Four of the six Shore Conference division races in 2023 were decided by one game and no race from a year ago was more competitive or more unpredictable than the chase for the Class A South championship. Jackson Memorial looked like the dominant team early before Southern also rode a hot start to make it a race. Toms River East fell out of the race, but swept both Jackson Memorial and Toms River East, which allowed Brick Memorial to surge into the picture and steal a share of the three-way title by the end of the season.

All three division championships were noteworthy as well: Jackson Memorial’s was its fifth straight division championship, while Brick Memorial ended a 28-year division-title drought and Southern snapped a 37-year run without a division championship. All three teams figure to be in the race at the end of the season again this year, while Toms River East hopes to parlay its two eye-opening sweeps in 2023 into a division title in 2024.

As usual, there will be no easy games in the division, with Toms River South, Toms River North and Central all bringing back elements from competitive teams and Brick bringing most of its very young 2023 outfit back.

In predicted order of finish

1. Southern

Although Southern won a share of its first Class A South division title since 1986 a year ago, the Rams head into 2024 eager to tend to some unfinished business. They had a chance to win the division outright and lost at Toms River East. They took a third-inning lead in the Ocean County Tournament final, but ultimately fell to Donovan Catholic. They knocked off No. 2 seed Vineland in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals but dropped their next game to Eastern.

Southern will have to forge ahead this season without some key hitters from last year’s lineup, but the Rams will have a chance to finish off a title this season thanks to an imposing pitching staff that brings back three big-game performers from a year ago. Senior right-hander Brady Lesiak leads the trio after an All-Shore First-Team season in which he went 6-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA on the mound while also leading Southern with a .407 batting average and 26 RBI. Classmate Roger Dreher is another hard-throwing right-hander with a devastating slider who logged big innings for Southern in 2023, while junior Tyler McLeod came on at the end of the season to shine in meaningful innings as the Rams chased four championships. The depth beyond those three is somewhat unproven on the varsity mound, but a three-man rotation of that caliber is exactly what every high-school coach hope to build around.

Southern senior Brady Lesiak. (Photo: Larry Murphy)
Southern senior Brady Lesiak. (Photo: Larry Murphy)

Even with the graduation of three major offensive producers in Brandon Brown, Niko Diamantopoulos and Dom Miranda, Southern will have a solid offensive core in place. Lesiak will remain a run-producer in the middle of the order and fellow senior Ray Mulhern will set the table for him. Mulhern has been a starter in leftfield in each of the past two seasons and will slide over to centerfield this season. Senior catcher Gabe Tomei set a school record with five triples a season ago while socking 12 extra-base-hits. Shortstop Brian Harper is the fourth senior third-year starter for Southern and is two years removed from hitting .400 as a sophomore.

Junior second baseman Mike Kaczynski was not a full-time starter during his sophomore season in 2023, but he started his share of games. He played third base when Lesiak pitched and held his own when he stepped in the batter’s box, hitting .333 with a pair of doubles in 24 plate appearances. The other four hitters in the lineup will not have as much experience at the plate in varsity action, but it is likely to be a senior-heavy group. Blake Glory and Matt Desiderio are in the running for first-base and designated hitter at-bats, with fellow seniors John Schwartz and Ryan Easterling also in the mix at DH. Seniors Logan Zeitler, Carter Leary and Joe Nascimento will cover the corner outfield spots alongside Mulhern and senior infielder Chris Colonna will play second base when Lesiak pitches, with Kaczynski jumping to third base.

With proven seniors at catcher, centerfield and both spots on the left side of the infield, plus an experienced junior at second base, Southern has the five most premium positions on the field covered when someone other than Lesiak is on the mound. Those arms and the defense should make the Rams hard to beat for any team in 2024, particularly in Class A South play. Replacing the clutch hitting and power of Miranda and the speed and high-contact approach of Brown in the lineup will be season-long challenges, but if the pitching staff lives up to expectations, Southern’s lineup will have more margin for error than the vast majority of teams in the state.

Southern at a Glance

Head Coach: Ed Truitt, third season
2023 Record:
16-9 (10-4, tied first in Class A South)
Key Losses: Dom Miranda (C), Brandon Brown (CF), Niko Diamantopoulos (1B), Steven Miller (LHP/OF), Mike Nasti (RHP/OF), Kyle Serino (2B), Owen Durnien (LHP/1B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Gabe Tomei, Sr. (.338/.463/.662, 5 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 21 R, 13 RBI, 1 SB)

First Base: Blake Glory, Sr. (1-for-9, 3 R, 2 RBI; Matt Desiderio, Sr. (0-for-1, 4 R, 1 SB)

Second Base: Mike Kaczynski, Jr. (.333/.375/.429, 2 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI); Chris Colonna, Sr.

Shortstop: Brian Harper, Sr. (.232/.326/.280, 4 2B, 15 R, 13 RBI, 3 SB)

Third Base: Brady Lesiak, Sr. (.407/.485/.580, 5 2B, 3 HR, 16 R, 26 RBI, 1 SB)

Leftfield: Logan Zeitler, Sr. (0-for-2)

Centerfield: Ray Mulhern, Sr. (.337/.457/.384, 4 2B, 22 R, 12 RBI, 12 SB)

Rightfield: Carter Leary, Sr. (1-for-1, 1 R, 1 RBI); Joe Nascimento, Sr. (1-for-3)

DH: John Schwartz (Sr., UTIL), Ryan Easterling (Sr., UTIL), Tyler McLeod (Jr., INF)

Pitching Staff

Brady Lesiak, Sr., RHP (50.2 IP, 6-0, 1.93 ERA, 35 H, 18 BB, 62 K)

Roger Dreher, Sr., RHP (35.2 IP, 4-4, 3.34 ERA, 28 H, 28 BB, 57 K)

Tyler McLeod, Jr., RHP (13.2 IP, 1-1, 3.07 ERA, 10 H, 12 BB, 18 K)

Jack Cahill, Sr., RHP

Matt Desiderio, Sr., LHP

Joe Nascimento, Sr., RHP

Mike Kaczynski, Jr., RHP

Brian Harper, Sr., RHP

College Commitments

Brady Lesiak – Binghamton University

Ray Mulhern – Salve Regina University

Roger Dreher – University of South Carolina Upstate

Gabe Tomei – Gwydedd Mercy University

Jack Cahill – Stockton University

Matt Desiderio – Bard College

Joe Nascimento – Wells College

2. Brick Memorial

Like fellow defending Class A South co-champion Southern, Brick Memorial returns an accomplished collection of pitchers and a select group of proven offensive performers to its roster this season with designs of advancing even farther in 2024. The outgoing group of hitters will be hard to replace: catcher Joey Nolan and first baseman Brady Leach were All-Shore players at different points during their varsity careers, while Joe Cordi and Dom D’Erasmo were starting infielders who could handle the bat. Those are difficult profiles to duplicate, but Brick Memorial will start 2024 with an edge on the mound thanks to four hurlers who each posted an ERA comfortably under 3.00.

Senior ace Nick Garbooshian actually had the highest ERA of the quartet at 2.82, which is to be expected considering he took the ball against Brick Memorial’s stiffest competition. Senior Mike Gioia was excellent in relief early in the season and earned himself starts down the stretch, as well as in this upcoming season. Jaxon Figueroa is the junior of the group after going a clean 4-0 as a sophomore. Senior right-hander Chase Cohen posted a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings as a junior, although he will get a late start to the season due to a preseason injury. Junior Brayden Nalducci is another promising arm who will miss the first few weeks but should add to the stable of arms that will also include a pair of promising sophomore left-handers in James Martin and Brody Moore.

Garbooshian will also be one of Brick Memorial’s top hitters after driving in 18 runs while playing first base on his non-pitching days. His younger brother, sophomore Tyler Garbooshian, started at shortstop as a freshman and provided top-of-the-order production while flashing the promise of much more to come over these next three season. Senior Nicco Maribo joined Nolan on the All-Shore Third Team after hitting over .400 with 11 doubles and 17 stolen bases as a centerfielder and will be another sparkplug in the top three of the lineup. Junior Jimi Popp is the everyday player back from 2024 and will start in a corner outfield spot.

Figueroa and junior Matt Cordi got a taste of varsity action a year ago and will slide into the starting lineup in the outfield and second base, respectively. Senior Vin Martino will get the first shot at third base, while Moore and fellow junior Luke Douglas also figure to pick up some at-bats. The toughest 2023 starter to replace will be Nolan behind the plate, a task that coach Evan Rizzitello will hand to sophomore Joe McGlynn, with Douglas also in the mix.

The impact Brick Memorial lost in its lineup is a bit heavier than what Southern lost and the Rams also have the more power arsenal of the two pitching staffs. With that being said, the Mustangs are right there on paper and after coming on strong at the end of the Class A South schedule in 2023, they are hoping to put it all together for a run at the division title, as well as a better showing come tournament time.

Brick Memorial at a Glance

Head Coach: Evan Rizzitello, 14th season
2023 Record:
17-9 (10-4, tied first in Class A North)
Key Losses: Joey Nolan (C), Brady Leach (1B), Joe Cordi (2B), Dom D’Erasmo (3B), Devante Noriega (OF), Cole Cook-Benson (RHP), Declan Sheehan (OF/RHP), Billy Caruso (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Joe McGlynn, So.

First Base: Nick Garbooshian, Sr. (.270/.398/.338, 5 2B, 7 R, 18 RBI, 1 SB); Brody Moore, So.

Second Base: Matt Cordi, Jr.

Shortstop: Tyler Garbooshian, So. (.340/.429/.472, 5 2B, 1 3B, 11 R, 14 RBI, 8 SB)

Third Base: Vin Martino, Sr.

Leftfield: Jimi Popp, Jr. (.310/.424/.423, 5 2B, 1 HR, 19 R, 17 RBI, 10 SB)

Centerfield: Nicco Maribo, Sr. (.425/.500/.575, 11 2B, 1 3B, 29 R, 11 RBI, 17 SB)

Rightfield: Jaxon Figueroa, Jr., Brody Moore, So.

DH: Luke Douglas (Jr., C), Brody Moore, So.

Other Hitters

Brayden Nalducci, Jr., 3B

Dan Popovitch, Jr., UTIL

Connor Sabolchick, Sr., OF

Carson McCue, Sr., OF

Tommy Nicholls, Sr., C

Evan Meyer, Fr., 3B


Pitching Staff

Nick Garbooshian, Sr., RHP (49.2 IP, 6-2, 2.82 ERA, 45 H, 21 BB, 54 K)

Mike Gioia, Sr., RHP (28.2 IP, 1-3, 1.71 ERA, 26 H, 11 BB, 21 K)

Chase Cohen, Sr., RHP (30 IP, 3-0, 2.10 ERA, 16 H, 19 BB, 23 K)

Jaxon Figueroa, Jr., RHP (22 IP, 4-0, 2.54 ERA, 16 H, 16 BB, 19 K)

Connor Sabolchick, Sr., RHP

Carson McCue, Sr., RHP

Jimi Popp, Jr., RHP

Brayden Nalducci, Jr., RHP

Brody Moore, So., LHP

James Martin, So., LHP

Zack Pirnik, Fr., LHP

Michael Figner, Fr., RHP

William Montanye, Fr., RHP

Evan Meyer, Fr., RHP

College Commitments

Nick Garbooshian – Drew University

Tyler Garbooshian – Rutgers University

3. Toms River East

Toms River East was not a part of the crowded Class A South division race in the final two weeks of the regular season, but the Raiders made their presence felt by sweeping two of the three co-champions - both Jackson Memorial and Southern. Those were two of the peaks in a roller-coaster season in which the Raiders ultimately ended up one game over .500 and ended the season with a 10-0 loss to a talented Kingsway squad in the South Group IV first round. The positive spin on the season is Toms River East went through 2023 with a young squad and graduated only three starters – including none in the pitching staff.

Having already beaten Southern twice a season ago, Toms River East has to feel great about its chances to return to the top of the Class A South division for the first time since splitting the title with Jackson Memorial in 2014. Just like it does for Southern and Brick Memorial, it starts on the mound for the Raiders. Senior right-hander Brandon Safoschnik emerged as the team’s ace as a sophomore in 2022 and faced Toms River East’s toughest competition. Left-hander Jack Mika rose to prominence in the East rotation during his 2023 junior campaign and a group of junior right-handers – Dan Nafziger, Gavin Toth and Mason Pentz – picked up scattered bullpen and spot-start innings as sophomores and were all quality. Senior left-hander Brendan Lavin was also part of that group and will add to Raiders depth.

The pitching staff will miss sophomore Lucas Melton, who will miss the season due to injury after giving the Raiders 11 innings and 22 at-bats as a rookie last year. While that removes some of the ceiling Toms River East might have had this coming season, it is a level of production the Raiders should be able to pick up elsewhere. Luke Brush is another freshman who shined for Toms River East and did so behind the plate, as well as at it as a hitter. Kyle Whalen is the other sophomore likely to contribute and Toms River East also has one of the Shore’s top incoming freshman in infielder Joey DiMeo, who is trending toward a starting job on the left side of the infield.

While the future is exciting, there is no time like the present and Toms River East has the upper-class influence necessary to have a big year. Junior Matt Ferrara had a huge sophomore season at second base and will move to shortstop. Centerfielder Ryan Korman is the only returning senior starter, with classmates Kyle Goglia and Adrien Aleman looking to move into this year’s lineup. Nafziger, Toth, Pentz and fellow junior Jax Buatez will also be key cogs in the lineup, with Nafziger and Toth returning as starters.

With Ferrara, Korman and Brush leading the lineup, a deep, experienced, and still-young pitching staff and a group of juniors, sophomores and a talented freshman poised for breakout seasons, Toms River East might have the most potential of any team in Class A South. There is a consistency gap to close between the Raiders and defending division champions Southern and Brick Memorial, but Toms River East has shown it can beat the best on its best day.

Toms River East at a Glance

Head Coach: Keith Smicklo, sixth season
2023 Record:
12-11 (8-6, fourth in Class A South)
Key Losses: Ryan Ushock (1B), Bobby Sabatino (SS), Jake Verdon (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Luke Brush, So. (.310/.432/.362, 3 2B, 1 R, 9 RBI)

First Base: Dan Nafziger, Jr. (.204/.278/.204, 7 R, 3 RBI, 6 SB); Adrian Aleman, Sr.

Second Base: Jax Bautez, Jr.; Mason Pentz, Jr.

Shortstop: Matt Ferrara, Jr. (.397/.494/.534, 8 2B, 1 3B, 24 R, 8 RBI, 11 SB); Mike Vaccarino, Jr.

Third Base: Joey DiMeo, Fr.; Dan Nafziger, Jr.

Leftfield: Gavin Toth, Jr. (.175/.246/.193, 1 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB)

Centerfield: Ryan Korman, Sr. (.196/.352/.250, 1 2B, 1 3B, 11 R, 7 RBI, 4 SB)

Rightfield: Kyle Goglia, Sr.

DH: James Whalen (So., OF), Mason Pentz, Jr.; Mike Vaccarino, Jr.

Other Hitters

Damian Killmer, Sr., UTIL

Chase Caswell, So., C

Roberto Cruz, Jr., 1B

Brandon Safoschnik, Sr., OF

Jonathan Pallman, So., OF

Lucas Melton, So., OF – injured; out for season

Pitching Staff

Brandon Safoschnik, Sr., RHP (34 IP, 2-3, 4.73 ERA, 44 H, 18 BB, 33 K)

Jack Mika, Sr., LHP (27.1 IP, 2-2, 3.84 ERA, 27 H, 17 BB, 30 K)

Dan Nafziger, Jr., RHP (20.1 IP, 1-2, 1.72 ERA, 13 H, 8 BB, 13 K)

Gavin Toth, Jr., RHP (11.1 IP, 3-0, 3.09 ERA, 12 H, 3 BB, 11 K)

Mason Pentz, Jr., RHP (16.2 IP, 1-0, 3.78 ERA, 16 H, 6 BB, 17 K)

Brendan Lavin, Sr., LHP (14.2 IP, 1-0, 1.43 ERA, 7 H, 10 BB, 18 K)

Mike Vaccarino, Jr., RHP (4.1 IP, 0-2, 11.31 ERA, 10 H, 7 BB, 5 K)

Jax Buatez, Jr., RHP

Nick Pobol, Sr., RHP

James Whalen, So., RHP

Jonathan Pallman, So., LHP

College Commitments

Ryan Koman – Penn State University-Brandywine

4. Jackson Memorial

The Jaguars have been a mainstay at the top of the Class A South standings and will head into 2024 in search of a sixth consecutive division championship – a streak that might already be at six if Jackson Memorial’s loaded 2020 team had a chance to compete in the spring season that was lost to COVID. For the first time since a sophomore-heavy team won a share of the 2018 division title, Jackson Memorial won’t be the favorite to win the Class A South championship, but that does not mean the Jaguars won’t be a contender.

The big losses from last year’s roster are in the middle of the order and the top of the rotation, headlined by current Campbell University freshman Charlie Meglio. Few players at the Shore blended talent at the plate and timely hitting the way Meglio did and his huge 2023 season is something the Jaguars should not expect any of their retuning players to duplicate. They do, however, have some quality hitters, led by senior first baseman Nick Izzo and senior centerfielder Julian Caruso. Caruso will be a table-setter with some speed, while Izzo is Jackson Memorial’s top power threat. Fellow senior Jacob Soto also saw time as a junior and will start in rightfield.

The junior class will be the x-factor in Jackson Memorial’s push for a sixth straight A South title, with three of its members coming off sophomore seasons in which they played starting roles. Tyler Huzzy started the season at second base and moved to his natural spot behind the plate when senior starting catcher Aidan O’Donnell missed time due to injury. Jackson Osmond and Brady Wendell will form the left side of the infield, with Osmond limited to DH duties due to injury a year ago and Wendell getting a part-time look at second base. Classmates Dane Jorgensen and Nick Sirico will also have roles to play this season, particularly when senior Collin McCarron – a likely starter at either second base or in leftfield – is on the mound.

McCarron returns with the most experience on the rubber after logging 31 2/3 innings as a junior. His results were mixed and in order for Jackson Memorial to keep up with Southern and Brick Memorial, McCarron will have to come close to replacing graduated ace Anthony Mehmet at the top of the rotation. There are other potential top-of-the-rotation candidates for Jackson Memorial as well. Junior right-hander Danny Hutchinson contributed as a sophomore, while seniors Jovanni Hallihan, Nick Striano and Joe Zundritsch all pitched varsity innings as juniors. There is enough there to build a competitive staff, but it will be the least proven group of pitchers that Jackson Memorial has had in quite some time.

With pitchers like Nick Beetel, Matt Potok, Zach Crotchfelt, Zach McCabe and Mehmet, the Jaguars have been spoiled with All-Shore talent at the top of the rotation. All of those pitchers entered their senior seasons with impressive résumés already established, so this year’s group will have more to prove than any of its recent predecessors. Still, Jackson Memorial has some exciting talent in the position-player group and if those players make progress at the plate and can play solid defense, the Jaguars have enough to contend for another A South title and postseason hardware.

Jackson Memorial at a Glance

Head Coach: Pat George, fourth season
2023 Record:
17-8 (10-4, tied first in Class A North)
Key Losses: Charlie Meglio (3B), Aidan O’Donnell (C), Anthony Mehmet (LHP), Nick Mellino (SS), Matt Koblos (OF), Mike Arent (OF), Dean Daddio (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Tyler Huzzy, Jr. (.303/.425/.318, 1 2B, 11 R, 7 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Nick Izzo, Sr. (.293/.349/.534, 5 2B, 3 HR, 11 R, 13 RBI, 2 SB)

Second Base: Collin McCarron, Sr.; Dane Jorgensen, Jr.

Shortstop: Jackson Osmond, Jr. (.222/.327/.289, 1 2B, 1 3B, 12 R, 4 RBI, 5 SB)

Third Base: Brady Wendell, Jr. (.176/.276/.235, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB)

Leftfield: Collin McCarron, Sr.; Nick Sirico, Jr.

Centerfield: Julian Caruso, Sr. (.284/.366/.383, 6 2B, 1 3B, 24 R, 7 RBI, 7 SB)

Rightfield: Jacob Soto, Sr. (3-for-9, 8 R, 2 RBI, 7 SB)

DH: Devin Garvey (Sr., 3B/RHP), Joe Naffa (Sr., C/LF)

Other Hitters

Ethan Kalinauskas, Sr., OF

Caden Rathbauer, So., SS

Pitching Staff

Danny Hutchinson, Jr., RHP (8 IP, 0-1, 7.00 ERA, 13 H, 1 BB, 8 K)

Collin McCarron, Sr., RHP (31.2 IP, 3-3, 7.29 ERA, 50 H, 29 BB, 25 K)

Jovanni Hallihan, Sr., RHP (6.1 IP, 5.53 ERA, 5 H, 10 BB, 2 K)

Joe Zundritsch, Sr., LHP (6 IP, 5.83 ERA, 7 H, 7 BB, 3 K)

Nick Striano, Sr., RHP (5.1 IP, 1-0, 5.25 ERA, 5 H, 7 BB, 3 K)

Mike Reale, Sr., RHP

Dane Jorgensen, Jr., RHP

Matt Colaneri, So., LHP

Caden Rathbauer, So., RHP

College Commitments

Tyler Huzzy – New Jersey Institute of Technology

Julian Caruso – Ramapo College

Jacob Soto – Immaculata University

5. Toms River North

A dominant run for Toms River North ended with its second consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championship in 2018, but while playing to mixed results in the past five seasons, the Mariners have managed to get their licks in against some of the better teams in Class A South and around the Shore. That description is likely to apply again in 2024, when Toms River North will have some roster questions to answer but enough intriguing talent to knock off the top teams in the division with a chance to possibly join that tier of teams when the smoke clears.

Like Jackson Memorial, Toms River North does not have a pitching staff that stacks up with Southern, Brick Memorial or Toms River East – at least not with respect to proven production. The Mariners were an up-and-down team on the mound a year ago and graduated two key arms in Brenden Lavallee and Jon Loalbo. That leaves senior left-hander Kieran Mulholland to lead the staff after he finished one inning short of Loalbo’s team-lead of 33 innings and posted the best ERA (3.28) of any Toms River North starter. Junior right-hander Ryan Rivera was effective in only nine innings a season ago and will lead a supporting group that includes sophomores Vinny Vergona and Nick Daniele.

Mulholland, Vergona and Daniele will also be starters in the batting order, with Mulholland playing first base, Vergona taking over for graduated third baseman Evan Kwortnik and Daniele moving into a starting job in rightfield, where Lavallee played when he wasn’t pitching. Mulholland also played more outfield and DH last year, with graduated All-Shore slugger Ty Kazanowsky manning first base.

While Mulholland, Vergona and Daniele will be replacing the biggest bats lost to graduation, the Mariners will lean on returning starters at second base and shortstop. Senior Dominic Urso is back at second base and will pair with sophomore shortstop Ian St. Luce, who showed promise as a freshman starter. St. Luce’s success will serve as a blueprint for freshman Jason Verderrosa, who will take over as a starter at catcher following the graduation of A.J. Chesney. Sophomore Owen Stefan is also a capable catcher and will get some DH at-bats, along with D.J. Shouldice. Cole Garrison is another freshman to watch and will be in the mix for outfield innings along with returning senior starters Logan Mulholland and Elio Scarpa.

A big season for Toms River North will require Kieran Mullholland to lead an inexperienced pitching staff and for seniors like Urso, Scarp and Logan Mullholand to lead by example. With that being said, the emergence of some talented underclassmen should bode well for the Mariners as the season moves along and into the years ahead. If that group grows up quickly, Toms River North could break back into the top-half of the division, maybe even into the top three.

Toms River North at a Glance

Head Coach: Andy Pagano, 10th season
2023 Record:
10-12 (6-8, sixth in Class A South)
Key Losses: Ty Kazanowsky (1B/RHP), Brenden Lavallee (RHP/RF), Evan Kwortnik (3B), Jon Loalbo (RHP), A.J. Chesney (C)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Jason Verderrosa, Fr.

First Base: Kieran Mulholland, Sr. (.241/.370/.259, 1 2B, 7 R, 6 RBI, 1 SB); Logan Mulholland, Sr.

Second Base: Dominic Urso, Sr. (.232/.394/.250, 1 2B, 12 R, 3 RBI, 6 SB); Vinny Vergona, So.

Shortstop: Ian St. Luce, So. (.290/.371/.339, 3 2B, 9 R, 7 RBI)

Third Base: Vinny Vergona, So. (.136/.208/.136, 1 R, 3 RBI); D.J. Shouldice, So.

Leftfield: Logan Mulholland, Sr. (.232/.317/.250, 1 2B, 9 R, 3 RBI); Cole Garrison, Fr.

Centerfield: Elio Scarpa, Sr. (.085/.120/.085, 6 R, 6 RBI, 2 SB); Dominic Urso, Sr.

Rightfield: Nick Daniele, So. (0-for-5, 10 R, 3 SB)

DH: Owen Stefan (So., C); D.J. Shouldice, So. (1-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI)

Pitching Staff

Kieran Mulholland, Sr., LHP (32 IP, 3-1, 3.28 ERA, 30 H, 20 BB, 38 K)

Matt Petrocelli, Sr., RHP (14.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 21 H, 9 BB, 11 K)

Ryan Rivera, Jr., RHP (9.1 IP, 0-2, 3.00 ERA, 6 H, 5 BB, 7 K)

Vinny Vergona, So., RHP (2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K)

Nick Daniele, So., RHP (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K)

Dominic Urso, Sr., RHP (1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB)

Steve Nuber, Jr., RHP

Brendan Bush, Jr., RHP

Ian St. Luce, So., RHP

Dom Ostroman, Fr., RHP

Jayden Luongo, Fr., RHP

6. Toms River South

Toms River South has been a factory for Division I talent during most of coach Ken Frank’s four-plus decades as head coach, but the Indians have not had that level of player in several years now. What Toms River South does have, and should continue to boast, are well-schooled, blue-collar players who will get the most out of their talent. That was the case a year ago, when the Indians pieced together a pitching staff behind returning senior standout Chris Hastings and overcame a lack of power in the lineup with a high-contact group that manufactured its way to a 7-7 division record.

A few close losses cost Toms River South a winning season, so this year will be all about winning those tight games in the final innings. Frank and his bunch will have to do so with Class A South’s most inexperienced team and one of the youngest teams of his 46-year tenure. Amid the youth are a group of seniors who will help lead the way, starting with the two returning starters in the field – catcher Tyler Kopin and Rob Abatemarco. Kopin brings some athleticism to the catcher position, while Abatemaro is a two-way talent who is moving from third base to second for the 2024 season.

The rest of the batting order will either be varsity newcomers or first-year starters. Senior Billy Madigan takes over at third-base after getting some time last year, while Cooper Greitz assumes the starting centerfield spot after putting together a strong season on the football field for division-winning Toms River South. The rest of the outfield will consist of sophomores, including another football standout in rightfielder Jaden Geremia. Ryan Randall and Evan Schmidt are the two rightfield candidates, with Schmidt set to play multiple positions after getting a varsity look at the end of his freshman year.

Sophomore Ben McEwan is the projected starter at first base and talented freshman Christian Masacaro could also find his way into a starting role on the infield. Junior Ruben Febres will start at shortstop for Toms River South, but will pitch as well, giving Toms River South four middle infielders – Febres, Abatemarco, Masacaro and Schmidt – who will see time on the mound.

Junior right-hander Aiden Lynch pitched his way to the top of the Toms River South rotation as a sophomore and will headline the pitching staff heading into his junior year. Lynch hopes to be the staff’s workhorse and with him on the mound, the lineup behind him will be at its most optimal, with Abatemarco and Febres in their ideal defensive spots. Toms River South also has 6-foot-6 right-hander Shaun Olcott to unleash on the mound.

With so many teams bringing back proven varsity – and in some cases, All-Shore – talent, the path to a division title for Toms River South is a narrow one. The Indians, however, have a track record of remaining competitive, so despite their inexperience, expect them to win their share of games and give themselves a shot at a winning season.

Toms River South at a Glance

Head Coach: Ken Frank, 45th season
2023 Record:
10-12 (7-7, fifth in Class A South)
Key Losses: A.J. Pierson (RHP/1B), Justin Diaz (2B), Chris Clark (SS), Ryan Schmidt (CF), Mike Erli (OF), Chris Hastings (RHP/OF), Donovan Wilkinson (Jr., 1B) – transferred to Cinnaminson

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Tyler Kopin, Sr. (.303/.343/.333, 2 2B, 5 R, 6 RBI, 4 SB); Ben McEwan, So.

First Base: Ben McEwan, So. (1-for-2, 1 RBI)

Second Base: Rob Abatemarco, Sr. (.139/.244/.194, 2 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI); Evan Schmidt, So.

Shortstop: Ruben Febres, Jr. (1-for-2, 1 R); Christian Mascaro, Fr.

Third Base: Billy Madigan, Sr. (1-for-7)

Leftfield: Jaden Geremia, So. (1-for-4)

Centerfield: Cooper Greitz, Sr. (0-for-5, 1 RBI, 2 SB)

Rightfield: Ryan Randall, So. (1 SB); Evan Schmidt, So.

DH: Evan Schmidt, So. (3-for-22, 1 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB); Christian Masacaro, Fr.

Other Hitters

Shaun Olcott, Sr., 1B

Yaniel Vasquez, Sr., OF

Shane Byrne, Sr., OF

Femi Adulkulne, Sr., C/UTIL

Alex Fischer, Jr., 1B

Karsin Migliori, So., OF

Cannen Sanzone, So., INF

Pitching Staff

Aiden Lynch, Jr., RHP (35 IP, 2-4, 2.20 ERA, 28 H, 16 BB, 23 K)

Rob Abatemarco, Sr., RHP (16.2 IP, 0-4, 6.30 ERA, 23 H, 10 BB, 12 K)

Evan Schmidt, So., RHP

Shaun Olcott, Sr., RHP (7.2 IP, 0.91 ERA, 5 H, 11 BB, 3 K)

Ruben Febres, Jr., RHP (3 IP, 1-0, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K)

Christian Masacaro, Fr., RHP

Shane Byrne, Sr., LHP

Alex Fischer, Jr., LHP

Karsin Migliori, So., LHP

7. Central

In the past three seasons, Central has won an Ocean County Tournament championship in 2021, rostered the 2022 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year in Cam Leiter, and boasted the 2023 Shore Conference batting champion in shortstop Dom Masino. That is a decorated three-year run for the Golden Eagles, but even with the success of Masino and fellow All-Shore teammate Cristian Soto, Central struggled to a 9-14 finish last year due to some spotty pitching and inconsistency after Soto in the lineup.

While Masino has moved on, Soto remains as the lynchpin of Central’s team and one of the top defensive catchers in the state. The Lafayette commit was recovering from shoulder surgery during his junior season and is poised to have the best season of his four-year career as Central’s starting backstop. Soto is one of three returning starters in the Central batting order along with second baseman Braden Lowden and outfielder Mason Lisweski – both of whom are also seniors.

For Central to get back to the top-half of the division standings, a group of new starters will have to hit the ground running and the pitching staff will have to make up major ground under first-year head coach Mike Puglisi. Junior Tommy Truzzolino has the daunting task of replace Masino at shortstop, but will welcome the challenge after getting 23 at-bats as a sophomore. Classmate Ryan Brescia will start at third base, with seniors Joel German and Gavin Arieno set to start in the outfield – German in centerfield. Chase Newton is another senior who will see at-bats at DH and sophomore Jack Teijten rounds out the starting nine at first base.

If Central is to climb out of the No. 7 spot in the A South standings, its pitching will have to step up. Tyler Bell gave the Golden Eagles some volume as a senior last year, but the Golden Eagles had to ask a lot of Bell without a lot of experience behind him. Trevor Policastro was a pleasant surprise on the mound with his 2.74 ERA in 30 innings, but he also graduated last spring. With Bell and Policastro gone, Shawn Weyandt will step into the role of staff leader after he pitched 16 1/3 innings as a sophomore. Fellow senior Chase Newton threw 10 innings, while juniors Vinny Berardi and Chase Macri got a dose of the varsity game as sophomores. If that group can grow off last year’s experience, Central will have a chance to make some noise. With a catcher that will be in the running for the best player at his position in the Shore Conference, there is a starting point for a big season if the supporting cast can deliver.

Central at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Puglisi, first season
2023 Record:
9-14 (5-9, seventh in Class A South)
Key Losses: Dom Masino (SS), Tyler Bell (LHP), Trevor Policastro (1B/RHP), Chase Pierce (CF), Elijah Kiernan (OF), Anthony Bilello (RHP), T.J. Marshall (Sr., 3B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Cristian Soto, Sr. (.368/.500/.526, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 R, 15 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Jack Teijten, So.

Second Base: Brayden Lowden, Sr. (.250/.403/.339, 5 2B, 5 R, 13 RBI)

Shortstop: Tommy Truzzolino, Jr. (2-for-23, 5 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB)

Third Base: Ryan Brescia, Jr.

Leftfield: Mason Lisewski, Sr. (.208/.361/.208, 11 R, 2 RBI)

Centerfield: Joel German, Sr.

Rightfield: Gavin Arieno, Sr. (1-for-11, 1 R, 1 RBI)

DH: Chase Newton (Sr., 1B) (1-for-7, 1 RBI)

Other Hitters

Rob Bollentino, Jr., CF

Gavin Srinivasan, Jr., 2B/SS

Chase Macri, Jr., 3B (1-for-3, 1 R)

Pitching Staff

Sean Weyandt, Sr., RHP (16.1 IP, 2-2, 5.57 ERA, 15 H, 13 B, 19 K)

Chase Newton, Sr., RHP (10 IP, 0-1, 4.90 ERA, 11 H, 10 BB, 11 K)

Vinny Berardi, Jr., LHP (12 IP, 0-1, 7.00 ERA, 17 H, 14 BB, 16 K)

Chase Macri, Jr., RHP (7.1 IP, 1-1, 4.77 ERA, 9 H, 7 BB, 8 K)

College Commitments

Cristian Soto – Lafayette College

Shawn Weyandt – Susquehanna University

Chase Newton – New Jersey City University

Gavin Arieno – Eastern University

8. Brick

With Central finishing seventh in the Class A South standings, the division was highly competitive in those top seven spots, with Brick lagging behind at 0-14. The Green Dragons were an extremely young team in 2023 and it showed going up against some experienced rosters that had more depth and top-end talent than Brick had. With a year to calibrate, this year’s Brick squad should be better equipped to handle the day-to-day grind in Class A South and knock off a few division foes along the way.

One of the bright spots on last year’s team was the bat of current junior first baseman Chris Quick. During a breakout sophomore year, Quick slugged seven doubles and four home runs while establishing himself as a middle-of-the-order bat that other teams will have to account for when they peruse the Green Dragons’ lineup card. Quick leads six returning starters around the diamond, which include just two seniors. Those would be outfielders Luke Billheimer and David Marcus, with Billheimer starting in centerfield and Marcus in left.

Three of the four starters on the infield are back this season, as is junior catcher Peyton Horning. Sophomore Brayden Heatter will start at shortstop after taking over the position as a freshman, while junior Brannon McBride is back at third base. The new starter on the dirt is senior Jayden Espana, who will start at second base. Juniors Nick Newcomb and Shawn McLaughlin will round out the starting nine at rightfield and DH, respectively.

Brick returns four pitchers who threw at least 13 innings a year ago, led by junior Sean Savannah. Although he sported a 6.15 ERA and walked 26 batters in 19 innings, Savannah also struck out 27 and took on some of Brick’s tougher assignments on the mound. He heads into the season as the likely ace of the staff and could also get some at-bats. Seniors Rob Distlecamp, Dylan Rostek and Espana are the other pitchers with 13-plus innings of experience, while Heatter could be a significant piece to the puzzle after posting a 1.40 ERA and six strikeouts in five innings as a freshman.

There is a long way to go just for Brick to climb out of the Class A South basement, but this group has been through a full season together already and has some talented pieces that have room to grow both this season and beyond.

Brick at a Glance

Head Coach: Jason Groschel, 18th season
2023 Record:
3-19 (0-14, eighth in Class A South)
Key Losses: Kyle Knowsley (RHP/2B), A.J. Grygiel (SS), Will Meade (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Peyton Horning, Jr. (.188/.224/.234, 3 2B, 6 RBI)

First Base: Chris Quick, Jr. (.343/.423/.627, 7 2B, 4 HR, 14 R, 16 RBI)

Second Base: Jayden Espana, Sr. (1-for-4, 3 R, RBI)

Shortstop: Brayden Heatter, So. (.271/.320/.300, 2 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI, 1 SB)

Third Base: Brannon McBride, Jr. (.224/.406/.245, 1 2B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB)

Leftfield: David Marcus, Sr. (.241/.302/.345, 6 2B, 9 R, 5 RBI, 4 SB)

Centerfield: Luke Billheimer, Sr. (.245/.351/.286, 2 2B, 6 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB)

Rightfield: Nick Newcomb, Jr.

DH: Shawn McLaughlin (Jr., OF)

Other Hitters

Sean Savannah, Jr., SS/OF (2-for-5, 5 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB)

Vin Baracia, Sr., SS (.158/.273/.158, 3 R)

Taylor Cavanaugh, So., C

Logan Salsano, Sr., 1B

Zach Martin, So., 2B

Keegan Gerling, Sr., 3B

Dylan Rostek, Sr., 3B

Gavin Maffei, Jr., OF

Pitching Staff

Sean Savannah, Jr., RHP (19.1 IP, 1-5, 6.15 ERA, 22 H, 26 BB, 27 K)

Rob Distlecamp, Sr., RHP (18 IP, 0-2, 8.17 ERA, 30 H, 14 BB, 11 K)

Dylan Rostek, Sr., RHP (16.1 IP, 0-2, 11.14 ERA, 29 H, 19 BB, 11 K)

Jayden Espana, Sr., RHP (13 IP, 0-4, 8.61 ERA, 21 H, 12 BB, 9 K)

Brayden Heatter, So., RHP (5 IP, 1.40 ERA, 2 H, 6 BB, 6 K)

Peyton Horning, Jr., RHP (8.1 IP, 0-1, 5.04 ERA, 9 H, 8 BB, 8 K)

Pat Shave, Jr., RHP (6.2 IP, 4.20 ERA, 4 H, 7 BB, 3 K)

Vin Baracia, Sr., RHP (6.1 IP, 1-1, 8.84 ERA, 12 H, 8 B, 7 K)

Zach Martin, So., RHP

Luke Billheimer, Sr., RHP

Chris Quick, Jr., RHP

David Marcus, Sr., RHP

Brannon McBride, Jr., RHP

Logan Salsano, Sr., RHP

Gavin Maffei, Jr., LHP

Shawn McLaughlin, Jr., RHP

Class A South Division Lineup

Cristian Soto, Sr., Catcher, Central

Gabe Tomei, Sr., Catcher, Southern

Nick Izzo, Sr., 1B, Jackson Memorial

Matt Ferrara, Jr., SS, Toms River East

Tyler Garbooshian, So., SS, Brick Memorial

Nicco Maribo, Sr., CF, Brick Memorial

Ray Mulhern, Sr., CF, Southern

Julian Caruso, Sr., CF, Jackson Memorial

Chris Quick, Jr., 1B, Brick

Class A South Division Rotation

Brady Lesiak, Sr., RHP, Southern

Nick Garbooshian, Sr., RHP, Brick Memorial

Roger Dreher, Sr., RHP, Southern

Aiden Lynch, Jr., RHP, Toms River South

Kieran Mulholland, Sr., LHP, Toms River North

Mike Gioia, Sr., RHP, Brick Memorial

Class A South Breakouts to Watch

Tyler McLeod, Jr., RHP, Southern

Mike Kaczynski, Jr., 2B, Southern

Dan Nafziger, Jr., INF/RHP, Toms River East

Jaxon Figueroa, Jr., RHP/OF, Brick Memorial

Tyler Huzzy, Jr., C, Jackson Memorial

Jackson Osmond, Jr., SS, Jackson Memorial

Evan Schmidt, So., UTIL/RHP, Toms River South

Brayden Heatter, So., SS/RHP, Brick

Ian St. Luce, So., SS, Toms River North

Tommy Truzzolino, Jr., SS, Central

More From Shore Sports Network