., LHP

Cooper Jones, Fr., LHP

Aaron Del Tin, Sr., RHP

Hayden Schecter, Jr., RHP

Nate Margules, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Jack Riva – Skidmore College

Gavin D’Aponte – Susquehanna University

Jackson Gallagher – Susquehanna University (Football)

3. Raritan

The names can change – both on the roster and on the coaching staff – but one thing has remained fairly constant in Hazlet over the years: Raritan rakes. The Rockets have always had the reputation of a team that swings the bats and puts runs on the board, so when Raritan returns most of a pitching staff that has showed promise at different points over the past two years, the rest of the Shore should take notice.

Senior left-hander Phil Kramer was a breakout performer on the mound a season ago and will take over as Raritan’s No. 1 starter after showcasing an exceptional amount of control as a junior, when he issued just six walks in 45 1/3 innings. Juniors Alan Warren, Sean Burnett and Jimmy Nichols were all reliable options as sophomores a season ago, but the name to remember in the rotation beyond Kramer is senior John Molnar. The 2023 season was a lost one for Molnar due to injury, but as a sophomore in 2022, the right-hander showed potential by striking out 41 against 14 walks in 40 1/3 innings.

Kremer, Warren, Nichols and Burnett combined for 105 innings a year ago and with Molnar throwing 40 as a sophomore in 2022, the Rockets have the makings of a pitching staff that should almost always give coach Jeff Struble a good option – which will also include 6-foot-3 sophomore left-hander Will Meehan as a newcomer to watch. That leaves the offense to do its thing, and while that will not be automatic after the Rockets graduated a group of six key producers that included All-Shore sluggers Billy Tigar and Dan Fedorco, there is hope for this offense.

Molnar’s return to health will also boost the offense, with the senior returning to third base when he is not on the mound. He will be flanked by returning junior shortstop Travis Evernham, who more than held his own at shortstop as a sophomore in 2023. Burnett and senior Joe Rotondo make for two strong options at second base, with Burnett also capable of patrolling centerfield. Senior Aidan Scarola and junior Matt Melendez form the depth chart at catcher and three sophomores – Jake Ricchiuti, Matt Zweidinger and Meehan – are vying for first-base and DH at-bats.

Kramer, Burnett and Nichols will be part of the outfield rotation when they are not pitching, while the power bat in the outfield is junior Jobby Dekis. After starting the year at the jayvee level, Dekis slugged his way into the varsity starting lineup by the end of the season and hit .409 while clubbing two doubles and a homer in 33 plate appearances while also walking nine times.

The bats are not as proven as the arms, but Raritan’s track record of developing potent lineups will be particularly useful this year given all the experience returning on the mound. The group will have to stay healthy and perform, but the Rockets have exciting prospects for 2024 thanks to what appears to be a balanced roster.

Raritan at a Glance

Head Coach: Jeff Struble, 11th season
2023 Record: 14-11 (5-7, tied third in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Billy Tigar (SS), Dan Fedorco (OF), Dan Callicari (CF), Robert Mulligan (C), Dan Moreno (1B/RHP), Stephen McCabe (OF/RHP), Alex Pante (OF), Giancarlo Lamberti (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Aidan Scarola, Sr.; Matt Melendez, Jr.

First Base: Jake Ricchiuti, So.; Matt Zweidinger, So.; Will Meehan, So.

Second Base: Sean Burnett, Jr. (.278/.447/.305, 1 2B, 15 R, 6 RBI, 8 SB); Joe Rotondo, Sr. (.333/.510/.333, 10 R, 4 RBI, 5 SB); Antonio Lamberti, So.

Shortstop: Travis Evernham, Jr. (.354/.404/.395, 2 2B, 13 R, 16 RBI, 9 SB)

Third Base: John Molnar, Sr. (2022 Stats: (.306/.405/.416, 4 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI, 1 SB); Alan Warren, Jr.

Leftfield: Phil Kramer, Sr.; Chris Jefferson, Jr.

Centerfield: Jimmy Nichols, Jr.; Sean Burnett, Jr.

Rightfield: Jobby Dekis, Jr. (.409/.606/.636, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 7 RBI, 4 SB)

DH: Matt Melendez (So., C); Matt Zweidinger (So., 1B); Jobby Dekis (Jr., OF)

Pitching Staff

Phil Kramer, Sr., LHP (45.1 IP, 6-1, 1.39 ERA, 46 H, 6 BB, 32 K)

John Molnar, Sr., RHP (2022 Stats: 40.1 IP, 3-4, 5.38 ERA, 28 H, 14 BB, 41 K)

Alan Warren, Jr., LHP (31 IP, 1-2, 3.84 ERA, 36 H, 19 BB, 16 K)

Jimmy Nichols, Jr., RHP (14 IP, 2-0, 5.00 ERA, 12 H, 10 BB, 18 K)

Sean Burnett, Jr., RHP (15 IP, 2-3, 2.80 ERA, 15 H, 5 BB, 12 K)

Matt Zweidinger, So., RHP

Jake Ricchiuti, So., LHP

Will Meehan, So., LHP

Nico Pachamango, Sr., RHP

College Commitments

Phil Kramer – New Jersey City University

Nico Pachamango – Middlesex County Community College

4. Wall

Coming off an uncharacteristic losing season, Wall is looking to recover with a bounceback year in 2024 behind one of the top backstops in the state and a pitching staff that will enter the new season with a chip on its shoulder after the disappointing 2023 campaign. Monmouth-University-bound catcher Jake Howlett is coming off a monster junior season in which he tied for third in the Shore Conference in home runs while playing his home games at a field whose fence is significantly deeper than the home parks of the three other players who hit at least eight homers in 2023: A.J. Gracia (Ranney), Charlie Meglio (Jackson Memorial) and Gavin Degnan (Donovan Catholic).

With Howlett leading the lineup and the pitching staff, Wall has a ready-made advantage over opponents and will then need its pitching to recover after an uneven season in 2023. Two primary sources of innings graduated in Zach Szatkowski and Matt Johnson, so seniors T.J. Legere and Triur Brown will be looking to step into larger roles. Legere is coming off a solid junior season as Wall’s No. 3 pitcher and while Brown struggled in 23 innings last year, he was one of Wall’s most reliable pitchers in 2022 as a sophomore.

Seniors Sean Killea, Mike Horowitz and Justin Castellucia will be part of the pitching mix, while juniors Dane Rue and Dan Glendinning and sophomores John Catanio and Christian Suarez elevate in the program as potential long-term solutions in the effort to remake the pitching staff. Pitching was at the center of Wall’s run to an NJSIAA Group III championship in 2019 and although three Division I arms leading a Group III rotation is not likely to happen again, there is still room to improve.

Contructing a lineup around Howlett should work out well for Wall, which has some complementary position players in place. Legere will play second base when not on the mound, with senior Jon Cofone as his double-play partner at shortstop. Horowitz is returning as a first-base bat and Brown will play rightfield when he is not pitching. Sophomores Austin Harr, Davis Harr, Will Hague and Catanio represent the next wave of talent at Wall and will need to make an immediate impact for Wall to contend for the public division title in Class A Central.

Wall at a Glance

Head Coach: Jim Rochford, fourth season
2023 Record: 13-14 (5-7, tied third in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Gave Cavazzoni (SS), Zach Szatkowski (RHP/DH), Matt Johnson (RHP/1B), Colin MacDermant (OF), Drew Teutenberg (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Jake Howlett, Sr. (.427/.490/.809, 8 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 16 R, 31 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Mike Horowitz, Sr. (.267/.337/.279, 1 2B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB)

Second Base: T.J. Legere, Sr. (.311/.358/.344, 2 2B, 11 R, 11 RBI, 7 SB)

Shortstop: Jon Cofone, Sr. (.354/.440/.385, 1 3B, 18 R, 7 RBI, 10 SB)

Third Base: Austin Harr, So.

Leftfield: Sean Killea, Sr. (2-for-23, 4 R, 2 SB); John Catanio, So.

Centerfield: Greg Desserich, Sr.

Rightfield: Triur Brown, Sr. (.321/.410/.396, 4 2B, 7 R, 9 RBI, 1 SB); Davis Harr, So.

DH: Will Hague (So., C)

Other Hitters

Christian Suarez, So., 1B

James Richter, Jr., OF

Dan Glendinning, Jr., OF

Pitching Staff

T.J. Legere, Sr., RHP (28 IP, 2-3, 3.25 ERA, 31 H, 20 BB, 37 K)

Triur Brown, Sr., RHP (23.1 IP, 0-3, 8.70 ERA, 32 H, 16 BB, 28 K)

Sean Killea, Sr., RHP

Mike Horowitz, Sr., RHP (1 IP)

Justin Castellucia, Sr., RHP

Dane Rue, Jr., RHP

Dan Glendinning, Jr., RHP

John Catanio, So., RHP

Christian Suarez, So., RHP

College Commitments

Jake Howlett – Monmouth University

T.J. Legere – Francis Marion University

5. Shore

Like most teams that play in Group I come tournament time, Shore’s season is geared toward preparing for the NJSIAA Tournament and with the depth of Class A Central this season, the Blue Devils should be ready for anything by late May. Although they tied Holmdel for last place in the seven-team division – they were competitive throughout the season and entered the Central Group I tournament with a legitimate chance to win the whole thing. Shore even beat Red Bank Catholic for a second straight season.

A healthy number of players from last year’s team are back, although Shore will miss the contributions of 2023 starters John Dunleavy, Jeff Barham and Lucas Rosa in the lineup and Donovan Hughes and Christian Simonsen in the rotation. In senior E.J. Stefanelli, however, the Blue Devils bring back a senior catcher who played his way onto the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Second-Team in 2023. Senior Cole Stefanelli returns after an injury-marred 2023, but only two years removed from a productive sophomore season as a two-way player. Senior shortstop Joe Santi is another varsity veteran at an important spot on the field, while classmates Jake Pennell, Parker Fegan, C.J. Sears and T.J. Minner also occupy key roles – Pennell and Fegan in the outfield, Sears at third base and Minner as a utility player and DH.

Shore will begin to work in a promising group of sophomores alongside a senior class that has been playing together – largely at the varsity level – for the last four years. Sophomore Andrew Barham has the inside track as the starter at second base and classmate Liam Hennelly has his sights set on the starting leftfield job. Ryan Barham, Enzo Cagliostro and Riley Smaltini are three more Blue Devils sophomores to watch going forward.

Senior left-hander Rob Stock headlines the rotation after combining with Hughes to lead the staff in 2023. Cole Stefanelli will provide a boost to the rotation with his return to health and give Shore two dependable seniors at the top of the rotation. The key for Shore’s prospects as a potential division-title contender and in Group I will be filling in the other innings, which will be left up to Santi, Minner, Sears and the sophomore class. If coach Jay Kuhlthau can piece together those innings outside of the ones thrown by Stock and Stefanelli, Shore has the lineup and the experience to climb into the top-four of the division and make a run at their first Group I title in 10 years.

Shore at a Glance

Head Coach: Jay Kuhlthau, fifth season
2023 Record: 13-13 (4-8, tied sixth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: John Dunleavy (2B), Christian Simonsen (1B/RHP), Jeff Barham (3B/RHP), Donovan Hughes (RHP/OF), Lucas Rosa (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: E.J. Stefanelli, Sr. (.371/.478/.643, 4 2B, 5 HR, 24 R, 26 RBI, 4 SB)

First Base: Cole Stefanelli, Sr. (2022 Stats: .364/.462/.409, 3 2B, 20 R, 18 RBI, 7 SB)

Second Base: Andrew Barham, So.

Shortstop: Joe Santi, Sr. (.337/.439/.410, 6 2B, 15 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB)

Third Base: C.J. Sears, Sr.

Leftfield: Liam Hennelly, So.

Centerfield: Jake Pennell, Sr. (0-for-3)

Rightfield: Parker Fegen, Sr. (.308/.357/.404, 3 2B, 1 3B, 10 R, 9 RBI, 4 SB)

DH: T.J. Minner (Sr., C/OF) (.421/.511/.579, 4 2B, 1 3B, 10 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB)

Other Hitters

Kevin Barfield, Sr., OF

Nick Bennett, Sr., OF

Logan Salas, Sr., INF

Jake Banach, Jr., INF

J.C. Mannello, Jr., INF

Josh Moeller, Jr., OF

Ryan Barham, So., INF

Enzo Cagliostro, So., OF

Riley Smaltini, So., C

Pitching Staff

Rob Stock, Sr., LHP (36.1 IP, 4-3, 2.94 ERA, 31 H, 24 BB, 52 K)

Cole Stefanelli, Sr., RHP (2022 Stats: 30.1 IP, 3-3, 2.54 ERA, 25 H, 18 BB, 30 K)

Joe Santi, Sr., RHP (9.1 IP, 0-2, 8.25 ERA, 14 H, 11 BB, 7 K)

C.J. Sears, Sr., RHP (5.2 IP, 8.64 ERA, 8 H, 5 BB, 6 K)

T.J. Minner, Sr., RHP

Rory Burkhardt, Jr., RHP

Jose Cruz Rosario, Jr., RHP

Andrew Barham, So., RHP

Ryan Barham, So., LHP

Liam Hennelly, So., RHP

Mike Russomano, So., RHP

College Commitments

E.J. Stefanelli – Skidmore College

Rob Stock – Rogers Williams University

Joe Santi – Rutgers University-Newark

6. Monmouth

In the final season for players to exercise the “Bridge Year” rule, Monmouth boasted two fifth-year seniors in Christian Zito and Aiden Denton, which made the Falcons especially intriguing as a threat in Group II. Things did not go as planned, however, with Denton getting injured early in the season and Zito enduring a down year at the plate and on the mound. Those two are now moved on to the next phase of their careers, as is standout catcher Joe Esposito, leaving Monmouth with three big names to replace.

The good news for the Falcons is those are the only three players they have to replace from last year’s nine-win team that managed to finish tied for third in the Class A Central standings. Monmouth brings back three-quarters of a starting infield, led by a junior double-play combination of shortstop Collin Denton and second baseman Alejandro Ocelotl. Senior Mike Milevoi slugged his way into more regular playing time at first base and will now be a middle-of-the order staple.

Senior Dominic Migliaccio, seniors Brandon Geiger and Matt Kvedaras and sophomore Beckett Langdon are the three players looking to scoop up the available at-bats in the infield, both at the vacated third base position, as well as when Denton pitches. Junior Bobby Davidson got DH at-bats a year ago and also caught when Esposito pitched, so he is now the Falcons’ full-time starting catcher. Senior Evan Booth returns in rightfield as the most productive 2023 hitter on the roster, while junior Will Theobald brings speed and solid plate skills to centerfield. Geiger and freshman Eddie Segarra are the names to watch for the third starting outfield spot.

In addition to playing shortstop, Denton is also Monmouth’s top returner on the mound as well after posting a 3.19 ERA in 37 1/3 innings as a sophomore. Milevoi and Booth combined for 24 innings a year ago as well, while Langon and Ocelotl figure into the picture as well. With many of Monmouth’s infielders also doubling as key members of the rotation, the depth in the infield will be important for Monmouth, unless the Falcons can bring along any of its pitchers who don’t figure to start in the field. There will be some shuffling required of coach Paul Crivello, but there is a mix of experience and upside that make Monmouth a team to consider when pondering the top public-school team in Class A Central.

Monmouth at a Glance

Head Coach: Paul Crivello, 10th season
2023 Record: 9-14 (5-7, tied third in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Joe Esposito (C/RHP), Christian Zito (OF/1B/RHP), Aiden Denton (RHP/INF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Bobby Davidson, Jr. (.207/.361/.328, 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 11 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Mike Milevoi, Sr. (.327/.397/.527, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 R, 7 RBI); Brandon Geiger, Sr.

Second Base: Alejandro Ocelotl, Jr. (.258/.429/.323, 2 2B, 10 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB); Matt Kvedaras, Sr.

Shortstop: Collin Denton, Jr. (.188/.303/.219, 2 2B, 4 R, 9 RBI); Beckett Langdon, So.

Third Base: Dominic Migliaccio, Sr.

Leftfield: Brandon Geiger, Sr.; Eddie Segarra, Fr.

Centerfield: Will Theobald, Jr. (.233/.403/.349, 1 2B, 2 3B, 12 R, 4 RBI, 9 SB)

Rightfield: Evan Booth, Sr. (.355/.430/.474, 3 2B, 2 HR, 16 R, 14 RBI, 9 SB); Eddie Segarra, Fr.

DH: Beckett Langdon (So., 2B/SS/3B); Joe Alfano (Sr., OF)

Other Hitters

Jerry Flynn, Sr., 1B

Vaughn Bociulis, So., 1B

Malik Young-Akbar, So., OF

Jake Kroposky, So., INF

Pitching Staff

Collin Denton, Jr., RHP (37.1 IP, 3-4, 3.19 ERA, 32 H, 17 BB, 39 K)

Mike Milevoi, Sr., RHP (11 IP, 0-1, 10.18 ERA, 16 H, 15 BB, 14 K)

Evan Booth, Sr., RHP (13 IP, 4.31 ERA, 20 H, 7 BB, 10 K)

Beckett Langdon, So., RHP

Alejandro Ocelotl, Jr., RHP

Vaughn Bociulis, So., LHP

Malik Young-Akbar, So., RHP

Dominic Migliaccio, Sr., RHP

Connor Keefer, Jr., RHP

Jerry Flynn, Sr., LHP

College Commitments

Mike Milevoi – Holy Family University

Evan Booth – Ocean County College

Brandon Geiger – William Paterson University

7. Holmdel

With a team that boasted juniors or sophomores at most of its key positions, Holmdel battled its way to 10 wins in 2023, including four in the rugged Class A Central schedule. The Hornets did have plenty of senior influence that will be difficult to replace this season, but they also return two of their top four pitchers, as well as three of their top five hitters in the lineup to help ease the transition.

Senior left-hander Luke Buda and right-handed classmate Joe Barbarino will head the pitching staff after both pitched to ERA’s that were comfortably under 4.00 while each threw exactly 38 2/3 innings. Sophomores Dylan Zammit and Lincoln Maikos will provide both depth and upside for the rotation and junior Alex Cabrera figures into the pitching plans as well, but the Hornets will, first and foremost, be leaning on Buda and Barbarino to anchor the staff.

The graduation of Max Woodward and Brendan Cieplensky take some thunder out of the lineup but plenty remains for 2024. Junior Matt Iulo was one of the Shore’s top hitting catchers as a sophomore and could be slated to contend for All-Division and All-Shore honors over the next two seasons if he keeps on his current trajectory. Junior Nick Rakoski and senior James Vallillo each hit .300 and slugged .400 or better last year and Vallillo is much healthier this year after battling through a foot injury. Junior first baseman Tyler Reddy is the other returning starter, with junior Cam Estok taking over at shortstop full-time.

More sophomores figure to make a difference around the diamond as well, led by third baseman Jack Vallillo and outfielder Harrison Eng. Raum Desai is also in the mix at second base, where he is competing with junior Logan Cardinoza. With Iulo and Rakoski coming off impressive sophomore seasons and James Vallillo two years removed from one of his own, the current sophomores have no shortage of role models to follow as they try to push Holmdel into the top four of the Class A Central division.

Holmdel at a Glance

Head Coach: Chris Arecchi, seventh season
2023 Record: 10-13 (4-8, tied sixth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Max Woodward (SS/3B/RHP), Elliot Chun (2B/RHP), Brendan Cieplensky (1B/LHP), Connor Capaci (INF), Tim Haggerty (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Matt Iulo, Jr. (.413/.479/.619, 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 18 R, 15 RBI, 6 SB)

First Base: Tyler Reddy, Jr.

Second Base: Logan Cardinoza, Jr.; Raum Desai, So.

Shortstop: Cam Estok, Jr.

Third Base: Jack Vallillo, So.

Leftfield: James Vallillo, Sr. (.300/.377/.417, 3 2B, 2 3B, 13 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB)

Centerfield: Nick Rakoski, Jr. (.333/.442/.444, 8 2B, 22 R, 15 RBI, 11 SB)

Rightfield: Harrison Eng, So.

DH: Christian Ferranti (Sr., 1B)

Other Hitters

Matt McLaughlin, Jr., UTIL

Lincoln Maikos, So., OF

Alex Cabrera, Jr., UTIL

Pitching Staff

Luke Buda, Sr., LHP (38.2 IP, 2-4, 3.62 ERA, 33 H, 29 BB, 36 K)

Joe Barbarino, Sr., RHP (38.2 IP, 3-2, 3.44 ERA, 32 H, 29 BB, 39 K)

Dylan Zammit, So., RHP

Lincoln Maikos, So., RHP

Alex Cabrera, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Joe Barbarino – Fairleigh Dickinson University-Teaneck

Class A Central Lineup

Jake Howlett, Sr., Catcher, Wall

E.J. Stefanelli, Sr., Catcher, Shore

Dylan Passo, Jr., 1B/OF, Red Bank Catholic

Max Dantoni, Jr., Shortstop, Red Bank Catholic

Sean Griggs, Sr., Third Base, Red Bank Catholic

Parker Shenman, Jr., Centerfield, Rumson-Fair Haven

Matt Brunner, Sr., Centerfield, Red Bank Catholic

Jack Riva, Sr., Outfield, Rumson-Fair Haven

Matt Iulo, Jr., Catcher Holmdel

Class A Central Pitching Rotation

Declan Leary, Sr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic

Owen O’Toole, Jr., RHP, Rumson-Fair Haven

Phil Kramer, Sr., LHP, Raritan

Ryan Prior, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic

Collin Denton, Jr., RHP, Monmouth

Rob Stock, Sr., LHP, Shore

Class A Central Breakouts to Watch

Aiden Funk, So., Catcher, Red Bank Catholic

Travis Evernham, Jr., Raritan

T.J. Minner, Sr., C/OF/DH, Shore

Gavin D’Aponte, Sr., First Base, Rumson-Fair Haven

Max Hinchliffe, So., LHP, Rumson-Fair Haven

Joe Barbarino, Sr., RHP, Holmdel

Jobby Dekis, So., OF, Raritan

Hunter Beattie, Fr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic

Jake Frankiel, So., OF, Red Bank Catholic

T.J. Lagere, Sr., INF/RHP, Wall

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