Last season marked the first time Ranney’s baseball team played in a Shore Conference division outside of Class B Central – a move that was the result of the Panthers building one of the best programs of the state and then dominating the small-school programs of B Central.

As it turned out, the many quality teams in Class B North were no match for Ranney either. The Panthers steamrolled through the division with a 14-0 record, including nine wins via 10-run rule.

After that exercise in dominance, Ranney will have seven division foes looking for payback this season now that the Panthers graduated their three top starting pitchers and seven of the nine hitters in the lineup. Ranney will still be a competitive, albeit young, team in 2024, but the Class B North teams that return experienced varsity talent will be champing at the bit to get another shot at the defending division champion while making a run at the outright title.

In predicted order of finish

1. Matawan

With all but one starter returning from a very competitive 2023 team, Matawan opens 2024 with the honor – or burden, depending on how one views it – of being the preseason favorite to win the Class B North division. As promising as the current roster is, that is a big jump for a program whose highlights in recent years have been a few scattered NJSIAA Tournament road wins. Nevertheless, the talent is in place for the Huskies to do big things in 2024.

Penciling eight returning starters into the opening-day batting order with even more varsity experience on the bench will put coach Bobby Carnovsky at ease, but it is the pitching that gives Matawan a chance to be special. Senior right-hander Brandon Falco was a Shore Sports Network Second-Team All-Shore pitcher as a junior, when he led the conference in innings pitched and finished second in strikeouts.

In addition to the ace, Matawan has depth to do damage, with senior right-hander Andrew Gendi also putting up All-Shore-caliber numbers on the rubber as the Huskies No. 2 starter. Senior Mark Kovach is a versatile player who has been especially dependable in relief, while junior Jayce Thoroughman was impressive in his first varsity season. Together, Falco, Gendi, Kovach and Thoroughman combined for 168 innings and an ERA of 2.33 – a combination of bulk and quality that no other team in the Shore Conference returns.

If anything is going to hold a healthy Matawan team back in its pursuit of a championship this season, it would be the offense. The Huskies return a wealth of experience and almost all their at-bats from 2023, but scoring was, at times, a struggle. Still, 4.7 runs per game is respectable and there are bound to be a few returning starters who level up in 2024. Falco, Gendi and Kovach will all be part of the everyday lineup, with Gendi playing third base, Kovach in rightfield and Falco slotting in at designated hitter when he doesn’t pitch. Falco was one of Matawan’s top hitters on a per-at-bat basis a year ago and Gendi was second on the team in both extra-base hits and RBI.

Gendi was one of three players on Matawan with double-digit RBI and stolen bases, so the Huskies are a team that will look to put the game in motion in order to generate offense. Senior outfielder Sean Hart was the team’s best combination of power and speed last season, leading Matawan in both extra-base hits (nine) and RBI (15) while also stealing 12 bases. Senior centerfielder Jack Sassa led the Huskies with 16 stolen bases while also driving in 10 out of the leadoff spot and junior first baseman Bryan McCartin came close to the feat as well with 15 RBI and seven stolen bases. The senior double-play combination of shortstop Chris Galasso and second baseman Eric Friedman also combined for 14 stolen bases and are likely to open the season in the bottom-third of the order while playing crucial defensive roles.

The offense looks ready to take the necessary step forward, but the biggest question Matawan must answer is at catcher, where the Huskies must replace three-year starter Joey Bodin. Senior Matt Cole is first in line and returning outfield starter Mike DiPietro could also be an option. Whichever player gets the nod, handling the pitching staff and getting the most out of one of the best rotations in the Shore Conference will be the primary objective. As long as that quartet on the mound is making their starts and pitching to their ability, Matawan is primed for its best season in a long time.

Matawan at a Glance

Head Coach: Bobby Carnovsky, 11th season
2023 Record:
15-12 (6-8, tied fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Joey Bodin (C)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Matt Cole, Sr.; Mike DiPietro, Sr.

First Base: Bryan McCartin, Jr. (.275/.367/.377, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 R, 15 RBI, 7 SB); Brandon Falco, Sr.

Second Base: Eric Friedman, Sr. (.216/.344/.235, 1 2B, 12 R, 3 RBI, 8 SB)

Shortstop: Chris Galasso, Sr. (.143/.342/.161, 1 2B, 10 R, 1 RBI, 6 SB)

Third Base: Andrew Gendi, Sr. (.240/.306/.360, 7 2B, 1 3B, 9 R, 12 RBI, 10 SB); Sal Cassano, Sr.

Leftfield: Sean Hart, Sr. (.353/.430/.515, 7 2B, 2 3B, 14 R, 15 RBI, 12 SB); Mike DiPietro, Sr.

Centerfield: Jack Sassa, Sr. (.289/.390/.325, 3 2B, 21 R, 10 RBI, 16 SB)

Rightfield: Mark Kovach, Sr. (.189/.353/.264, 1 2B, 1 HR, 8 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB); Colin McGeehan, Jr.

DH: Brandon Falco, Sr. (.275/.362/.471, 4 2B, 3 3B, 7 R, 6 RBI, 5 SB); Sean Hart, Sr.

Pitching Staff

Brandon Falco, Sr., RHP (58.2 IP, 5-5, 1.55 ERA, 42 H, 21 BB, 83 K)

Andrew Gendi, Sr., RHP (49.1 IP, 3-2, 2.41 ERA, 20 H, 24 BB, 60 K)

Mark Kovach, Sr., RHP (28.2 IP, 2-3, 3.17 ERA, 28 H, 15 BB, 34 K)

Jayce Thoroughman, Jr., RHP (31.1 IP, 4-1, 2.90 ERA, 38 H, 12 BB, 30 K)

Bryan McCartin, Jr., RHP

Scott Germaine, Jr., RHP

Sal Cassano, Sr., RHP

Jack Sassa, Sr., RHP

College Commitments

Brandon Falco – New Jersey Institute of Technology

Andrew Gendi – Felician University

Mark Kovach – Hamilton College

Chris Galasso – Stockton University

Sal Cassano – Stockton University

2. Ranney

With its loss to Gloucester Catholic in last year’s NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B championship game, Ranney ended a run that will be hard to top. That group of seniors – which included two fifth-year seniors – led what was an unknown program throughout the state not long ago to a 53-8 record and five championship games over the past two seasons, including an overall Non-Public B championship in 2022 and a Monmouth County Tournament title in 2023. In all, the Panthers graduated seven starters in the lineup and their top three pitchers in the rotation, which left coach Pat Geroni with several holes to fill looking ahead to 2024.

While the Class of 2023 may never be topped at Ranney, the latest wave of talent is going to make a run at it, starting this season. This year’s team will be one of the youngest at the Shore, with six freshmen part of the group that will be in the everyday lineup and regular pitching rotation. The centerpiece of the club, however, is senior slugger and LSU commit Ryan Costello, who sat at the start of his junior year after transferring from Freehold Township. Once eligible, Costello slotted into the second spot in the batting order behind state Player of the Year A.J. Gracia and this year, he will be the focal point of the Ranney lineup while moving from first base to centerfield.

Junior Curtis Chropuvka is the only other returning starter in the batting order outside of Costello and after moving around the outfield during his sophomore year, Chropuvka is slated to take a shot at second base this season. In addition to those two proven varsity starters, Ranney welcomes in Rutgers Prep transfer Andrew Parisi, who put up big numbers for the Argonauts as a sophomore in 2023 and will be Ranney’s primary catcher in his first season at the Tinton Falls school.

Ranney senior Ryan Costello. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)
Ranney senior Ryan Costello. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)

That leaves six open spots in the lineup and at least five of them will go to freshmen. Six-foot-3 left-hander Brody Mauro is in line to start at first base, while two of John Luca Gallina, Robbie Wrobel and Brody Garguilo will cover the left side of the infield, with Gallina the likely shortstop. Garguilo is also a promising catcher and could get some time behind the plate, with Parisi also capable of playing third base. Justin Kauffman and Nate Fuller will play the outfield corners alongside Costello, which rounds out the freshman-heavy alignment around the diamond. Senior Greyson Testino will add some experience as the DH when he is not pitching.

Speaking of pitching, Ranney will have most of its work to do on the mound in order to get back to the top of the Class B North division and deep into the tournaments. Senior right-hander and Rutgers commit James Hares has the stuff to be an ace of the staff but will start the season stretching out after forearm discomfort prompted Geroni to keep his ace – who is back to throwing bullpens, according to Geroni – off the mound in scrimmages. With Hare still ramping up, Testino, Mauro and sophomore right-hander Noah Hynes will look to pick up the slack. Testino has been pitching at the varsity level since his freshman season and will pitch in bigger games this year, while Mauro is another promising left-hander who currently projects as a Division I arm. Hynes and Fuller are hard-throwing underclassmen ready to make an impact, while junior Zach Messina will get a shot at important innings as well.

With the exception of Costello, Ranney is a team that will have to overcome inexperience across the board, either with previous varsity players taking on greater roles, proven players adjusting to a new school or freshmen getting acclimated to the varsity game. It may take some time and it might not click for Ranney this season, but the Panthers have the makings of another championship-contending group.

Ranney at a Glance

Head Coach: Pat Geroni, fifth season
2023 Record:
27-3 (14-0, first in Class B North)
Key Losses: A.J. Gracia (CF/LHP), Marcello Mastroianni (LHP), Nick Coniglio (RHP), Diego Tavarez (3B), Brett Wehringer (SS), Jack Tallent (2B), Lou Spadafora (C), Glen Cantalupo (OF), Enrique Beltra (1B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Andrew Parisi, Jr. (transfer from Rutgers Prep) (.492/.645/.794, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21 R, 16 RBI); Brody Garguilo, Fr.

First Base: Brody Mauro, Fr.

Second Base: Curtis Chropuvka, Jr. (.323/.360/.441, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 23 R, 29 RBI, 7 SB); Robbie Wrobel, Fr.

Shortstop: John Luca Gallina, Fr.; Robbie Wrobel, Fr.

Third Base: Robbie Wrobel, Fr.; Brody Garguilo, Fr.

Leftfield: Justin Kauffman, Fr.; Brody Mauro, Fr

Centerfield: Ryan Costello, Sr. (.358/.469/.698, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 18 R, 18 RBI, 2 SB); Curtis Chropuvka, Jr.

Rightfield: Nate Fuller, Fr.; Justin Kauffman, Fr.

DH: Grayson Testino (Sr., OF)

Other Hitters

J.D. Leidersoff, Jr., OF

Brandon Maroney, So., INF

Leo Schaffer, Sr., SS

Mike Sennello, So., 2B/SS

Jimbo Lawson, Jr., OF

Xavier Davis, Fr., OF

Pitching Staff

James Hare, Sr., RHP (23.2 IP, 3-0, 1.77 ERA, 14 H, 7 BB, 38 K)

Grayson Testino, Sr., LHP

Brody Mauro, Fr., LHP

Noah Hynes, So., RHP

Nate Fuller, Fr., LHP

Zach Messina, Jr., RHP

Justin Kauffman, Fr., RHP

J.D. Liedersoff, Jr., RHP

John Luca Gallina, Fr., RHP

Joe Celler, Sr., LHP

Brandon Maroney, So., RHP

Brody Garguilo, Fr., RHP

College Commitments

Ryan Costello – Louisiana State University

James Hare – Rutgers University

3. Ocean

Led by a veteran pitching staff and a productive top-half of the batting order, Ocean came within one win of a 20-win season while winning the Class B North public division championship in 2023. The Spartans will try to build on those accomplishments with a team that has some production to replace, but enough top talent on the roster that coach Cip Apicelli and his staff should feel confident that things will fall into place around those key players.

Junior shortstop Ben Robinson made a case as Ocean’s best all-around player a year ago, playing good defense at a premium position while also producing an average well above .300, eight extra-base hits and a 20-RBI season. Classmate Connor Tongring was also a sophomore at a key position last year, catching Ocean’s stellar pitching staff while also driving in 26 runs – fifth-most among Shore Conference catchers last year. Senior Bodhi Littieri and junior Matt Richter are the other returning starters and junior Jack Kelly takes over the full-time third base job after getting 20 at-bats as a sophomore.

Senior Alejandro Sanchez is in line to start at second base to complete a fairly experienced starting infield that should come together quickly. With Kelly likely to play a key role on the pitching staff, Ocean will sometimes turn to its depth to cover third base, with junior Derek Vazquez, senior Anthony Flesca and sophomore Hayden Ansell capable of answering the bell. The outfield, meanwhile, will look different than last year, with freshman Will Walsh in line to start in centerfield. Junior Michael Chowning missed his sophomore season due to injury and is primed for playing time in a corner, while Anthony Torchia, Danny Farina and Michael Martin figure into the outfield picture as well.

Despite graduating rotation workhorse Matt King, Ocean will have a true No. 1 starter in junior right-hander Tommy Kowaliwskyj, who is coming off a 5-0 season with an ERA just a shade over 1.00. Kelly and Littieri will take on more prominent roles on the pitching staff and Vazquez, Torchia and fellow junior Matt Richter will provide additional options as the Spartans try to piece together a capable staff to back up Kowaliwskyj. With its ace on the mound, Ocean can go toe-to-toe with any team in the Shore Conference and should be a factor in the Class B North race.

Ocean at a Glance

Head Coach: Cip Apicelli, 14th season
2023 Record:
19-8 (10-4, second in Class B North)
Key Losses: Matt King (RHP/2B), Shane Garrett (OF/RHP), Dylan Lazar (LHP/1B/OF), George Krenkel (CF), Nick Case (3B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Connor Tongring, Jr. (.253/.379/.329, 6 2B, 3 R, 26 RBI, 1 SB)

First Base: Matt Richter, Jr. (.237/.376/.289, 4 2B, 9 R, 12 RBI, 4 SB); Tommy Kowaliwskyj, Jr. (1-for-8, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI)

Second Base: Alejandro Sanchez, Sr.; Hayden Ansell, So.; Jake Stewart, Jr.

Shortstop: Ben Robinson, Jr. (.326/.417/.461, 6 2B, 2 HR, 16 R, 20 RBI, 5 SB)

Third Base: Jack Kelly, Jr. (5-for-20, 1 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI); Derek Vazquez, Jr.; Anthony Flesca, Sr.

Leftfield: Michael Chowning, Jr.; Danny Farina, Jr.

Centerfield: Will Walsh, Fr.; Michael Chowning, Jr.

Rightfield: Anthony Torchia, Jr.; Michael Martin, So.

DH: Bodhi Littieri (Sr., RF) (.278/.387/.405, 8 1B, 3 3B, 19 R, 8 RBI)

Other Hitters

Dillon Schneider, Jr., INF

Ethan Ansell, So., OF

Christian Campbell, So., OF

Joseph Faccone, So., OF

Anthony Gagliardo, So., INF

Dominic Gervolino, Fr., C

David Laguna, So., OF

Nolan O’Toole, So., OF

Joseph Pitarelli, So., OF

Gianni Vacchiano, Jr., 3B/RHP

Scott Williams, So., OF

Angel Cabrera Cardona, Sr., OF

Jake Garrett, Fr., INF

Jordan Gaudious, Fr., INF

Eli Gonzalez, Fr., INF

Andrew Hill, Fr., INF

Joey Molinelli, Fr., INF

Gio Moriello, Fr., P

Brian Stevens, Fr., 1B/P

John Trotte, F., P/1B

Ian Vacchiano, Fr., C

Jake Volek, Fr., P/OF

Pitching Staff

Tommy Kowaliwskyj, Jr., RHP (34 IP, 5-0, 1.03 ERA, 17 H, 29 BB, 42 K)

Bohdi Lettieri, Sr., RHP

Jack Kelly, Jr., RHP (7.2 IP, 2 SV, 7 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K)

Derek Vazquez, Jr., RHP

Anthony Torchia, Jr., LHP

Matt Richter, Jr., LHP

Evan Dougherty, Sr., RHP

Alejandro Sanchez, Sr., RHP

Michael Chowning, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Ben Robinson -- New Jersey Institue of Technology

4. Manasquan

Although they finished 12-12, the Warriors put together some memorable moments in 2023 and most of those moments were the product of three players putting together outstanding seasons. Cullen Condon was an ace on the mound, a shortstop on his non-pitching days and one of better hitters in the Shore Conference. Jack O’Shea was another shutdown pitcher who led the team in innings. Brett Patten, meanwhile, was an exceptional athlete in centerfield and an imposing hitter at the top of the lineup during his First Team All-Shore senior campaign.

Replacing those three impact players plus three more important contributors who graduated last spring will be a daunting task for coach Brenan Gordan and his team, but the Warriors have some pieces with which to work. Senior Austin Griffith ascended to the No. 3 spot in a very good pitching rotation as a junior and will take over Condon’s role as both the ace of the staff and the shortstop on his non-pitching days. He will pitch to junior Connor Voelkson, who drove in 17 runs, excelled defensively and is positioned to become a team leader over the next two seasons.

The rest of the pitching staff is in flux heading into the season, with two juniors who were likely to contribute currently hurt. According to Gordon, Shane Hagerman will miss the season, but classmate Keegan Hertel has a chance to join the rotation once a foot injury suffered during basketball season heals. Hertel gave Manasquan 11 2/3 quality innings and could provide a boost to the pitching staff behind Griffith. In the meantime, senior Matt Koenig sophomore left-hander Chase Kaplan, junior right-hander R.T. Runge and senior Jack Maggs will look to cover the available innings.

While there are not a lot of proven bats in the Manasquan lineup, the early indications are that the Warriors will be a solid lineup. In addition to Voelkson and Griffith, Manasquan returns junior rightfielder Dylan Vowteras, who showed patience and some power potential as a sophomore. Koenig will play third base when he doesn’t pitch and junior Tristan Condon and classmate John Canning cover shortstop and third, respectively, when Griffith or Koenig are on the mound. The right side of the infield features a pair of competitions, with Condon in the mix with fellow junior Caden Eastmond and senior Luke Dowd to play second, while senior James Michko and Runge battle it out at first.

Sophomore Mike Antonucci takes over as the starting centerfielder and senior Luke Ramire rounds out the outfield in left. With a lot of unproven varsity talent on the roster, Manasquan may trail the top three teams in the division, but the Warriors are still in good position to finish in the top-half of the standings, post a winning record and capitalize with a run at the top spot in the division if a few players break out in 2024.

Manasquan at a Glance

Head Coach: Brenan Gordon, sixth season
2023 Record:
12-12 (7-7, tied third in Class B North)
Key Losses: Cullen Condon (RHP/SS), Brett Patten (CF), Jack O’Shea (LHP/1B), Jack Dawson (RHP), Kevin Prime (DH), Connor Malysa (2B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Connor Voelkson, Jr. (.217/.317/.232, 1 2B, 17 RBI)

First Base: James Michko, Sr.; R.T. Runge, Jr.

Second Base: Caden Eastmond, Jr. (.200/.333/.257, 1 3B, 8 R, 4 RBI, 4 SB); Luke Dowd, Sr.; Tristan Condon, Jr.

Shortstop: Austin Griffith, Sr.; Tristan Condon, Jr.

Third Base: Matty Koenig, Sr.; John Canning, Jr.

Leftfield: Luke Ramire, Sr.

Centerfield: Matt Antonucci, So.

Rightfield: Dylan Vowteras, Jr. (.244/.407/.311, 3 2B, 8 R, 8 RBI, 3 SB)

Other Hitters

Keegan Hertel, Jr., OF (.174/.255/.217, 2 2B, 11 R, 5 RBI)

Shane Hagerman, Jr., 1B – injured; out for season

Pitching Staff

Austin Griffith, Sr., RHP (28.2 IP, 2-5, 2.44 ERA, 29 H, 17 BB, 38 K)

Matt Koenig, Sr., RHP

Chase Kaplan, So., LHP

R.T. Runge, Jr., RHP

Keegan Hertel, Jr., RHP (11.2 IP, 1.80 ERA, 7 H, 10 BB, 16 K)

Jack Maggs, Sr., RHP

Dylan Vowteras, Jr., RHP

Anthony Loffredo, Sr., RHP

Tristan Condon, Jr., RHP

Shane Hagerman, Jr., RHP – injured; out for season

College Commitments

James Michko – Alvernia University

Austin Griffith – Susquehanna University

Jake Dowd – Roger Williams University

5. Red Bank

The Bucs were a feast-or-famine team last season, losing via 10-run rule five times in the first eight games, but still managing to win the other three. Red Bank also did not lose by 10 runs the rest of the way, which reflected a pitching staff and lineup that grew more competitive over the course of the season. Another factor in Red Bank’s rollercoaster season was that it had an ace in left-hander Nate Ruth who kept the Bucs close in his starts while the rest of the rotation struggled in the early going.

After getting outscored by Ocean, 18-2, in consecutive games in early May, Red Bank finished the season 4-3 with its three losses coming by a combined six runs, including two one-run losses to Matawan and Central Jersey Group I champion Point Pleasant Beach. The other loss in that stretch was to Central Group II champion Rumson-Fair Haven, with Red Bank also beating Matawan, Voorhees and Colts Neck during that run.

Although the Bucs lose Ruth, catcher Hank Dal Pra and dependable shortstop Jackson Hyman to graduation, they have enough experience back from a team that finished the season playing good baseball up and down the roster. The lineup stands to improve thanks to the return of three senior starting infielders in Ryan Robinson, Tommy Ruth and Hoyt Smith. Robinson moves from centerfield to second base and was one of the better hitters in Class B North a year ago. Tommy Ruth moves from second base to shortstop, while Smith reprises his role at third base.

Robinson’s move to the dirt gets the wheels turning in the outfield, with senior Tim Kelly shifting to centerfield and senior P.J. Whitehead and junior Will Marziarz moving into fulltime times in the corners. The only new starters will be at catcher and first base, with junior Nick Walker taking over for Dal Pra and junior Jacob Puoso set up to play at first base. Senior Nick Gandolfo and sophomore Matt Huss could also get time at first, while Puoso and sophomores Sean Keats and Jason Huss are among the players who will play in the outfield when one of the regular starters is on the mound.

Whitehead, Marziarz and Gandolfo will lead the rotation, with Gandolfo two years removed from posting a 2.40 ERA in 35 innings as a sophomore left-hander. His numbers slipped last year, but he will lead the staff ahead of Whitehead, Marziarz and Robinson. Whitehead was particularly effective down the stretch last year and if he can build on that performance, Gandolfo can bounce back and Marziarz can emerge as a junior at the No. 3 spot, Red Bank will be a well-rounded team that challenges for the public division title.

Red Bank at a Glance

Head Coach: Nick Tucker, 10th season
2023 Record:
9-12 (6-8, tied fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Nate Ruth (LHP/1B), Jackson Hyman (SS), Hank Dal Pra (C)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Nick Walker, Jr.

First Base: Jacob Pouso, Jr.; Nick Gandolfo, Sr.; Matt Huss, So.

Second Base: Ryan Robinson, Sr. (.283/.429/.450, 7 2B, 1 HR, 15 R, 14 RBI, 4 SB); Gavin Smith, Jr.

Shortstop: Tommy Ruth, Sr. (.286/.347/.328, 1 2B, 1 HR, 14 R, 14 RBI, 4 SB)

Third Base: Hoyt Smith, Sr. (.203/.319/.254, 3 2B, 5 R, 6 RBI, 1 SB)

Leftfield: P.J. Whitehead, Sr.; Sean Keatts, So.; Jason Huss, So.

Centerfield: Tim Kelly, Sr. (.159/.284/.175, 1 2B, 10 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB)

Rightfield: Will Marziarz, Jr.; Jacob Pouso, Jr.

Pitching Staff

Nick Gandolfo, Sr., LHP (31.1 IP, 2-4, 6.25 ERA, 47 H, 21 BB, 26 K)

P.J. Whitehead, Sr., RHP (23 IP, 1-1, 2.74 ERA, 23 H, 13 BB, 14 K)

Will Marziarz, Jr., RHP

Ryan Robinson, Sr. RHP (19.1 IP, 2-2, 4.34 ERA, 31 H, 9 BB, 11 K)

Tim Kelly, Sr., RHP

Tommy Ruth, Sr., RHP

Matt Huss, So., LHP

Sean Keatts, So., RHP

Jacob Pouso, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Tommy Ruth -- Rutgers University-Newark

Ryan Robinson -- Oberlin College

Hoyt Smith -- Susquehanna University

6. St. John Vianney

A 6-16 record does not reflect that St. John Vianney had a competitive season, but within the Class B North division, the Lancers did enjoy some success. While a 6-8 division record did not meet preseason expectations, it provides some hope that the Lancers are not far off from turning things around in 2024. It also did not help that ace Aiden Cody did not throw a pitch last year after an All-Shore junior season in 2022.

This year, St. John Vianney has a better idea regarding its identity, which is not tied to a single player in the way that Cody was set to carry the Lancers on his pitching days. The Lancers do, however, have an All-Shore returner in junior Mike McCormack, who slugged his way to prominence while also giving his team quality innings on the mound. Vianney returns two other starters in the infield in senior shortstop Kevin DiPede and classmate Owen Murtha at third base. Junior Nick Mirto will play second base and sophomore J.J. McGonigle will play when Murtha pitches.

Senior Jonathan Field saw some time at catcher as a junior and takes over full time this season, with a pair of promising sophomores in Thomas Dunn and Tyler Shpiro rising up the ranks at the position. In the outfield, junior J.T. Mohlmann and senior Joe Russo are back in the starting lineup at the corners while sophomore Jaden Rodriguez looks to take over in centerfield. Senior Sal Tantillo and junior J.D. Mandarino will be ready for DH at-bats to round out the lineup.

On the mound, St. John Vianney is looking to replace left-hander Andrew Zottar after his impressive senior year as a two-way player. Murtha and McCormack return with starting experience and junior right-hander Max DeFonce is ready to take on a starting role. Senior David Hamlin is a proven reliever as well, giving SJV a mix of experience and upside on the mound that should lead to overall improvement from last year.

St. John Vianney at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Morgan, 17th season
2023 Record:
6-16 (6-8, tied fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Andrew Zottar (1B/LHP), John Cornacchio (C/UTIL), Matt Recco (CF), Mike Pape (2B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Jonathan Field, Sr.; Thomas Dunn, So.

First Base: Mike McCormack, Jr. (.375/.432/.703, 4 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 18 R, 31 RBI, 6 SB); Jackson Brooks, Sr.

Second Base: Nick Mirto, Jr.; J.J. McGonigle, So.

Shortstop: Kevin DiPede, Sr.

Third Base: Owen Murtha, Sr.

Leftfield: J.T. Mohlmann, Jr.; Matt Cirillo, Jr.

Centerfield: Jalen Rodriguez, So.; Teagan Mouton, Jr.

Rightfield: Joe Russo, Sr.; Mike Intartaglia, Sr.

DH: Jake Mandarino, Jr.; Sal Tantillo, Sr.

Pitching Staff

Mike McCormack, Jr., RHP

Owen Murtha, Sr., RHP

Max DeFonce, Jr., RHP

David Hamlin, Sr., RHP

Joe Russo, Sr., RHP

John Ferry, Jr., RHP

Dylan Blackman, So., LHP

Nico Leal, So., RHP

7. Neptune

For the first time since a successful run at Ocean, Del Dal Pra is back in the dugout as a varsity baseball coach following a run as athletic director at multiple Shore Conference schools. Dal Pra takes over a Neptune team that was consistently competitive during the nine-year tenure of coach Kevin Frederick, who decided to step down at the end of last season. The Scarlet Fliers came up short of a .500 record but did go .500 within divisional play and again made it to the top-half of the B North standings.

To get back to the top four in the division, Neptune will have to find a way to replace a number of impact players all over the diamond. One of the biggest losses was catcher Nick Quagliato but Neptune has a ready-made replacement in junior Jack Gamba-Ellis, who played third base during a productive sophomore season at the plate. The Scarlet Fliers also graduated a pair of two-way standouts in Brennan Moloughney and Joe Juliano but also bring one back in senior Aedan Martin. While Martin’s numbers did not match what his senior teammates did, both Moloughney and Juliano improved as seniors and Martin is set up to do the same while assuming a leadership role.

Junior Jordan Torres gained experience playing third base last year and will play there full-time this season. Classmate Hunter Morgan will play shortstop, with senior Alex Soto playing first and sophomore Andrew Wardell filling in if Martin or Morgan is on the mound. While the infield has some experience, the outfield is completely new. Senior Carl Christie was part of the varsity bench last year and will play centerfield while junior Trevor Hummel takes over in left and senior Carlos Melendez in right.

Martin will look to carry the pitching staff after striking out 27 in 16 1/3 innings as a junior. Hummel, Morgan, Soto, Gamba-Ellis and junior Nick Bailey will pick up the innings beyond Martin and those innings will be the key to Neptune’s chances at getting back to the top-half of the Class B North standings.

Neptune at a Glance

Head Coach: Del Dal Pra, first season (14th overall)
2023 Record:
9-11 (7-7, tied third in Class B North)
Key Losses: Nick Quagliato (C), Brennan Moloughney (LHP/1B/OF), Joe Juliano (1B/RHP), Quincy Esannason (CF), Jack Tinik (OF), Kevin O’Neill (INF/RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Jack Gamba-Ellis, Jr. (.278/.391/.389, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI, 2 SB); Jordan Torres, Jr.

First Base: Alex Soto, Sr.; Max Kifner, Jr.

Second Base: Aedan Martin, Sr. (.163/.293/.224, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 R, 5 RBI); Andrew Wardell, So.; Nick Bailey, Jr.

Shortstop: Hunter Morgan, Jr.; Aedan Martin, Sr.

Third Base: Jordan Torres, Jr.; Jack Gamba-Ellis, Jr.

Leftfield: Trevor Rummel, Jr.; Nick Bailey, Jr.

Centerfield: Carl Christie, Sr.

Rightfield: Carlos Melendez, Sr.

Pitching Staff

Aedan Martin, Sr., RHP (16.1 IP, 0-1, 5.14 ERA, 13 H, 19 BB, 27 K)

Trevor Rummel, Jr., RHP

Hunter Morgan, Jr., RHP

Alex Soto, Sr., RHP

Nick Bailey, Jr., RHP

Jack Gamba-Ellis, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Aedan Martin - West Chester University

8. Freehold Boro

Jon Block was the head baseball coach at Freehold Boro for 32 years before retiring after the 2022 season. After benefitting from that steady leadership for three decades, Freehold Boro is heading into 2024 with its third head coach in three seasons, with Mike Ingui preparing for his first season as head coach.

Ingui takes over a team that dropped 21 games in 2023 and did not win a game in Class B North divisional play. Freehold Boro has not been able to assemble the pitching necessary to keep up in the division, although the Colonials have had some good moments on the mound from Aiden Denham and Nick Terefenko in recent years. Both of those players have since graduated, which leaves the fate of the staff in the hands of five pitchers who all return with experience. Seniors Danny Opramolla, Spencer Friedman and Nick Montello each exceeded 20 innings a year ago and fellow senior Aidan Rivera has been pitching at the varsity level since his freshman seasons.

The Colonials lineup brings back four starters and two part-time players from 2023, with Opromolla moving to shortstop and slated for more at-bats this season. Montello will be his double-play partner, while sophomore Aamir Haniff moves into the starting spot at third base across from junior first baseman Cole Hurley. Sophomore Tyler Kuncken will replace Adam Greenspan at catcher after Greenspan led Freehold Boro in batting average (.324) and slugging percentage (.397).

The outfield is where Freehold Boro returns the most offensive production. Junior Noah Ochojski – who also pitched 12 innings last year – will play centerfield again, flanked by senior James Watkins and junior Nick Russo. Watkins, Russo and senior DH Josh Medina each hit a double and a home run a year ago, with Russo hitting better than .300 as well. With that outfield plus Montello and Opramolla on the infield, Freehold Boro will have a chance to string more hits together while also featuring a dose of power. As is the case with the pitchers, there don’t appear to be any burgeoning stars, but with a collective effort, Freehold Boro can climb the standings in Class B North.

Freehold Boro at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Ingui, first season
2023 Record:
3-21 (0-14, eighth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Adam Greenspan (C), Aiden Denham (RHP), Anthony Vingelli (SS), Connor Owens (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Tyler Kuncken, So.

First Base: Cole Hurley, Jr. (0-for-9)

Second Base: Nick Montello, Sr. (.200/.261/.217, 1 2B, 5 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB)

Shortstop: Danny Opramolla, Sr. (0-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 SB)

Third Base: Aamir Haniff, So.

Leftfield: James Watkins, Sr. (.265/.324/.382, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 3 RBI)

Centerfield: Noah Ochojski, Jr. (.226/.281/.245, 1 2B, 7 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB)

Rightfield: Nick Russo, Jr. (.304/.333/.362, 1 2B, 1 HR, 9 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB)

DH: Josh Medina, Sr. (.129/.270, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI)

Other Hitters

Aidan Rivera, Sr., INF (.328/.403/.328, 13 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB)

Nick Lynch, So., LF

Erol Bayrasil, So., 3B/1B

Xander Bartuck, Jr., UTIL

Patrick Connelly, Sr., 1B

Pitching Staff

Aidan Rivera, Sr., RHP (13.2 IP, 10.76 ERA, 22 H, 20 BB, 14 K)

Danny Opramolla, Sr., RHP (24 IP, 0-5, 5.83 ERA, 32 H, 11 BB, 21 K)

Noah Ochojski, Jr., RHP (12.1 IP, 7.38 ERA, 24 H, 11 BB, 17 K)

Spencer Friedman, Sr., RHP (21.2 IP, 7.75 ERA, 27 H, 17 BB, 12 K)

Nick Montello, Sr., RHP (28 IP, 0-3, 5.00 ERA, 38 H, 8 BB, 13 K)

Anthony Virzi, Fr., RHP

College Commitments

Danny Opramolla – John Jay College

Class B North Division Lineup

Connor Tongring, Jr., Catcher, Ocean

Mike McCormack, Jr., 1B/RHP, St. John Vianney

Ryan Robinson, Sr., 2B/RHP, Red Bank

Ben Robinson, Jr., SS, Ocean

Andrew Parisi, Jr., C/3B, Ranney

Ryan Costello, Sr., OF/1B, Ranney

Curtis Chropuvka, Jr., 2B/OF, Ranney

Sean Hart, Sr., OF, Matawan

Jack Gamba-Ellis, Jr., C/3B, Neptune

Class B North Division Rotation

Brandon Falco, Sr., RHP/1B, Matawan

James Hare, Sr., RHP, Ranney

Andrew Gendi, Sr., RHP/3B, Matawan

Tommy Kowaliwskyj, Jr., RHP, Ocean

Austin Griffith, Sr., RHP/SS, Manasquan

Mark Kovach, Sr., RHP/OF, Matawan

Class B North Breakouts to Watch

Brody Mauro, Fr., LHP/1B, Ranney

Greyson Testino, Sr., LHP/DH, Ranney

Jack Kelly, Jr., 3B/RHP, Ocean

Connor Voelkson, Jr., Catcher, Manasquan

Chase Kaplan, So., LHP, Manasquan

Wall Marziarz, Jr., OF/RHP, Red Bank

J.T. Mohlmann, Jr., OF, St. John Vianney

Max DeFonce, Jr., RHP, St. John Vianney

Hunter Morgan, Jr., SS/RHP, Neptune

Nick Russo, Jr., OF, Freehold Boro

More From Shore Sports Network