With the emergence of Donovan Catholic after the lost season of 2020 and a on the heels of a dominant, 22-5 season for the Griffins, it feels as though the emerging non-public powerhouse in Toms River has been overwhelming the rest of the Class B South division for a while now. That has not been the case, however, as Donovan’s outright Class B South championship of 2023 is believed to be the program’s first outright division title ever.

The previous years saw Donovan Catholic drop some games within the division and with the Griffins graduating some major talent from 2023, it is at least plausible there could be some renewed competition for the top spot in Class B South this season.

In predicted order of finish

1. Donovan Catholic

Since Corey Hamman took over the program in 2019, Donovan Catholic had been building toward the 2023 season. The Griffins had a senior class led by two-time Shore Sports Network All-Shore First-Team selection Gavin Degnan, plus a pair of fifth-year seniors in pitcher Shaun O’Keefe and infielder Anthony Mursko to add to the roster. The result was Donovan Catholic’s first ever Ocean County Tournament championship, an undefeated season in Class B South play and a 22-win season.

Although the graduation of last year’s senior class delivers a blow to the overall talent on the roster, Donovan Catholic has raised the bar and intends to keep raising it. Replacing a player like Degnan – who will play at the University of Pennsylvania after spending this season at Rowan College South Jersey – is essentially impossible, but the Griffins will still boast a dangerous lineup along with a pitching staff that has a chance to be the most dominant group that Hamman has had so far.

Donovan Catholic senior Joe Maier. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
Donovan Catholic senior Joe Maier. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)

Senior left-hander Jake Marciano displayed his dominance in the Ocean County Tournament final against Southern, in which he struck out 16 in a four-hit complete game. The Virginia Tech commit has grown into his frame since last year and has pushed his top fastball velocity into the mid-90’s, giving Donovan Catholic one of the more dynamic arms at the top of any rotation in New Jersey. After Marciano, the Griffins will run out St. Peter’s commit Hunter Lefkus, who missed the 2023 season due to injury, and returning junior Nick Lovacco. With three experienced, talented pitchers to lean on and Donovan Catholic’s recent history of developing capable pitchers, the Griffins figure to be one of the more formidable staffs in the Shore Conference.

In the field, Donovan Catholic’s strength is on the dirt, where the Griffins return three out of four players on the infield as well as a catcher. Senior Hunter Johnson enters his fourth season as the starting catcher at Donovan Catholic and junior Ryder Simpson is the No. 2 backstop who will start at first base when Johnson puts on the gear. Simpson is the lone projected first-year starter on the infield, with senior shortstop Joe Maier and senior third baseman Dave Yorke both back on the left side of the diamond. Junior Tyler Levine served as the regular designated hitter for most of his sophomore year and second base is his likely defensive destination this season.

Levine could also end up in centerfield if either freshman Henry Rezai, sophomore Luca Affa or sophomore Lacey transfer Connor Bragg dazzle in their first varsity audition at second base. In the outfield, the Griffins have three players with part-time varsity experience, although two of them got their experience with different teams. Centerfield candidate Mike Santise earned 20 at-bats with Freehold Township as a sophomore in 2023, while junior rightfielder Jack Dolan hit .462 playing part-time at Point Pleasant Beach. Junior John Busco is the returnee of the bunch after winning a starting job late in the year and performing well with the opportunity.

The lineup may need time to settle over the first couple weeks, but the infield should be ready to play on defense while Maier, Yorke, Levine and Johnson serve as the foundation for what should eventually be a potent offense. Ultimately, though, Donovan’s hopes of another historic step forward for the program start on the mound, where Marciano, Lefkus and Lovacco have the makings of a championship staff.

Donovan Catholic at a Glance

Head Coach: Corey Hamman, fifth season
2023 Record: 22-5 (12-0, first in Class B South)
Key Losses: Gavin Degnan (CF), Shaun O’Keefe (LHP), Rocco Scarpitti (1B), Ryan Butchko (OF), Anthony Mursko (2B/3B), Jason Basilicata (RHP), Brian Padilla (RHP), Matt Mason (OF), John Grano (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Hunter Johnson, Sr. (.281/.405/.453, 2 2B, 3 HR, 12 R, 16 RBI, 1 SB)

First Base: Ryder Simpson, Jr.

Second Base: Tyler Levine, Jr. (.378/.490/.488, 3 2B, 2 HR, 27 R, 22 RBI, 4 SB); Henry Rezai, Fr.

Shortstop: Joe Maier, Sr. (.358/.514/.556, 7 2B, 3 HR, 26 R, 22 RBI, 14 SB)

Third Base: Dave Yorke, Sr. (.328/.495/.642, 6 2B, 5 HR, 19 R, 20 RBI, 1 SB)

Leftfield: John Busco, Jr. (.250/.391/.333, 3 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB)

Centerfield: Mike Santise, Jr. (Transfer from Freehold Twp.) (3-for-20, 2 RBI, 1 SB); Tyler Levine, Jr.

Rightfield: Jack Dolan, Jr. (Transfer from Point Beach) (.462/.650/.462, 10 R, 4 RBI)

DH: Connor Bragg (So., 2B) (Transfer from Lacey) (.111/.294/.148, 1 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI)

Other Hitters

Lucas Affa, So., 2B

Pitching Staff

Jake Marciano, Sr., LHP (35.1 IP, 3-2, 3.57 ERA, 26 H, 11 BB, 62 K)

Hunter Lefkus, Sr., RHP (2022 Stats: 25.2 IP, 1-3, 5.45 ERA, 28 H, 18 BB, 31 K)

Nick Lovacco, Jr., RHP (21 IP, 4-0, 3.33 ERA, 20 H, 10 BB, 24 K)

T.J. Manning, Jr., RHP

Rocco Padula, So., RHP

College Commitments

Jake Marciano – Virginia Tech

Joe Maier – Felician University

Hunter Lefkus – St. Peter’s University

Dave Yorke – Sacred Heart University

2. Point Pleasant Boro

A 12-10 record and a 5-7 record within Class B South divisional play does not jump off the page, but Point Boro began the 2023 season 0-6 and went 12-4 over its final 16 games. To put it simply, the Panthers learned how to win and now they will trot out a team that returns starters at five positions around the diamond, plus 93 innings between four pitchers likely to lead the staff.

Senior Bryson Kirby is the standout of the bunch, both at the plate and on the mound. He finished second in the Shore Conference in strikeouts-per-seven innings (13.52) on the mound and hit all three of his homers off pitchers who made the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Team, of which Kirby was also a part. Coach Dave Drew scaled back Kirby’s innings in centerfield when he wasn’t pitching, which is possible because the Panthers have some depth and athleticism that affords them that luxury.

Senior Brian Simoes will play centerfield when Kirby pitches and will allow him to stay at DH on most other days. Senior third baseman John Ward, senior first baseman Ryan Acquisto and senior catcher Wyatt Dewysockie are the other returning starters and senior Jayson Bennett also returns with experience as a utility man who can catch when Dewysockie pitches. Senior Jack Macaluso also got a dose of varsity playing time last year and is ready to step in as a starter in a corner outfield spot.

The rest of the lineup will be younger, led by freshman shortstop Jake Clayton. Clayton’s predecessor, Connor Cilento, would have started as a freshman as well if not for the canceled 2020 season, so Point Boro appears to have been blessed with another standout shortstop who is ready to go from day one of his freshman year. Clayton will work with junior second baseman James Lockwood up the middle and the Panthers will look to another underclassman in the outfield, with sophomore James Bradley set to start in right.

The lineup will have some inexperience to work through, but the pitching staff looks to be competitive and proven. In addition to Kirby at the top of the rotation, Point Boro has junior left-hander Nick Kowalewski as a No. 2 starter after the junior southpaw pitched his way to the No. 2 spot in last year’s rotation as a sophomore. Dewysockie and fellow senior Cal Kedves also pitched important innings in 2023 and sophomore Chase Connelly and senior Eric Greeley figure to be among the arms that will help Point Boro through the season.

Catching up to Donovan Catholic will be a tall order for the rest of the Class B South field, but if there is a team built to make a run at the top spot at Donovan’s expense, Point Boro looks most equipped to get it done. The Panthers will take on Donovan Catholic in the first week of the season, with Point Boro hosting the season-opener on Tuesday.

Point Boro at a Glance

Head Coach: Dave Drew, 13th season
2023 Record: 12-10 (5-7, fifth in Class B South)
Key Losses: Connor Cilento (SS), Shane Ryan (OF), Tommy Laspina (2B), Eric Anilonis (LHP), Andrew Lockwood (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Wyatt Dewysockie, Sr. (.250/.328/.346, 3 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI); Jayson Bennett, Sr. (.103/.186/.103, 9 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB)

First Base: Ryan Acquisto, Sr. (.371/.487/.484, 5 2B, 1 3B, 17 R, 12 RBI, 9 SB)

Second Base: James Lockwood, Jr.

Shortstop: Jake Clayton, Fr.

Third Base: John Ward, Sr. (.200/.347/.200, 9 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB); Jayson Bennett, Sr.

Leftfield: Jack Macaluso, Sr. (2-for-3, 4 R, 2 RBI)

Centerfield: Brian Simoes, Sr. (.179/.250/.179, 6 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB); Bryson Kirby, Sr.

Rightfield: James Bradley, So.; Brian Simoes, Sr.

DH: Bryson Kirby, Sr. (.397/.480/.571, 2 2B, 3 HR, 14 R, 16 RBI, 11 SB)

Other Hitters

Nick Kowalewski, Jr., 1B

Matt Lokerson, So., 2B/OF

Zach Johnson, Jr., SS

Cal Kedves, Sr., 3B

Chris Metcalfe, Jr., 3B

Hudson Griffin, Jr., OF

Chase Connelly, So., OF

Pitching Staff

Bryson Kirby, Sr., RHP (38.1 IP, 4-2, 2.74 ERA, 30 H, 26 BB, 72 K)

Nick Kowalewski, Jr., LHP (30.2 IP, 3-2, 2.28 ERA, 25 H, 15 BB, 32 K)

Wyatt Dewysockie, Sr., RHP (13.1 IP, 1-0, 5.77 ERA, 17 H, 9 BB, 13 K)

Cal Kedves, Sr., RHP (11 IP, 1-2, 5.73 ERA, 6 H, 17 BB, 11 K)

Chase Connelly, So., RHP

Eric Greeley, Sr., RHP

John Ward, Sr., RHP

Colin Moore, Sr., RHP

James Bradley, So., RHP

College Commitments

Eric Greeley – Alvernia University

3. Jackson Liberty

With a team that relied heavily on underclassmen at several spots around the diamond, Jackson Liberty won a piece of the Class B South public division title for a fifth straight season this time claiming it all for themselves. That bodes well for the next several years as well, as the Lions return starters at six spots in the batting order and just two of them are seniors. The questions for Jackson Liberty lie on the mound, where Ethan Bloomfield emerged as a Second-Team All-Shore ace and routinely dominated in his starts a year ago.

In addition to replacing Bloomfield, Jackson Liberty will have to replace the high-pressure innings thrown by current junior Mike Kisseberth, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury and will not be available to pitch early in the season, if at all. That puts a lot on the plates of sophomores Anthony Woods and Mike Galayda, freshman Jayden Hartnett, junior Colin Menafra and seniors Vincent Grande and Matt O’Brien. Woods threw 17 innings as a freshman and is best positioned to step in as a No. 1 option for the Lions.

Whatever challenges the pitching staff will have to overcome, the Lions have an exciting group of position players. In sophomore Carney O’Donnell and senior Brett Benecke, Jackson Liberty has two capable catchers, with O’Donnell in line to open the season as the starter behind the plate while Benecke shifts to first base after putting up an eye-popping slash line of .469/.634/.796 as a junior. With Benecke able to catch, O’Donnell could get some innings on the mound after he pitched well in nine innings a year ago.

Although he won’t pitch, Kisseberth will be an impact bat for the Lions once again after two strong showings at the varsity level to start his career. He will play second base with senior Grande taking over at shortstop as Kisseberth’s double-play partner. Woods rounds out the starting infield at third base, although when he pitchers, senior Jack Kanis can shift from leftfield to third base to cover him. Hartnett is next in line to play in the outfield when Woods pitches, with juniors Nick Nannini and Menafra covering the other two outfield spots – Menafra in center and Nannini in right.

Even after boasting a young team last year, Jackson Liberty remains fairly young and will have a group of position players capable of leading the Lions to a repeat championship in the Class B South public division race. The pitching will have to come along quickly, but with some young arms returning with a year of experience, there is reason for hope – particularly with the support the lineup should provide.

Jackson Liberty at a Glance

Head Coach: Dave Murawski, third season
2023 Record: 9-10-1 (8-3-1, second in Class B South)
Key Losses: Ethan Bloomfield (LHP), Connor Yurgel (1B/3B), Gavin DeGregorio (2B), Cristian Garced (CF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Carney O’Donnell, So. (.262/.384/.361, 3 2B, 1 HR, 13 R, 9 RBI)

First Base: Brett Benecke, Sr. (.469/.634/.796, 7 2B, 3 HR, 18 R, 11 RBI, 4 SB)

Second Base: Mike Kisseberth, Jr. (.460./.576/.580, 6 2B, 13 R, 9 RBI, 5 SB)

Shortstop: Vincent Grande, Sr. (.130/.231/.130, 4 R, 1 RBI)

Third Base: Anthony Woods, So. (0-for-2); Jack Kanis, Sr.

Leftfield: Jack Kanis, Sr. (.278/.388/.352, 4 2B, 10 R, 11 RBI, 1 SB); Jayden Hartnett, Fr.

Centerfield: Colin Menafra, Jr. (.246/.348/.281, 2 2B, 8 R, 13 RBI, 1 SB)

Rightfield: Nick Nannini, Jr. (.250/.320/.250, 8 R, 4 RBI, 6 SB)

Other Hitters

Matt Galayda, So., 2B/SS

Matt O’Brien, Sr., 1B

Mason Ciccariello, So., 1B/OF

Scott Wall, Fr., 3B/OF

Tucker Pazinko, So., CF

Pitching Staff

Anthony Woods, So., RHP (16 IP, 1-2, 7.00 ERA, 22 H, 17 BB, 15 K)

Matt Galayda, So., RHP

Jayden Hartnett, Fr., RHP

Vincent Grande, Sr., RHP (10.2 IP, 3.94 ERA, 19 H, 6 BB, 7 K)

Colin Menafra, Jr., RHP (0.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K)

Mike Kisseberth, Jr., RHP (13.1 IP, 0-1, 3.15 ERA, 13 H, 10 BB, 18 K)

Mason Ciccariello, So., RHP

Carney O’Donnell, So., RHP (9 IP, 1-1, 3.11 ERA, 6 H, 7 BB, 13 K)

Matt O’Brien, Sr., RHP (2.1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K)

Luke Benecke, So., LHP

4. Pinelands

Following the 2022 graduation of a pair of impact players in Class B South, Pinelands took some expected lumps in 2023, but all things considered, the Wildcats held their own and set themselves up to be one of the Shore’s more improved teams. Pinelands had a similar situation in fourth-year coach Dan Mulligan’s first two seasons, when the Wildcats followed up a one-win campaign in 2021 with a competitive 10-13 showing in 2022.

This year’s team returns four full-time starters and several other players who played in time-shares at various positions, while also boasting a returning staff ace on the mound. That ace is senior right-hander Kaden Inman, who will also play second base, but will make his most significant impact on the mound after turning in a breakout junior year. Inman picked up four of Pinelands’ five wins, pitched to an ERA of 3.22 and racked up 57 strikeouts in only 41 innings.

The Wildcats will need the staff beyond Inman to deliver and there is potential for that with sophomore Tyler Dean back after playing as a freshman. Senior Dan Maher will also have a hand in building out the staff and sophomore Landon Siedenfaden is another underclassman to watch on the mound. The sophomores struggled to get outs as freshmen, but they also showed up for their team when it needed the innings. This year, both Dean and Siedenfaden are better prepared for the challenge and won’t have to carry too much of the load with Inman and Maher in place.

Inman and Maher will form a senior double-play combination when one of the other pitchers are on the mound, with junior T.J. Nugent filling in as needed. Sophomore Jacob Haywood and junior third baseman Mason Griffiths will play at the infield corners, while Siedenfaden will see some time at DH. Dean will be the centerfielder on his non-pitching days, with senior Logan Russo shifting from left to center when needed. Sophomore Paul Dunn and junior Logan Hammer also figure into the outfield picture.

Russo and junior catcher Nate Sofield are the top two bats in the lineup coming off last year’s five-win season and while Russo had the best per-at-bat stats, Sofield is the team’s top player. A stellar defender behind the plate who also stole 14 bases, Sofield is primed to take the next step as a hitter this season after cracking the .300 mark in batting average and settling in comfortably above .400 with his on-base percentage.

With an unquestioned ace, a talented junior catcher, a senior double-play duo and a proven outfield bat in the mix, Pinelands has the makings of a team that could be in play for the B South public division title, particularly if its sophomores are primed for breakout seasons.

Pinelands at a Glance

Head Coach: Dan Mulligan, fourth season
2023 Record: 5-14 (2-10, sixth in Class B South)
Key Losses: Jake Fowler (OF/RHP), Hunter Theuret (RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Nate Sofield, Jr. (.320/.443/.380, 3 2B, 11 R, 5 RBI, 14 SB)

First Base: Jacob Haywood, So.

Second Base: Kaden Inman, Sr. (.255/.293/.309, 3 2B, 4 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB); T.J. Nugent, Jr.

Shortstop: Dan Maher, Sr. (.231/.310/.288, 3 2B, 5 R, 6 RBI, 4 SB); Kaden Inman, Sr.

Third Base: Mason Griffiths, Jr.

Leftfield: Logan Russo, Sr. (.294/.385/.471, 3 3B, 6 R, 1 RBI, 5 SB); Paul Dunn, So.

Centerfield: Tyler Dean, So.; Logan Russo, Sr.

Rightfield: Logan Hammer, Jr.

DH: Landon Siedenfaden (So., 1B/3B)

Other Hitters

Joseph Wainen, Jr., 2B

Pitching Staff

Kaden Inman, Sr., RHP (41.1 IP, 4-4, 3.22 ERA, 41 H, 27 BB, 57 K)

Tyler Dean, So., RHP

Dan Maher, Sr., RHP (6.1 IP, 0-1, 4.42 ERA, 14 H, 11 BB, 9 K)

Landon Seidenfaden, So., RHP

Logan Russo, Sr., RHP

Joey Wainen, Jr., RHP

Mason Griffiths, Jr., RHP

T.J. Nugent, Jr., RHP

Paul Dunn, So., RHP

Jacob Haywood, So., RHP

5. Lacey

Of all the Class B South teams, Lacey is the one with the most production to replace, particularly on the mound. The Lions graduated 109 2/3 innings from last year’s squad, which leaned on its quality pitching staff to hover around .500 for most of the season. The Lions scored a modest 86 runs in 21 games, but allowed only 82, which put them in the top 10 in the Shore Conference in total runs allowed.

Even with all those innings gone, Lacey still brings back a proven pitcher in senior David Golini, who logged 30 1/3 innings while emerging as the team’s No. 3 starter behind senior stalwarts Noah Quinn and Jack Sramaty. Senior Ethan Anderson, junior Dylan Zech and sophomore Logan Resetar are next up to fill those innings, with junior Cannon Roth and senior Christian Devers also in the mix.

If there is an area where Lacey could find marked improvement, it is in a lineup what will feature seven experienced hitters – all of whom ended last season with room to grow and reason to believe they will. Senior Anthony Eckerson was useful at several positions a year ago and will take over for all-division catcher Carson Gudzak behind the plate. Anderson and Resetar return to the infield, with Anderson playing second base and Resetar at third. Sophomore Brayden Messina is also back and will settle in at shortstop after playing multiple infield positions as a freshman. Factor in senior Shane Trangone and Lacey has an infield group that does not lack experience and has some additional ceiling considering the presence of two sophomores.

The outfield will not be as experienced, although senior Joey Preston and Golini each got a helping of at-bats last year. Golini is more likely to hit from his pitcher spot or possibly as the DH, while senior Michael Marcus and Zech cover center and left, respectively. With the pitching staff at least returning Golini, the outfield is Lacey’s greatest unknown going into the season, but if Golini emerges as an ace, the sophomores come into their own and the senior group of Eckerson, Anderson and Trangone deliver, Lacey will be back as a contender for the public division title.

Lacey at a Glance

Head Coach: Adam Taha, fifth season
2023 Record: 10-11 (7-5, third in Class B South)
Key Losses: Carson Gudzak (C), Noah Quinn (RHP/OF), Jack Sramaty (RHP), Zack Mohr (SS/RHP), Rylan Messina (3B/RHP)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Anthony Eckerson, Sr. (.290/.384/.387, 4 2B, 1 3B, 12 R, 9 RBI, 12 SB)

First Base: Shane Trangone, Sr. (.267/.389/.333, 1 2B, 4 R, 2 SB)

Second Base: Ethan Anderson, Sr. (.229/.373/.292, 3 2B, 4 R, 5 RBI, 4 SB)

Shortstop: Brayden Messina, So. (.242/.286/.242, 6 R, 6 RBI, 7 SB)

Third Base: Logan Resetar, So. (.136/.424/.182, 1 2B, 4 R)

Leftfield: Joey Preston, Sr. (.231/.412/.231, 3 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB); Landon Raabe, Jr.

Centerfield: Michael Marcus, Sr.; David Golini, Sr. (2-for-15, 4 R, RBI)

Rightfield: Dylan Zech, Jr.

Other Hitters

Lorenzo Scarbino, Jr., 2B

Noah Pelenski, Sr.

Pitching Staff

David Golini, Sr., RHP (30.2 IP, 2-2, 3.20 ERA, 34 H, 12 BB, 19 K)

Ethan Anderson, Sr., RHP

Dylan Zech, Jr., RHP

Logan Resetar, So., RHP

Cannon Roth, Jr., RHP

Christian Devers, Sr., LHP

College Commitments

Anthony Eckerson – Holy Family University

6. Barnegat

Barnegat was one of the youngest teams in the Shore Conference in 2023 and, unfortunately for the Bengals, the results bore that out. The pitching staff struggled to throw strikes and, in turn, get outs. The offense had a few bright spots, but lacked the power to overcome its inconsistency in creating baserunners. In the end, the Bengals won two games – a far cry from the competitive outfit they have been in prior years under coach Dan McCoy.

The Bengals will inch closer to contention again in 2024 thanks to a group of sophomores that emerged as some of the team’s most productive players as freshmen in 2023. Shortstop Nick Bruno took over a starting job and hit over .400 in 54 plate appearances while playing in the middle of the defense. Classmate Pat Mackie hit .289 with a home run in 57 plate appearances, suggesting there is some power to be added over the next several years.

Liam Cooper is the other sophomore of note after he wound up leading Barnegat in innings pitched (31 1/3) and logging 36 plate appearances as a hitter. Cooper and Bruno will be two key cogs in the pitching staff, as will freshman right-hander Nick Malinowski, who has a chance to work his way to the top of the rotation in short order. While the youth in the pitching staff is encouraging, the Bengals will look to a pair of left-handers in senior Tyler Carll and junior Jaihan Dominguez to provide leadership as upperclassmen.

Catcher Jack Haviland and outfielder Michael Yankowski are two more sophomores who could make an impact this season. Haviland has already had time as a varsity catcher and will once again split the duties with senior Carmine Albruzzese. Yankowski is vying with junior Dylan Appice for at-bats in leftfield, while Carll covers centerfield when he is not on the mound. Senior Dylan DeGrazio will be a leader on the infield at third base, with Cooper also in the mix to play the hot corner. Second base will have a pair if experienced varsity players in senior Quentin Torres and junior Tommy Szukalski battling for time. Torres is also set to play a role on the pitching staff as well.

With Malinowski joining a promising group of sophomores at the varsity level this season, the future at Barnegat appears bright. Asking that group of underclassmen to close the gap between themselves and the other public schools in the division is a lot, but talented young teams are not averse to arriving ahead of schedule. With Barnegat looking primed to take the leap toward the top of the division in 2025, this group could make a major statement by climbing the standings this season.

Barnegat at a Glance

Head Coach: Dan McCoy, 12th season
2023 Record: 2-18 (1-11, seventh in Class B South)
Key Losses: Bryce Davenport (INF/RHP), Matt Hwang (1B)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Jack Haviland, So.; Carmine Albruzzese, Sr., C

First Base: Jaihan Dominguez, Jr. (.205/.262/.256, 2 2B, 3 R, 5 RBI)

Second Base: Tommy Szukalski, Jr.; Quentin Torres, Sr. (.143/.143/.250, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI)

Shortstop: Nick Bruno, So. (.405/.537/.429, 1 2B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB)

Third Base: Dylan DeGrazio, Sr.; Liam Cooper, So.

Leftfield: Dylan Appice, Jr.; Michael Yankowski, So.

Centerfield: Tyler Carll, Sr. (.167/.365/.167, 10 R, 4 RBI, 11 SB)

Rightfield: Pat Mackie, So. (.289/.429/.356, 1 HR, 4 R, 9 RBI, 7 SB)

DH: Liam Cooper, So. (.138/.306/.172, 1 2B, 2 R, 8 RBI, 1 SB); Nick Malinowski, Fr.

Other Hitters

Julian Marfino, Sr., CF (.167/.167/.233, 2 2B, 1 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB)

Jordan Cook, Sr., INF

Pitching Staff

Liam Cooper, So., RHP (31.1 IP, 1-5, 6.48 ERA, 33 H, 19 BB, 19 K)

Tyler Carll, Sr., LHP (18.1 IP, 0-3, 7.63 ERA, 18 H, 27 BB, 18 K)

Nick Bruno, So., RHP

Jaihan Dominguez, Jr., LHP (24 IP, 0-4, 5.25 ERA, 33 H, 10 BB, 12 K)

Nick Malinowski, Fr., RHP

Quentin Torres, Sr., RHP

7. Manchester

The Hawks came up a couple wins shy of a winning season in 2023 and while some of those losses leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the players who experienced them, it was an encouraging year for the program overall. After winning the South Jersey Group II championship in 2021 and returning All-Shore talent in 2022, the 2023 team had a lot of production to replace and managed to scrape together a winning record in Class B South divisional play.

Last year’s team showed a knack for winning close games, which helped Manchester overcome a run differential of minus-41. Manchester went 6-4-1 in games decided by three runs or fewer and went 5-1-1 in its first seven such games – part of a 7-1-1 start to the 2023 season. The Hawks got quality pitching throughout the year from Frank Kern, Joe Inkrote and Anthony Carino and although Joe Sclama had a disappointing year on the mound, he had a monster senior season at the plate.

Three of those four names are gone this year, which leaves Carino to lead the pitching staff while also playing first base on the days he does not pitch. The rest of the staff enters the year with very little experience, with seniors Sean Reardon and Damian Crispin backing up their classmate Carino, while junior left-hander Riley Wescott and classmates Brendan Spaziano and Justin Uriarte hope to replicate when Carino did as a junior a year ago.

Spaziano is also in line to start at third base – part of an infield that will look different as new starters take over at first, second and third. The exception is returning senior shortstop Joe Bentivegna, who slugged three home runs as a junior and is one of three hitters in the lineup to hold his own in a starting role in 2023 and return for 2024. The others are the catching duo of senior Evan Palmer and junior Colin Sitarik. Palmer has played in the outfield over the past two seasons but could see more time at catcher in his final high-school season. Sitarik’s bat will be in the lineup in some fashion, whether it is as the catcher, at first base or as the DH.

Senior Patrick McKay also returns with starting experience in centerfield and will be flanked by some combination of juniors Dominic Rekus, Mateo Solis and Erick Espinal. The other potential time-share is at second base, where juniors Gavin Stapon and Colin McAllister are ready to emerge as part of the new-look infield. The Manchester lineup battled through its share of inconsistency last year as well but had the pitching to overcome it. This year, senior leaders like Bentivegna, Palmer, Carino and McKay will likely have to step up and produce while the pitching comes depth comes along.

Manchester at a Glance

Head Coach: Dave Beauchemin, eighth season
2023 Record: 9-11-1 (6-5-1, fourth in Class B South)
Key Losses: Joe Sclama (1B/LHP), Joe Inkrote (RHP/INF), Frank Kern (RHP), A.J. Ramirez (2B), Luke Walters (OF)

Around the Diamond

Returning Starters in Bold

Catcher: Evan Palmer, Sr. (.237/.375/.322, 5 2B, 8 R, 6 RBI, 1 SB); Colton Sitarik, Jr. (.211/.352/.316, 4 2B, 1 3B, 9 RBI)

First Base: Anthony Carino, Jr.

Second Base: Gavin Stapon, Jr.; Colin McAllister, Jr.

Shortstop: Joe Bentivegna, Sr. (.207/.360/.414, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 R, 12 RBI, 6 SB)

Third Base: Brendan Spaziano, Jr.

Leftfield: Dominic Rekus, Jr.

Centerfield: Patrick McKay, Sr.

Rightfield: Mateo Solis, Jr.; Erick Espinal, Jr.

Pitching Staff

Anthony Carino, Jr., RHP (23 IP, 4-0, 1.22 ERA, 18 H, 14 BB, 19 K)

Sean Reardon, Sr., RHP

Riley Wescott, Jr., LHP

Damian Crispin, Sr., RHP

Brendan Spaziano, Jr., RHP

Justin Uriarte, Jr., RHP

College Commitments

Evan Palmer – Stockton University

Joe Bentivegna – Rosemont College

Class B South Lineup

Hunter Johnson, Sr., C, Donovan Catholic

Nate Sofield, Jr., C, Pinelands

Brett Benecke, Sr., 1B, Jackson Liberty

Mike Kisseberth, Jr., 2B, Jackson Liberty

Joe Maier, Sr., SS, Donovan Catholic

Dave Yorke, Sr., 3B, Donovan Catholic

Tyler Levine, Jr., 2B/OF, Donovan Catholic

Logan Russo, Sr., OF, Pinelands

Ryan Acquisto, Sr., UTIL, Point Boro

Class B South Rotation

Jake Marciano, Sr., LHP, Donovan Catholic

Bryson Kirby, Sr., RHP/OF, Point Boro

Hunter Lefkus, Sr., RHP, Donovan Catholic

Kaden Inman, Sr., RHP/2B, Pinelands

Nick Kowalewski, Jr., LHP, Point Boro

Anthony Carino, Jr., RHP/INF, Manchester

Class B South Breakouts to Watch

Nick Lovacco, Jr., RHP, Donovan Catholic

John Busco, Jr., OF, Donovan Catholic

Anthony Woods, So., 3B/RHP, Jackson Liberty

Colin Menafra, Jr., CF/RHP, Jackson Liberty

Jake Clayton, Fr., SS, Point Boro

Tyler Dean, So., CF/RHP, Pinelands

Logan Resetar, So., 3B/RHP, Lacey

Liam Cooper, So., RHP/3B, Barnegat

Nick Malinowski, Fr., RHP/DH, Barnegat

Brendan Spaziano, Jr., 3B/RHP, Manchester

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