It was not quite the behemoth of 2021 and 2022, but the Class A North division remained an impressive collection of teams from top to bottom and its eight members are in for another war of attrition in 2024. All eight teams have quality rosters and all eight have a shot to be better than they were a year ago.

Even after a return to the pack last year, this division includes three group champions (Middletown South, Middletown North and Howell), another sectional champion (Colts Neck), a sectional finalist (Marlboro), a Shore Conference Tournament semifinalist (CBA) and three different outright division champions (Freehold Township, Middletown South and CBA) in the last three seasons alone. The only A North program not included on that list of teams is Manalapan, which was in the Shore Conference Tournament final and the overall Group IV semifinal in 2019.

The only thing harder than picking division winner from this group is finding a team that will finish last. Somebody will have to finish at the bottom, but in Class A North, all eight teams should be players in the postseason.

In predicted order of finish

1. Christian Brothers Academy

One of the best teams in the Shore Conference heading into 2024 might also be one of the youngest. Coming off a 19-win season in which CBA won the Class A North championship, reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and ended its season with a heartbreaking loss in the final at-bat at St. Augustine, the Colts will look much different this season. That does not, however, mean CBA will be sacrificing its potential to contend for the same championships they made a run at in 2023.

One familiar name on the 2024 CBA roster is senior ace Chris Levonas. After finally getting healthy after a lost sophomore season, Levonas turned in a First-Team All-Shore junior campaign and has since put his name on the MLB Draft radar as a potential top 150 prospect in the country come draft day in July. Levonas features a fastball that typically sits at 92 or 93 miles-per-hour but has reportedly touched 98, while also possessing two sharp breaking balls that he has woven into his repertoire over the last year.

CBA junior Chris Levonas. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
CBA senior Chris Levonas. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)

Levonas leads an otherwise young CBA staff that might very well be the Shore’s best, despite its youth. Sophomore left-hander Danny DiTullio was impressive in 14 innings of work last year and will ascend to the No. 2 spot in the rotation as he looks to put his name on the statewide radar in just his second high-school season. Sean Loggie and Dan Pardini are two other sophomore left-handers and Dylan Iwanyk is a right-hander from the sophomore class who will be a difference-maker on the mound. Seniors Mike DeFazio, Bobby Johnson and Shane Langan as well as junior Jack Dufficy are more experienced options for coach Marty Kenney Jr. in the pitching staff and freshman Declan Doogan has a chance to join the army of underclass arms this season.

Like its pitching rotation, the CBA batting order will return only one full-time starter from a year ago, which is junior catcher Danny Tsimbinos. On top of handling one of youngest pitching staffs in the state while also catching one of the state’s nastiest pitchers, Tsimbinos will have to be a middle-of-the-order run-producer for the Colts. The rest of the lineup will be loaded with sophomores, including twins Jared and Jayden Matejicka, shortstop Colin Hoverter and Iwanyk. Jared will start at first base, Jayden will move around between the infield and designated hitter and Iwanyk will fill in the gaps at the infield corners and DH.

Juniors Daniel Russo, Joe Dufficy and Will Fahey also move into the starting lineup, with Fahey already getting a prolonged look in centerfield at the end of his sophomore season. Russo will play third base and Dufficy will patrol leftfield, with freshmen Ryan Westmore and Dylan Reynholds ready to fill in if Dufficy is on the mound. Jaxon Sevilla will man the keystone as one of two seniors in the projected opening-day batting order. The other senior is rightfielder Jake Petro, who comes off a dose of playing time as a junior, during which he hit a triple.

With two first-year senior starters and a slew of young, inexperienced players in the starting lineup, a lot could go wrong this year for CBA as those young players go through the growing pains of playing against older competition. With talent among the ranks, a legitimate catcher and one of the top pitchers in the state in place, however, CBA is set up to brush off that inexperience and put together another big year.

CBA at a Glance

Head Coach: Marty Kenney Jr., fourth season
2023 Record: 19-6-1 (10-3-1, first in Class A North)
Key Losses: Harrison Campi (SS), Hunter DelGuercio (OF), Wyatt Hunt (3B), Nick Harnisch (RHP), Zaine Toneske (1B/RHP), Brennan O’Keefe (RHP), James Nitti (2B), Matt DiFeo (CF), Jack Mocik (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Danny Tsimbinos, Jr. (.307/.411/.440, 4 2B, 2 HR, 9 R, 21 RBI)

First Base: Jared Matejicka, So.; Dylan Iwanyk, So.

Second Base: Jaxon Sevilla, Sr.; Jayden Matejicka, So.

Shortstop: Colin Hoverter, So.

Third Base: Daniel Russo, Jr.; Jayden Matejicka, So.

Leftfield: Jack Dufficy, Jr.; Ryan Westmore, Fr.; Dylan Reynholds, Fr.

Centerfield: Will Fahey, Jr. (.324/.378/.382, 2 2B, 11 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB)

Rightfield: Jake Petro, Sr.; (.200/.346/.300, 1 3B, 4 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB)

DH: Jayden Matejicka, So.; Dylan Iwanyk, So.

Other Hitters

Jack McKeon, Jr., OF

Dan Padini, So., 1B

Griffin Killcullen, So., C

Michael Bender, So., 1B

Declan Doogan, Fr., 2B

Pitching Staff

Chris Levonas, Sr., RHP (42.2 IP, 5-1, 1.15 ERA, 20 H, 12 BB, 73 K)

Danny DiTullio, So., LHP (14 IP, 2-0, 4.00 ERA, 9 H, 5 BB, 14 K)

Sean Loggie, So., LHP

Dylan Iwanyk, So., RHP (1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K)

Dan Pardini, So., LHP

Jack Dufficy, Jr., RHP

Shane Langan, Sr., RHP

Michael DeFazio, Sr., RHP (6 IP, 1-0, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K)

Bobby Johnson, Sr., RHP (7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K)

Declan Doogan, Fr., RHP

College Commitments

Chris Levonas – Wake Forest University

Kyle Welsh — Western New England

2. Middletown North

Heading into the 2022 season, Middletown North was a program that often underachieved considering the Division I talent on hand. All that changed in the last two years. Not only did the Lions deliver a Group III championship with a loaded 2022 team, but they won a Central Jersey Group III title a year ago with a whole new pitching staff led by underclassmen.

The Lions have gone from underachievers to overachievers in short order and their new reputation will be put to the test again in 2024. The good news for Middletown North is that young pitching staff from a year ago is a year older and intact. Junior right-hander Zach Hampton and left-handed classmate Gabe Ahlemeyer return at the head of the rotation after both with workhorse pitchers who pounded the strike zone and took advantage of Middletown North’s excellent defense behind them. The same goes for fellow junior Alipio Figueroa, who was a shutdown reliever at the end of games for Middletown North as a sophomore.

Middletown North sophomore Zach Hampton. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Middletown North junior Zach Hampton. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Bringing back that trio, plus working in sophomore right-hander Ryan Clark and junior right-hander Ryan Thal give Middletown North the makings of another winning pitching staff, but there are some reasons for tempered enthusiasm. The Lions will not have the senior-led infield, highlighted by standout shortstop Danny Frontera, whose defense at the most prominent infield position allowed the pitching staff to pound the zone with confidence. Both shortstop and second base are up in the air, with junior and potential starting shortstop Aldo Casale nursing an ankle-injury heading into the season and second base remaining a competition between no fewer than three players heading into opening day vs. Middletown South. Even third base carries come questions, with junior Jack Jensen taking over at the hot corner as Hampton moves over to first base full time.

One of the possible solutions in the infield is senior Jason Quardt. A three-year starter and standout athlete, Quardt has been a dynamic defender in leftfield, but could make the move to shortstop to shore up the infield defense. If he remains in the left, the spacious outfield at Rich Veth Field will be a no-fly zone with Quardt and classmate Dylan Briggs patrolling two thirds of the grass. Briggs is another speedy outfielder who returns in centerfield after a Second-Team All-Shore season as a junior in which he hit a robust .461 with nine extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases.

Ahlemeyer and Hampton are also key cogs in the batting order, as are juniors Mike Hallard and Ian McGoldrick. Hallard emerged as a steady sophomore catcher a year ago and should hit more as a junior, while McGoldrick played as the DH and slugged nearly .500. Senior Connor Walsh is also a new starter to watch as Middletown North looks to lean on its experienced, steady pitching staff and promising lineup to overcome some early defensive questions and eventually get back to competing for a third straight sectional title.

Middletown North at a Glance

Head Coach: Ryan McCabe, fifth season
2023 Record: 17-9 (9-5, second in Class A North)
Key Losses: Ryan Frontera (SS), R.J. Kernan (1B), Colby McMahon (2B), Eddie Patrick (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Mike Hallard, Jr. (.269/.370/.333, 5 2B, 16 R, 8 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Zach Hampton, Jr. (.413/.510/.507, 4 2B, 1 HR, 23 R, 19 RBI, 1 SB); Gabe Ahlemeyer, Jr.; Alipio Figueroa, Jr.

Second Base: C.J. Lorelli, Jr.; Seamus McCabe, Jr.; Brady Kernan, So.; Louis Romeo, So.

Shortstop: Aldo Casale, Jr. (3-for-20, 7 R, 2 SB); Jason Quardt, Sr.; Louis Romeo, So.; Ryan Thal, Jr.

Third Base: Jack Jensen, Jr.; Alipio Figueroa, Jr.

Leftfield: Jason Quardt, Sr. (.321/.396/.369, 4 2B, 19 R, 8 RBI, 9 SB); Ian McGoldrick, Jr.

Centerfield: Dylan Briggs, Sr. (.461/.511/.615, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 21 R, 17 RBI, 11 SB)

Rightfield: Gabe Ahlemeyer, Jr. (.281/.356/.344, 4 2B, 7 R, 12 RBI); Connor Walsh, Sr. (4-for-16, 4 R, 2 SB); Ian McGoldrick, Jr.; Ryan Clark, So.

DH: Ian McGoldrick, Jr. (.333/.367/.487, 4 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB)

Other Hitters

Ryan Miller (Jr., C)

T.J. Rey (Jr., OF)

College Commitments

Dylan Briggs – Montclair State University

Zach Hampton – University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Pitching Staff

Zach Hampton, Jr., RHP (45 IP, 5-3, 3.58 ERA, 49 R, 15 BB, 21 K)

Gabe Ahlemeyer, Jr., LHP (54.2 IP, 6-3, 2.46 ERA, 43 H, 24 BB, 32 K)

Alipio Figueroa, Jr., RHP (20.1 IP, 1-0, 3.44 ERA, 23 H, 8 BB, 10 K)

Ryan Clark, So., RHP

Ryan Thal, Jr., RHP

Ian McGoldrick, Jr., RHP

Jason Quardt, Sr., RHP

Connor Walsh, Sr., RHP

Louis Romeo, So., RHP

Seamus McCabe, Jr., RHP

3. Middletown South

The 2021 season ended with then-sophomore Ben Schild on the mound, finishing off Middletown South’s first overall state championship in 25 years. The dominant right-hander was so good throughout the season, it figured to be just the beginning of a series of championship celebrations during Schild’s career. It continued with the Monmouth County Tournament championship the following year, but since then, the Eagles served as a cautionary tale that championship opportunities don’t always come back.

Last year was particularly frustrating for Middletown South, which shut Schild down as a pitcher with an arm injury in April and never got him back on the mound.  Schild’s absence was just part of a disappointing season for Middletown South, which was still an above-average team in the Shore Conference when it came to preventing runs but missed its ace. In Schild’s absence, left-hander Mason Christopher stepped up as the ace of the staff and now enters his senior year looking to lead the Eagles back to the top of the Shore Conference rankings, not to mention deep into the state tournament.

Brevin Bezick is another senior left-hander at the top of the rotation with the stuff to be a No. 1 starter. Walks have held Bezick back in his pursuit of ace-level status, but he is not far from becoming an All-Shore pitcher and giving Middletown South a devastating one-two punch, which the Eagles hoped they would have with Schild and Bezick last year. Junior Will McCarthy is on his way to joining the rotation and has a chance to pitch himself into one of the top two spots, even if Christopher and Bezick are on their respective games. Juniors Ben Shea, Chris Long and Dan Daly are also in the competition for innings, while seniors Derek Commander and Jacob Wenzel return with experience in relief.

Middletown South junior Lou D'Alessio connects on a home run in 2022. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Middletown South senior Lou D'Alessio. (Photo: Tom Smith |

While Schild’s injury hurt Middletown South’s chances a year ago, another injury has the Eagles facing adversity out of the gate in 2024. Junior shortstop Brendan Sliva suffered a torn ACL during the football season and will not be available for his junior year, which takes a potential four-year starter at shortstop out of the mix for Middletown South. Senior Carmine DeCrescenzo will fill the open spot at shortstop, while juniors Rob Chiusano and Vinny Alcure take over as starters at second and third base, respectively. If Bezick is on the mound or playing in the outfield instead of first base, Middletown South will be sporting a completely new infield, with Patrick Dempsey getting time at first.

Middletown South has experience back behind the plate and in the outfield and those three returning starters will help carry the lineup. Andrew Marquis is in his second season as the Eagles starting catcher and Middletown South also has another capable senior backstop in Owen Murphy, who could find his way into the lineup at several spots. Bezick is likely to play rightfield when he doesn’t and will play alongside of dynamic senior centerfielder Lou D’Alessio. D’Alessio can impact the game in the field, on the bases and at the plate with his speed and power and he will likely have to do all of that with regularity to help Middletown South overcome some questions in the lineup. Those questions aside, Middletown South has all the makings of a dangerous tournament team and one that could challenge for the top spot in Class A North.

Middletown South at a Glance

Head Coach: Jeff Karpell, second season (eighth overall)
2023 Record: 13-13 (7-7, tied fourth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Ben Schild (RHP/DH), Will Christopher (1B/3B/OF/RHP), Matt Sliva (INF), Danny Corcoran (INF), Brendan Roche (RHP), John Chiusano (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Andrew Marquis, Sr. (.237/.292/.305, 4 2B, 3 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB)

First Base: Patrick Dempsey, Jr.; Brevin Bezick, Sr.; Giuseppe Massagli, Jr.

Second Base: Rob Chiusano, Jr.

Shortstop: Carmine DeCrescenzo, Sr. (2-for-5, 11 R, 1 RBI)

Third Base: Vinny Alcure, Jr.; Luke Cordiano, Sr.

Leftfield: Mike Frandsen, Jr.

Centerfield: Lou D’Alessio, Sr. (.314/.422/.543, 10 2B, 2 HR, 21 R, 10 RBI, 5 SB)

Rightfield: Brevin Bezick, Sr. (.293/.468/.448, 6 2B, 1 HR, 13 R, 13 RBI, 4 SB); Jack Concordia, So. (2-for-4, R); Jack Buono, Jr.

DH: Giusseppe Massagli, Jr. (.263/.348/.316, 1 2B, 6 RBI); Patrick Dempsey, Jr.

Other Hitters

Owen Murphy, Sr., C (0-for-1)

Brendan Sliva, Jr., SS – Injured; out for season (.313/.452/.358, 3 2B, 12 R, 15 RBI, 2 SB)

Pitching Staff

Mason Christopher, Sr., LHP (38.1 IP, 4-4, 2.92 ERA, 37 H, 23 BB, 51 K)

Brevin Bezick, Sr., LHP (25.1 IP, 2-4, 6.08 ERA, 25 H, 28 BB, 32 K)

Will McCarthy, Jr., RHP

Ben Shea, Jr., RHP

Chris Long, Jr., RHP

Derek Commander, Sr., LHP (3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K)

Jacob Wenzel, Sr., RHP (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K)

Dan Daly, Jr., RHP

Alex Korth, Sr., RHP

4. Howell

Last year as a rebuilding season for the Rebels, who were coming off an overall Group IV championship in 2022 while looking to replace most of the players who took them on that magic ride to a title. Playing a challenging schedule – both within the Class A North division and beyond it – proved too much for Howell, which was 7-7 through 14 games before finishing the year on an eight-game losing streak.

Two of the returning starters from the 2022 championship team are still around and one of them – senior first baseman Braden Walsh – is coming off an All-Shore-caliber season as a junior. Walsh also caught some games behind the plate as well and could do the same this year, but the current plan for coach Eric Johnson’s club will be for Walsh to play first base and continue to drive in runs from the heart of the Howell order. Classmate and third baseman Joe Zito also started as a sophomore and is looking to recapture his hitting form of 2022 after hitting .200 last season.

Howell junior Braden Walsh. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Howell senior Braden Walsh. (Photo: Tom Smith |

While Walsh and Zito are the only three-year starters, Howell will have starters back at four other spots on the diamond. Junior catcher Brody Loch was solid defensively as a sophomore and will look to take a step forward offensively, while senior Ryan Kinsella and junior Vinny Agnello are back after splitting time at second base in 2023. Kinsella and Agnello will battle for time as the double-play partner of junior Aaron Wojenski, who returns at starting shortstop after posting a .463 on-base percentage as a sophomore.

Junior Logan Koeppel leads the outfield in left after he hammered eight extra-base hits – including three homers – in 2023. Senior Nick Lennon takes over for graduated standout Russell Halvorsen in centerfield and sophomore Waylon Cavanaugh is the new rightfielder. Sophomore Ryan Todisco will serve as a DH-slash-utility role after getting some varsity time as a freshman.

Howell’s pitching could be an under-the-radar strength, buoyed by the return of senior right-hander Rohan Shah. As a junior, Shah was Howell’s most consistent pitcher from start-to-finish and will also be the only senior in this year’s rotation. Left-hander Phil Christopher threw 20 innings as a sophomore and is one of five juniors ready to contribute to a deep, capable pitching staff. Xavier Cortez, left-hander Jake Jensen, Wojenski and Koeppel will all contribute on the mound and Jackson Vetrano is a sophomore to watch on the rubber for the Rebels. It’s a junior-heavy mix overall, but with Walsh and Zito bring their championship experience to the middle of the order and Shah leading the staff, Howell is set up to win right now with a team that could be even stronger in 2025.

Howell at a Glance

Head Coach: Eric Johnson, 14th season
2023 Record: 7-15 (7-7, tied fourth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Russell Halvorsen (CF), Luke Bearse (RHP), Aiden Bauer (RHP), Jack Gartenstein (OF),

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Brody Loch, Jr. (.158/.238/.211, 2 2B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB); Braden Walsh, Sr.

First Base: Braden Walsh, Sr. (.367/.493/.617, 3 2B, 4 HR, 13 R, 19 RBI, 2 SB); Matt Vetrano, So. (.222/.250/.278, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 RBI)

Second Base: Ryan Kinsella, Sr. (.200/.333/.250, 1 2B, 4 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB); Vinny Agnello, Jr. (.154/.283/.154, 6 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB)

Shortstop: Aaron Wojenski, Jr. (.290/.463/.355, 2 2B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB)

Third Base: Joe Zito, Sr. (.200/.291/.243, 3 2B, 8 R, 5 RBI)

Leftfield: Logan Koeppel, Jr. (.283/.348/.567, 2 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 7 R, 13 RBI, 2 SB)

Centerfield: Nick Lennon, Sr. (.194/.216/.194, 5 R, 6 RBI)

Rightfield: Waylon Cavanaugh, So. (0-for-1)

DH: Ryan Todisco (So., UTIL) (0-for-11, 2 R)

Pitching Staff

Rohan Shah, Sr., RHP (32.1 IP, 4-1, 2.81 ERA, 36 H, 20 BB, 24 K)

Xavier Cortez, Jr., RHP

Jake Jensen, Jr., LHP (13.1 IP, 0-1, 3.15 ERA, 14 H, 9 BB, 10 K)

Aaron Wojenski, Jr., RHP (2 IP, 1 SV, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)

Logan Koeppel, Jr., RHP

Phil Christopher, Jr., LHP (20 IP, 0-3, 5.25 ERA, 29 H, 17 BB, 13 K)

Jackson Vetrano, So., RHP

College Commitments

Braden Walsh – Felician University

Joe Zito – Muhlenberg College

Aaron Wojenski – New Jersey Institute of Technology

5. Manalapan

Although last season was one of the more difficult ones endured by the Braves during the highly successful tenure of head coach Brian Boyce, it ended with the high note of Manalapan beating Marlboro in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs behind an impressive pitching performance from right-hander Joe Dionisio. With Dionisio back at the top of the rotation and classmate Dylan Shaffer poised for a bounceback year on the rubber, Manalapan has the pitching to be a much greater factor in the Class A North race.

Dionisio was Manalapan’s best pitcher on a per-inning basis last year, but only pitched 29 innings. The Braves will hope to get more innings from him this spring and in the case of Shaffer, they hope he looks more like the sophomore who pitched to a 2.40 ERA with nine walks in 23 innings than the junior who put up a 5.88 ERA with 21 walks in 25 innings in 2023. If Dionisio and Shaffer can do what both have already done, Manalapan will have one of the better pitching staffs in the division with that one-two punch, plus fellow seniors Kevin Rusinak and Varun Gabbita, as well as left-handers Dylan Kane and sophomore Noah Feldman.

Manalapan was an average offensive team and that was with one of the Shore’s best pure-hitters in Cristian Bernardini in the middle of the order. With Bernardini now at St. John’s, Manalapan will have to find ways to score with a lineup that has a fair amount of experience, but not a lot of proven run-production. Seniors Chris Silva and Joe Pecoraro will be solid defenders up the middle on the infield and senior David Ghibesi is an experienced catcher. All three will try to step up as hitters after each post slugging percentages under .300, which fellow infield starting candidates Joe Varvaro, Cristian Ptasienski and Gabbita are also hoping to do as well.

Returning outfield starter Erik Johnson also slugged under .300 last year as a junior and will be joined in the outfield by new centerfielder Nick Marcello and sophomore Noah Feldman. The lone exception to Manalapan’s slugging shortage is Dionisio, who clubbed two homers and posted a slugging percentage above .400. The Braves don’t need a team of boppers, but some additional gap power to go with a contact-oriented lineup and an improved pitching staff will make the Braves as tough to play throughout this season as they were to play at the end of last year.

Manalapan at a Glance

Head Coach: Brian Boyce, 17th season
2023 Record: 9-17-1 (4-9-1, seventh in Class A North)
Key Losses: Cristian Bernardini (CF), Christian D’Angelo (C), Danny Burns (RHP), Christian Zabotka (SS), A.J. Tanico (1B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: David Ghibesi, Sr. (.278/.438/.278, 4 R, 4 RBI, 3 SB); Robert Cruz, So.

First Base: Joe Varvaro, Sr. (.107/.359/.107, 5 R, 3 RBI); Cristian Ptasienski, Jr. (.176/.256/.235, 2 2B, 2 R, 7 RBI)

Second Base: Chris Silva, Sr. (.239/.381/.254, 1 2B, 9 R, 5 RBI, 5 SB)

Shortstop: John Pecoraro, Sr. (.259/.344/.278, 1 2B, 10 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB)

Third Base: Varun Gabbita, Sr. (.286/.423/.286, 4 R, 5 RBI); Jake Guarneri, Sr. (0-for-5, 1 RBI)

Leftfield: Erik Johnson, Sr. (.250/.390/.292, 2 2B, 8 R, 4 RBI, 3 SB); Brandon Heller, So.; Matt Sisco, Jr.

Centerfield: Nick Marcello, Sr. (0-for-4, 12 R, 6 SB); Dennis Healy, Jr.

Rightfield: Noah Feldman, So.; Kevin Rusinak, Sr. (0-for-7, 2 R, 3 SB)

DH: Joe Dionisio, Sr. (.205/.333/.409, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 R, 8 RBI, 1 SB)

Pitching Staff

Joe Dionisio, Sr., RHP (29.1 IP, 1-2, 1.19 ERA, 18 H, 26 BB, 49 K)

Dylan Shaffer, Sr., RHP (25 IP, 1-3, 5.88 ERA, 27 H, 21 BB, 34 K)

Kevin Rusinak, Sr., RHP (24.2 IP, 1-4, 2.84 ERA, 29 H, 15 BB, 25 K)

Varun Gabbita, Sr., RHP (1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K)

Dylan Kane, Jr., LHP

Noah Feldman, So., LHP

College Commitments

Dylan Shaffer – University of Maine

Joe Dionisio – St. Peter’s College

John Pecoraro – Albright College

6. Freehold Township

No team in Class A North last season had less senior production in 2023 than Freehold Township did, so coming off a four-win showing within the division and an overall competitive air throughout the season, the Patriots have to like where they are heading into 2024. Replacing senior catcher Ryan Kopf will be the foremost challenge for coach Todd Smith, who will give that responsibility to sophomore Nick Schicchi in hopes that he has another three-year starting backstop on his hands.

Beyond the unknown at catcher, Freehold Township has the makings of an improved team that could be a sleeper to win the A North public division title. Senior shortstop Mike Avino was one of the better all-around players in Class A North, putting up an OPS over .900 as a shortstop while also serving as Freehold Township’s closer. As a closer, Avino struck out 15 batters in 12 innings without issuing a walk – a bonus contribution to the day-to-day consistency he brought to the field as a shortstop.

Senior C.J. Svoboda will play across from Avino at second base, while juniors Jon Boyan and Christian Borromeo man first and third base, respectively. Seniors Aidan Galvanek and Lex Nelsen will play the corner outfield spots with junior Matt Nuccio taking over full-time in centerfield after getting a taste of the job as a sophomore. Beyond Avino, Freehold Township lack much extra-base prowess, although Nelson did supply his two with two doubles, a triple and a home run a year ago. Nelsen and Avino combined for 10 extra-base hits, while the rest of Freehold Township’s returning players combined for eight.

Whatever Freehold Township’s scoring output, the Patriots are hoping to build around an exciting pitching staff, led by sophomore right-hander Jackson Redmond. The second-year hurler was Freehold Township’s best pitcher by the numbers, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and 43-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings. Nelsen, Svoboda and Nuccio all played prominent roles on the staff as well and junior Jack Henry, like Nuccio, will give the Patriots a left-handed look to throw at opposing hitters. That experienced pitching, plus an offense that showed growth last year with the potential for more this season has Freehold Township believing in a run at a top spot in the division.

Freehold Twp. at a Glance

Head Coach: Todd Smith, 14th season
2023 Record: 9-16 (4-10, eighth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Ryan Kopf (C), Robert Havens (OF), Lucas Dixon (DH)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Nick Schicchi, So.

First Base: Jon Boylan, Jr. (.231/.346/.292, 4 2B, 8 R, 8 RBI, 4 SB)

Second Base: C.J. Svoboda, Sr. (.179/.238/.205, 1 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI, 7 SB)

Shortstop: Mike Avino, Sr. (.369/.446/.477, 5 2B, 1 3B, 20 R, 8 RBI, 8 SB)

Third Base: Christian Borromeo, Jr. (.255/.356/.275, 1 2B, 11 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB)

Leftfield: Aidan Galvanek, Sr. (.233/.314/.247, 1 2B, 9 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB)

Centerfield: Matt Nuccio, Jr. (.219/.306/.281, 2 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 5 SB)

Rightfield: Lex Nelsen, Sr. (.281/.390/.391, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 13 R, 10 RBI, 10 SB)

DH: Sonny Moore, Jr.

Other Hitters

Jordan Wortman, Jr., OF

John Van Horn, Sr., OF

Tim Cox, Sr., OF

Jack Henry, Jr., OF

Tom Sciarra, So., 2B

Matt Pischettola, Sr., C

Anthony Vitello, Sr., DH

Pitching Staff

Jackson Redmond, So., RHP (44 IP, 3-3, 2.70 ERA, 51 H, 10 BB, 43 K)

Lex Nelsen, Sr., RHP (38.1 IP, 2-5, 4.38 ERA, 40 H, 21 BB, 39 K)

C.J. Svoboda, Sr., RHP (23 IP, 1-3, 6.70 ERA, 30 H, 12 BB, 22 K)

Matt Nuccio, Jr., LHP (13.2 IP, 1-2, 5.63 ERA, 13 H, 17 BB, 7 K)

Jack Henry, Jr., LHP

Christian Borromeo, Jr., RHP

Mark Rice, Jr., RHP

Andrew Mutterperl, Sr., RHP

Connor Brand, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Mike Avino – Albright College

Lex Nelson – Lycoming College

7. Colts Neck

Replacing players who graduate is a challenge felt by almost every varsity program almost every single season and that is true of Colts neck this season. What only a select group of unfortunate teams have to tackle is a starter going down for the season due to injury, which is what the Cougars are dealing with as opening day approaches. Senior Chris Scully – an Ithaca University football commit and a third-year starter at multiple positions on the baseball field – suffered a finger injury in a pregame warmup that required season-ending surgery.

Scully has been a middle-of-the-order bat for Colts Neck while playing third base and catcher for the Cougars. He was slated to play in a corner outfield spot this season, so his absence will require junior Miles Schneider to step up in left field alongside fellow starting outfielders Tosh Mancini and Casey Gardiner. Mancini and Gardiner are also third-year starters, so the Cougars remain strong in the outfield despite the injury.

Colts Neck’s infield also has production back, with senior Anthony Vallaro returning at shortstop after breaking out with four doubles, three triples and an on-base percentage just under .400. Senior Kyle McCarthy also hit better than .300 while playing second base and first baseman Tom Diffley featured extra-base power to go with a .482 on-base percentage. Senior Walter Perski, meanwhile, takes over the catching duties, with sophomore Joe Pignatelli getting the chance at third base as a starter. Pignatelli is one of several sophomores who could make an impact this year, with catchers Matt Clark and John Glusko competing for time and infielders Ryan Spencer, Jack Dugo and Ronan Kiley waiting in the wings. R.J. Conover is another sophomore who is part of the outfield contingent.

Diffley will lead the Cougars pitching staff after throwing 35 1/3 quality innings as a junior. The senior left-hander will have to be the rotation stalwart with only five innings returning beyond what Diffley provided in 2023. Senior Dylan Neves and Mancini will see more innings, as will juniors Nick Hayden and Nick Hardy. Spencer and Kiely are the sophomores to follow as the year progresses and with a couple pleasant surprises in the pitching staff, Colts Neck has the position-player power to do damage this season.

Colts Neck at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Yorke, 24th season
2023 Record: 9-14 (6-8, sixth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Tyler Spencer (RHP/SS), John O’Connor (OF), Ryan Tan (2B), Vinny Zaffarese (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Walter Perski, Sr.; Matt Clark, So.

First Base: Tom Diffley, Sr. (.354/.482/.477, 5 2B, 1 HR, 16 R, 13 RBI, 2 SB); Ronan Kiely, So.

Second Base: Kyle McCarthy, Sr. (.308/.383/.338, 1 3B, 15 R, 3 RBI, 4 SB)

Shortstop: Anthony Vallaro, Sr. (.318/.397/.470, 4 2B, 3 3B, 9 R, 13 RBI, 4 SB)

Third Base: Joe Pignatelli, So. (1-for-17, 1 SB)

Leftfield: Miles Schneider, Jr.

Centerfield: Tosh Mancini, Sr. (.273/.342/.303, 2 2B, 16 R, 6 RBI, 6 SB)

Rightfield: Casey Gardiner, Sr. (.299/.427/.552, 9 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 15 R, 18 RBI, 6 SB)

Other Hitters

John Glusko, So., C

R.J. Conover, So., OF

Ryan Spencer, So., 3B

Jack Dugo, So., SS

Will Perski, Jr., 2B

Chris Scully, Sr., OF (.319/.395/.347, 2 2B, 12 R, 12 RBI, 1 SB) – injured; out for season

Pitching Staff

Tom Diffley, Sr., LHP (35.1 IP, 2-1, 2.58 ERA, 32 H, 12 BB, 43 K)

Dylan Neves, Sr., RHP (2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)

Tosh Mancini, Sr., RHP (1.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K)

Nick Hayden, Jr., RHP

Nick Hardy, Jr., RHP (1 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K)

Ryan Williams, Jr., RHP

Ryan Spencer, So., RHP

Ronan Kiely, So., RHP

College Commitments

Tom Diffley – Salisbury University

Casey Gardiner – John Jay College

Tosh Mancini – Brookdale Community College

Kyle McCarthy – New Jersey City University

Dylan Neves – Widener University

Anthony Vallaro – Drew University

Chris Scully – Ithaca College (football)

8. Marlboro

New head coach Angel Navarrete takes over the Marlboro program this season after nine years at Union High School and his first win with the Mustangs will also be his 100th career win overall. He takes over a team that has some returning talent in the lineup but will have a lot to replace on the pitching rubber. Last season, the Mustangs had Class A North’s best two-way player in current Seton Hall freshman Alex D’Ambrosio and the void he leaves in the heart of the batting order and, more importantly, the top of the rotation is substantial.

Marlboro’s best trait heading into the season is its strength up the middle. The Mustangs have two capable catchers in junior Gavin McCarthy and senior Mike Consolazio, the latter of whom cracked seven extra-base hits and drove in 18 runs as a junior. Shortstop Nick Scaff is also back as a dependable glove at a critical position, while senior Paul Santos provides both plus offense and defense in centerfield after hitting .373 as a junior.

Seniors Joe Santos and Anthony Martino also return to the lineup – Santos at third base and Martino in left field. The junior class will primarily be responsible for filing the open starting spots at first base (Jack Rivlin), second base (Braden Bradley and Mason Alexander) and rightfield (Joe Kelly and Nick Diadema), with sophomore Chris Joy in the mix for at-bats in the outfield.

The Marlboro offense and defense will keep the Mustangs competitive in Class A North and a good year on the mound could push the Mustangs over the top. Senior Danny Trentacosta is the top returning starter after throwing 16 2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts as a junior. Senior right-hander Matt Padlec is a Felician commit who is ready to take on big innings for the Mustangs while Alexander provides some additional upside for the pitching staff. In a division without an easy opponent, Marlboro will need its arms to answer the bell early on and with a solid group of defenders to take the pressure off, they should have a chance to shine this year.

Marlboro at a Glance

Head Coach: Angel Navarrete, first season (10th overall)
2023 Record: 12-11 (8-6, third in Class A North)
Key Losses: Alex D’Ambrosio (RHP/1B), Danny Talarico (OF), Mike Kansky (OF), Lawrence Elinson (RHP), Alex Frank (RHP), Andrew Li (2B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Gavin McCarthy, Jr. (.289/.429/.342, 2 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI, 1 SB); Mike Consolazio, Sr.

First Base: Jack Rivlin, Jr.; Danny Trentacosta, Sr.

Second Base: Braden Bradley, Jr.; Mason Alexander, Jr.

Shortstop: Nick Scaff, Sr. (.222/.348/.222, 13 R, 3 RBI, 3 SB)

Third Base: Joe Santos, Sr. (.266/.319/.313, 3 3B, 4 R, 8 RBI, 2 SB)

Leftfield: Anthony Martino, Sr. (.277/.327/.340, 3 2B, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB); Devin Leonardo, Sr.

Centerfield: Paul Santos, Sr. (.373/.462/.403, 2 2B, 20 R, 2 RBI, 7 SB)

Rightfield: Joe Kelly, Jr.; Chris Joy, So.; Nick Diadema, Jr.

DH: Mike Consolazio, Sr. (.273/.370/.455, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 R, 18 RBI, 1 SB); Devin Leonardo, Sr.

Pitching Staff

Danny Trentacosta, Sr., RHP (16.2 IP, 2-3, 5.46 ERA, 15 H, 15 BB, 24 K)

Matt Padalec, Sr., RHP

Mason Alexander, Jr., RHP

Anthony Martino, Sr., RHP

Devin Leonardo, Sr., RHP

College Commitments

Danny Trentacosta – DeSales University

Matt Padalec – Felician University

Paul Santos – St. Peter’s University

Mike Consolazio – Felician University

Class A North Division Lineup

Danny Tsimbinos, Jr., Catcher, CBA

Braden Walsh, Sr., 1B, Howell

Mike Avino, Sr,, SS, Freehold Township

Anthony Vallaro, Sr., SS, Colts Neck

Aaron Wojenski, Jr., SS, Howell

Dylan Briggs, Sr., CF, Middletown North

Lou D’Alessio, Sr., CF, Middletown South

Casey Gardiner, Sr., RF, Colts Neck

Brevin Bezick, Sr., OF/1B/LHP, Middletown South

Class A North Rotation

Chris Levonas, Sr., RHP, CBA

Mason Christopher, Sr, LHP, Middletown South

Zach Hampton, Jr., RHP/1B, Middletown North

Joe Dionisio, Sr., RHP, Manalapan

Tom Diffley, Sr., LHP/1B, Colts Neck

Gabe Ahlemeyer, Jr., LHP/OF, Middletown North

Class A North Breakouts to Watch

Danny DiTullio, So., LHP, CBA

Jackson Redmond, So., RHP, Freehold Township

Will Fahey, Jr., CF, CBA

Mike Hallard, Jr., Catcher, Middletown North

Will McCarthy, Jr., RHP, Middletown South

Matt Padalec, Sr., RHP, Marlboro

Jake Jensen, Jr., LHP Howell

Colin Hoverter, So., SS, CBA

David Ghibesi, Sr., Catcher, Manalapan

Matt Nuccio, Jr., CF/LHP, Freehold Township

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