You might have heard of a division with two defending co-champions. Now, meet the division with two defending outright champions. Colts Neck joins Class B North fresh off a Class A North championship in 2014 and will challenge a Wall team that went 14-0 in this division last year. Class B North was almost home to three division champions, as Red Bank Catholic moved in from A Central after finishing a game behind St. John Vianney in the standings last year.

In addition to the three perennial contenders at the top, the division of champions also has some depth to it, with Ocean returning a team that won 13 of 15 games prior to its NJSIAA Tournament loss and Matawan bringing back a significant part of a nucleus that tied Ocean for second in the division last year and advanced to the Central Jersey Group II semifinals. The Huskies are the unestablished name that could make some history by making a run to the top, and in a division where everyone could end up hammering one another, that outcome is just one of a number of realistic possibilities.

Lefty Chris Murphy and Colts Neck jump into the B North pool and look to take home a second straight division title. (Photo by Matt Manley)

 

Colts Neck

Head Coach: Mike Yorke, 16th season
2014 Record: 16-6 (11-3, first in Class A North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Tyler KapuscinskiSr.1B.406/.443/.507, 5 2B, 3B, 13 R, 13 RBI
Jordan GonzalezSr.C.187/.289/.266, 2 2B, HR, 9 R, 15 RBI
Tyler KaySr.RF.200/.328/.300, 2 2B, HR, 9 R, 10 RBI
Sam DeVitisSr.SS.262/.367/.262, 12 R, 7 RBI
Mike AnticoJr.CF.231/.280/.290, 2 2B, 3B, 10 R, 5 RBI
Joe VarileSr.3B.380/.458/.420, 2 2B, 12 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB
Chris MurphySr.P1-for-328.2 IP, 17 H, 14 BB, 37 K, 2.69 ERA, 4-1
Mario FerraioliJr.P23.1 IP, 18 H, 17 BB, 20 K, 2.40 ERA, 3-2
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Lou RondinellaSr.OF4-for-17, 2B, 4 R

Key Losses: Paul Marinello (SS), Gianni Magliaro (P/1B), Robbie Warendorf (P), Matt Schaeffer (P), Kyle Murrin (3B)
Key Newcomers: Justin Hanewald (Jr., P), Tim Cavrak (Jr., INF), Andrew Conforti (Jr., OF), Jake McTigue (Jr., OF), Nick Umbro (Jr., INF), Jeremy Slad (Jr., C), Dante Caruso (Jr., OF), Henry Aufiero (Sr., P), Walter Kelso (Sr., P), Bryce Richardson (Sr., P), Mike D’Attavio (Jr., P), Chris Laresca (Jr., P), Jonathan Weitzman (So., P/1B)

The defending Class A North champs take their act over to Class B North this year, where things won’t be all that much easier for the Cougars than they were in their old stomping grounds. The bottom teams in Class A North proved to be tougher than the likes of Neptune, Long Branch and Red Bank, but the top five teams in Class B North will all have postseason title aspirations of some kind. Factor in Colts Neck coming in with a bulls-eye after its great season in 2014, and this division looks like it will be a grind for the Cougars over the next five or six weeks.

Relative to some of the other teams in the division, the Cougars come into this year with 2014 offensive numbers that don’t stack up to the ones that some of the other B North teams put up. That, however, can be attributed to a 2014 Class A North slate stacked with pitching. Even in that environment, Colts Neck still had its share of offensive standouts and found ways to win games.

Chief among those hitting stars was senior first baseman Tyler Kapuscinski, a Marist recruit who hit above .400 for the season while going up against some of the toughest pitching around. Seniors Tyler Kay and Jordan Gonzalez struggled to keep their average up, but both flashed power during their junior seasons, with Gonzalez doing so while also adjusting to his full first varsity season behind the plate. Senior Sam Devitis and sophomore Mike Antico also put up modest numbers at first glance, but both are also plus defenders at premium positions with plenty of offensive upside moving forward – with or without an easier schedule.

Colts Neck was able to thrive in close games last season thanks to its deep, dependable pitching staff that will look different with its top two leaders in innings gone to graduation. The x-factor on Colts Neck’s staff last year was current senior left-hander Chris Murphy, who worked out of the bullpen as a relief ace, typically working in the Goose Gossage multi-inning role rather than the Mariano Rivera one-two-three last inning. Murphy is slated to start games this season, so Colts Neck will not be playing with its ace in the hole nearly as often, but a returning group of position players that catches the ball and will likely swing the bats better should mitigate that and give the Cougars a chance to win another division title.

 

Wall

Head Coach: Todd Schmitt, 18th season
2014 Record: 21-6 (12-0, first in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Dan WondrackSr.C.424/.480/.625, 6 2B, 4 HR, 12 R, 19 RBI
Ryan OrenderSr.3B/P.431/.517/.528, 5 2B, 3B, 17 R, 17 RBI, 3 SB45.1 IP, 33 H, 16 BB, 41 K, 6-2
Nick MartinezSr.OF.256/.408/.359, 4 2B, 13 R, 8 RBI, 3 SB
Brendan BarcasSr.OF.284/.351/.284, 15 R, 13 RBI, 6 SB
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Charlie CosenzaSr.P/INF3-for-9, 3 BB, 3 R5 IP, 4 H, ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1-1
Nick MaciejewskiJr.OF0-for-7
Christian CarlsonSr.OF3 R
Regan DombroskiSr.P6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

Key Losses: Tyler Swiggart (P), Branden Biegert (2B), Chris Barcas (SS), Jack Gifford (1B), Tim Willey (CF), Matt Tancredi (OF), Bobby Patterson (P), Brendan McGregor (DH), Steve Coltrain (P), Brendan Brady (1B)
Key Newcomers: Noah Cloney (So., P/SS), James Loesch (Jr., C/1B), Mike Nocchi (Jr., P), Connor Metelski (Jr., P), Mike Yard (Jr., 3B/1B), Joe Castellucia (Jr., INF)

Just one year ago, Wall ran roughshod on Class B North and finished the divisional season 14-0. Although such things have nothing to do with Shore Conference realignment, it almost appears that the powers-that-be watched Wall dominate Class B North last year and responded by throwing two more behemoths into the division in Colts Neck and Red Bank Catholic. The Crimson Knights were able to lean on solid pitching and lineup depth to go unscathed in the divisional regular season, but those two things might not be available in abundance like they were to Wall a year ago.

Wall coach Todd Schmitt knew Ryan Orender would be a pitching option as a junior last year, but he couldn’t have envisioned the level of dominance that Orender achieved. The right-hander stepped in to fill a vacated No. 2 spot in the rotation that opened because of an injury and he never let it go – unless, of course, you wanted to consider him Wall’s No. 1 pitcher. Orender will be the actual No. 1 pitcher for Wall this year when he’s not playing third base, and Wall will need a player or two to step up like Orender did last year to solidify the pitching depth.

Wall returned eight position players to its starting lineup last year, which makes it impressive that the Knights still return four hitters again this season, including Orender. Senior catcher Dan Wondrack is among the top power hitters in the Shore Conference, while senior outfielder Nick Martinez is back after suffering a fractured wrist in a Monmouth County Tournament win over Freehold that ended his season. Martinez led Wall in batting average as a sophomore in 2013.

Senior Brendan Barcas – an All-Shore performer in both soccer and basketball – is a candidate to fill the vacancy at shortstop after starting in left field last year, while sophomore newcomer Noah Cloney is looking to win the job and make an early impression. The Crimson Knights will need some inexperienced, young players to step up in order to win the division again, but even with just the core of returning players, Wall will again be a factor in B North.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann, eighth season
2014 Record: 20-7 (11-3, second in Class A Central)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Chris BenderSr.LF.242/.366/.258, 2B, 10 R, 8 RBI, 3 SB
Tom MerloSr.RF.305/.330/.366, 5 2B, 16 R, 13 RBI
Evan MadiganJr.SS.301/.361/.333, 3 2B, 21 R, 18 RBI, 10 SB
Doug FacendoJr.C.237/.326/.329, 4 2B, HR, 14 R, 13 RBI
Mike SpinelliJr.2B.278/.300/.333, 3 2B, 11 R, 7 RBI
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Mike IanelliSr.1B1-for-6, 3 BB
John PocciaJr.P12 IP, 14 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 2.33 ERA, 1-1
Jack IpsenJr.P9.2 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 12 K, 3.62 ERA, 2-1
Tom MontanoSr.P3.1 IP, H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Griffin KellerSr.2B0-for-2, 9 R
Joe MontanoSr.OF/P0-for-2

Key Losses: Al Molina (SS/P), Brendan Madigan (CF), Matt Kurdewan (3B), Mike Alescio (C), Tom Puza (P), Joe Liddy (P), Jack Kissinger (P), Vin Vitarelli (P)
Key Newcomers: Justin Liggett (Jr., P), Jack Smith (Jr., P), Aaron Ahn (So., 3B), Anthony DeRosa (So., 3B/1B/P), Dom Caraballo (So., OF), Nick Ianelli (Sr., P), Eric Klimowicz (Sr., P)

Red Bank Catholic has been home to some heavy hitters over the last decade, going all the way back to the days of Ryan Kalish in the mid-2000’s. While there is some potential for big production at the plate on this year’s roster, this is one of the least offensively-proven teams Red Bank Catholic has had since coach Buddy Hausmann took over the program. A team that has routinely had three or four players in the middle of the order with slugging percentages of .500 or better does not return any player with a slugging percentage better than .366.

What the Caseys lack in power, they will make up for in the field, led by junior shortstop Evan Madigan, who is also one of RBC’s top returning hitters after batting .301 as a sophomore. He hit between older brother Brendan and Philadelphia Phillies draft pick and Coastal Carolina freshman Al Molina – both All-Shore first-teamers.

Seniors Doug Merlo and Chris Bender will play the corner outfield spots again this year and are both good candidates to supply some more power this season. Junior Doug Facendo moves from first base to catcher after showing glimpses of being an offensive force. Sophomores Aaron Ahn – already committed to play at the U.S. Naval Academy – Anthony DeRosa and Dom Caraballo also look to factor into the lineup along with 2014 letter-winners Mike Spinelli and Mike Ianelli.

Last year’s pitching production is also gone, with RBC’s top five pitchers taking the graduation walk. That puts the onus on a group of five juniors and senior Tom Montano to combine their powers and produce a formidable staff.

John Poccia and Jack Ipsen both saw time as sophomores and are ready to take on larger workloads in hopes of making Red Bank Catholic a team that throws strikes and turns balls in play into outs to help compensate for the loss of power. Like Colts Neck, Red Bank Catholic is returning to the division after two years away. While making an identical, simultaneous move with the Cougars, RBC would also be happy to master Colts Neck’s 2014 formula of pitching depth, defense and timely hitting on the way to a division title.

 

Ocean

Head Coach: Cip Apicelli, sixth season
2014 Record: 19-8 (8-4, tied second in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Anthony BartolomeiSr.1B/P.306 Avg, 5 3B, 20 RBI4-1, 2.40 ERA
Brian KochenashJr.SS.279 Avg, .420 OBP, 15 R, 7 SB
Sam MaxwellSr.CF/P.291 Avg, 16 R, 12 RBI, 10 SB
Frank HenrySr.2B.245 Avg
Blake DemeterSr.P43 IP, 10 BB, 49 K, 1.95 ERA, 3-3
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Jake TalaricoJr.P/OF10 IP, 0.00 ERA
Marcus BlackmonSr.OF

Key Losses: Miles Moody (OF), Ryan Lillie (P), Zach Godfrey (C), Jimmy McGrorry (3B), Dan Verderese (P), Glenn Davis (2B/OF), John Walsh (1B/DH), Andrew MacNeille (OF)
Key Newcomers: Denny Galvin (Sr., C), Brian Olesen (Jr., 1B), Marc Chernin (Jr., C), Kenny Pickett (So., OF), Phil Demarco (So., OF/P), Bo Britton (Sr., OF), Anthony Tedesco (So., C), Tyler Rossback (Jr., 3B), Alec Keezer (So., INF/P), Jon Zimmerman (Sr., P), Robert Piantanida (Sr., 1B), Scott Keller (Sr., OF), Joe Aldarelli (So., OF), Travis Lillie (So., P), J.T. Toomey (Jr., P), Scott Bradley (Jr., P), Brad Schoenberger (Sr., P)

We’re starting to get in to the “sleeper region” of the division, although it’s hard to say Ocean is ever a sleeper to do something good. The Spartans have consistently been in the division mix under sixth-year coach Cip Apicelli. After a strong finish to the 2014 season, they have a nice collection of returning talent to pick up where they left off when they won 13 of 15 prior to losing to Wall in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs.

Pitching is the heart of Ocean’s team this season, even with left-handed ace Ryan Lillie and breakout right-hander Dan Verderese graduating after last season. The Spartans went four deep in the starting rotation last year and that was a big reason they finished as strong as they did. Seniors Anthony Bartolomei and Blake Demeter were the back half of that quartet and both pitched as well as any pitcher returning to the division this season. Junior Jake Talarico was also excellent in 10 scoreless innings of work, so Ocean is in line to have some more depth to go with its two returnees at the top.

Offense will be more of a challenge for the Spartans, who lost six contributors with the bat from a team that struggled to score as it is. Bartolomei is the best returning hitter after batting .305 with five triples and 20 RBI as a junior, while junior shortstop Brian Kochenash has progressed nicely in two varsity seasons and Sam Maxwell brings speed to the table on the bases and in center field. Maxwell and Kochenash will solidify the defense, which should couple with a deep staff to keep scoring down once again. If the lineup can break through at the plate, Ocean will be as good as any team in B North.

 

Matawan

Head Coach: Bobby Carnovsky, third season
2014 Record: 14-10 (8-4, tied second in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Joe PiscopoSr.CF.453/.488/.520, 3 2B, 3B, 18 R, 8 RBI
Adam ElliottJr.SS/P.364/.461/.454, 4 2B, 3B, 10 R, 13 RBI44 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 39 K, 1.59 ERA, 6-3
Billy RodriguezSr.LF.367/.459/.400, 3B, 15 R, 13 RBI, 4 SB
Nick SmithSr.P/1B.310/.355/.345, 2B, 3 R, 7 RBI25.2 IP, 23 H, 14 BB, 19 H, 2.18 ERA, 1-2
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Alex CellaSr.3B/OF.250/.290/.250, 10 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB
Matt EspositoSr.1B.250/.318/.250, 4 R, 4 RBI3 IP, H, 3 BB, 0 ER, K
Kyle ChapmanSr.OF1-for-5, 4 R6 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 ER, 3 K
Colin ThompsonJr.P2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Nick VillanuevaSr.UTIL0-for-2, R
Isaiah PhillipJr.OF4 R

Key Losses: Mike Creamer (P/SS), Corey Nusbaum (C), Justin Henderson (3B), Joe Garofalo (2B), Nick Santuccio (P), Luke Adduchio (OF), Chris Veary (DH)
Key Newcomers: Dylan Dobbin (Jr., INF), Anthony Hirojo (Jr., P), Chris Vetter (Jr., C), Jeff Fishetti (Sr., 2B), Jeff Graham (Sr., OF), Brandon Rivera (Jr., 2B/3B/P), Makel Caldwell (Jr., OF)

A division’s depth is best reflected in how likely a team picked to finish in the bottom half of the standings is to win the division. That is a regular possibility in A North and A South every year, and B North is in that company this year thanks to a Matawan team that unquestionably has the pieces to challenge for a division title. The Huskies are one of five B North teams that go into the year coming off a winning season last year, and Matawan also advanced to the Central Jersey Group II semifinals before losing to Robbinsville to cap it all off.

That state tournament run should only be the beginning, as Matawan returns its three most productive hitters from a year ago, one of whom was also the team’s second-best pitcher. If not for some other monster sophomore seasons at the Shore, Adam Elliott might have drawn more of the spotlight as the best all-around player on a 14-win team as a sophomore. The junior right-hander will anchor the pitching staff, play shortstop, and hit in the middle of the order behind two senior table-setting outfielders in Joe Piscopo and Billy Rodriguez. Piscopo was an All-Shore third-team selection after hitting .453 as a junior, while Rodriguez also posted an on-base percentage better than .400. The depth in the lineup is still up in the air going into the season, but with a top three of Piscopo, Rodriguez and Elliot, Matawan has the necessary foundation for a good offense.

Despite losing ace Nick Santuccio, Matawan should remain strong on the mound. Senior Nick Smith will slot in behind Elliott coming off a season of 25 2/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA, while junior Colin Thompson looks to lead a group of new arms after he offered a brief glimpse of his ability when he struck out four batters in two perfect innings last year. Normally, this mix of returning talent would warrant a more favorable prognostication, but Matawan will have to overcome four established, winning programs that all have a usual dose of returning talent. Despite that, Matawan is in position to buck the recent trends and again make noise into May.

 

Red Bank

Head Coach: Nick Tucker, second season
2014 Record: 7-17 (3-9, fifth in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Connor KellySr.OF.259/.292/.282, 3B, 13 R, 6 RBI
Isaiah SestitoSr.OF/P.231/.244/.231, 5 RBI5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 9 K
Leo DiGuilioSr.INF/OF.220/.381/.260, 2 2B, 8 R, 6 RBI
Ryan SantosSr.C.182/.206/.182, 3 RBI
A.J. ForgioneSr.P41 IP, 46 H, 27 BB, 42 K, 4.10 ERA, 1-5
Nick MassaJr.P/INF33.1 IP, 49 H, 28 BB, 26 K, 7.35 ERA, 0-8
Matt ReardonJr.P/INF21 IP, 26 H, 25 BB, 15 K, 6 ERA, 3-1
Matt SantosSo.P/INF29.1 IP, 30 H, 15 BB, 20 K, 1.19 ERA, 1-1
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Drew CookSr.INF4-for-19, 4 BB, 8 R

Key Losses: Jacob Nappi (OF), Sean O’Connell (OF), Sha’mere Williams (1B), Kyle Mulholland (2B), Johnny Milnes (C), Corey Martin (INF),
Key Newcomers: Marc DeRosa (Sr., P/INF), Jack McLoone (Sr., P/INF), Derrick Bradley (Jr., C), Claudio LoBracio (Jr., INF/P), Colin Young (Jr., P/INF), Will Grant (So., INF), Josh Horowitz (So., P), Will Weaver (So., P), Zeke Weston (So., OF)

Red Bank was one of the jaded teams of the Shore Conference, going 0-3 in games decided by a run and 1-8 in games decided by two runs or fewer. The Bucs broke into a hit parade on several occasions over the course of the season, although a lot of that had to do with the players who graduated at the end of 2014.

In order to take a big step up in the standings and compete with five very solid-looking rosters for a division title, the Bucs will need to find some offense among a collection of players who each fell short of producing a slugging percentage better than .300 in 2014. Combined, the five returning offensive players accounted for three extra-base hits in 251 plate appearances.

This is not the Major Leagues, though. It’s a lot easier to throw last year’s numbers out the window and improvement can happen quickly – especially for a group of players who are coming off their first seasons as varsity starters.

Senior Connor Kelly hit the only triple of the three extra-base hits and he scored 13 runs last year, while shortstop Leo DiGuilio added two doubles. Although DiGuilio only hit .220 as a junior shortstop, he walked 13 times while striking out only eight, leaving him with an unlucky .262 average on balls put in play. With a year to mature and just a little more luck, DiGuilio’s contact skills should turn the tide and give Red Bank a middle-of-the-order bat to go with Kelly and fellow seniors Isaiah Sesito, Drew Cook and catcher Ryan Santos.

A revitalized offense would go a long way for Red Bank because the Bucs have a host of returning arms. Walks were a problem across the board for returning hurlers A.J. Forgione, Nick Massa, Matt Reardon and Matt Santos. All four threw at least 20 innings, but each averaged more than 3.5 walks per nine innings. All four showed strikeout ability, however, and Forgione threw a number of gems throughout the season while Santos pitched to a 1.19 ERA as a freshman.

Massa and Reardon both have strong arms and are only juniors, so the ceiling on the Red Bank staff is high. A more potent offense and efficient defense could also allay some unease on the part of the three younger pitchers, so the Bucs offense is a group to watch out of the gate. If there is a genuine dark-horse team in the division, Red Bank would be it after an unlucky 7-17 season with lots of potential for real improvement.

 

Neptune

Head Coach: Kevin Frederick, first season
2014 Record: 4-11 (2-10, tied sixth in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position
James HandSr.C
Hunter DalySr.1B/P
Matt JegouJr.SS/2B
Peter MaruccaSo.3B/SS
Thomas HallgringSr.1B
Returning PlayersYr.Position
Mike HandJr.OF

Key Losses: Mike Rode (CF), Bobby Knee (SS/P), Kevin Welsh (1B/P), Lucas Walton (OF), Latrell Jones (P/3B), Josh Leone (2B)
Key Newcomers: Justin Tucker (So., LF), Sean Maxcy (Jr., RF), George Barreto (Sr., 2B), Jake Giblin (Jr., CF), Keysan Johnson (Sr., OF), Ernesto Rodriguez (Jr., 1B), Tyler Schembri (Jr., 2B/3B), Zach Krause (Jr., C), Alon Height (Jr., OF), Kobe Poe (Jr., OF), Sean Shannon (Jr., OF)

Two years removed from a stunning win over Wall during division play, Neptune will look to rally the troops under new coach Kevin Frederick, a four-year coach at the junior varsity level prior to assuming the head job. Although last year could have gone better for Neptune, the Scarlet Fliers lost a solid group of seniors from a year ago, with the offense, defense and pitching all taking a hit. Fortunately for Frederick and his squad, a handful of the younger Fliers were able to get their feet wet last year.

Neptune’s roster gets off to a good start with a senior battery of right-hander Hunter Daly and catcher James Hand. Daly will shift from the mound to a corner infield spot between his days on the mound. Beyond the senior on the mound and the other behind the plate, first baseman Thomas Hallring and second baseman George Barreto are the only other seniors lined up for significant playing time at Neptune. Junior Matt Jegou got time on the infield as a sophomore and will play shortstop this season, while sophomore Peter Marucca will man third and could also get some time at short if Jegou is needed on the mound.

With Daly on the hill, Neptune is going to be a tough game for any of the top teams in the division, as the Scarlet Fliers showed last season. For Neptune to be more than that, the young core of fast-rising players will have to plug some holes quickly and account for all of that lost pitching, as well as overall talent.

 

Long Branch

Head Coach: John Perri, fourth season
2014 Record: 5-17 (2-10, tied sixth in B North)

Returning StartersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Travis CarrollSr.3B.290 Avg
Nick ConklinSr.C.381 Avg
Anthony BrierSr.1B
Zach PiatkowskiSr.OF
Austin CannonSo.CF
Sean CuddyJr.OF/1B
Joe MontagueSr.INF
Christian SanchezSr.P
Louis TrezoglouSr.P/2B.230 Avg
Returning PlayersYr.Position2014 Batting Stats2014 Pitching Stats
Saione WashingtonSr.P/OF
Xavier ChatmanSr.P/OF

Key Losses: Connor Mullan (SS/P), Juan Martinez (3B/P), Nick Menkin (RF), Shaun Lowney (OF)
Key Newcomers: Carlos Pacheco (Jr., P), Matt Mincieli (Fr., INF), Alonzo Rawls (Jr., INF), T.J. Brewer (Fr., P/C/OF), Paul Bitterly (Sr., OF), Gaetano Jones (Sr., OF)

In the four years since coach John Perri took over the program, the Green Wave have been plugging away, adding depth while also getting better and better at key spots on the roster. The graduation of ace-slash-shortstop Connor Mullan is going to be a difficult loss to account for this season, but the Green Wave will be able to compensate with numbers. Long Branch played a lot of different lineups last year, which left the Green Wave with a roster full of players – many of them seniors – with substantial varsity experience.

The senior duo of third baseman Travis Carroll and catcher Nick Conklin is a legitimate middle-of-the-order 1-2 punch and both have plenty of quality varsity at-bats under each of their belts. Seniors Anthony Brier, Zach Piatkowski and Louis Trezoglou all got lots of experience in the field and at the plate, and sophomore center fielder Austin Cannon has shown signs of the game to go with the killer name.

Long Branch’s greatest challenge will be replacing Mullan as an ace on the mound, where he was always a threat to keep Long Branch in the game for seven innings, no matter the opponent. Senior Christian Sanchez had a solid season as a complement to Mullan and he ended up earning all five of Long Branch’s wins. Of course, Mullan routinely pitched against Long Branch’s toughest opponents, so Sanchez will now get the ball against some stacked lineups. If he is up to the task and Long Branch’s more complete roster can offer up some pitching help to go with a promising mix of position-player talent, the Green Wave will keep moving in the right direction.

 

Division Lineup

Dan Wondrack, Catcher, Wall – If there were park-adjusted numbers in high school baseball, Wondrack would reap the benefits considering he has to (and does) hit a legitimate college home run to clear the fence at his home park.

Tyler Kapuscinski, First Base, Colts Neck – Coaches love the term and the concept of “a professional at-bat,” and more than any player in the Shore Conference, that’s what Kapuscinski is all about.

Evan Madigan, Shortstop, Red Bank Catholic – Slides over from second to shortstop this season, where he is already comfortable after spelling Al Molina last year when Molina pitched.

Brian Kochenash, Shortstop, Ocean – On his way to being a four-year starter and the offense is steadily catching up to a very nice glove.

Ryan Orender, Third Base, Wall – Last year was a breakout season in every respect for Orender, who not only put up the numbers, but came up big in some crucial spots as both a hitter and a pitcher.

Joe Piscopo, Center Field, Matawan – Piscopo increased his batting average by more than any other Shore Conference player from 2013 to 2014 and will look to repeat his breakout season for a Matawan team with high hopes for 2015.

Mike Antico, Center Field, Colts Neck – The offensive numbers don’t jump off the page yet, but the speed and defense are special, which is why St. John’s scooped up the junior center fielder.

Nick Martinez, Outfield, Wall – A gruesome wrist injury ended Martinez’s season in early May. If he is over the injury, a .400 average is well within the realm of expectation for the senior who led Wall in hitting as a sophomore in 2013.

Sam Maxwell, Center Field, Ocean – Another speedy center fielder, Maxwell is a terrific defender that contributed to the offense from the bottom of the order.

 

Division Rotation

Chris Murphy, LHP, Colts Neck – Dominated out of the bullpen last year, and with most of Colts Neck’s rotation gone, it’s Murphy’s time to see if he can be even more dominant as a starter.

Adam Elliott, RHP, Matawan – One of the division’s best all-around players as a sophomore, Elliott is simply one of the most productive two-way players in the Shore Conference as he enters his junior year.

Blake Demeter, RHP, Ocean – Only two players – Liam Olausen of Mater Dei (27-to-2) and Luca Dalatria (90-to-12) – who threw 15 or more innings last year posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than the 49-to-10 ratio logged by Demeter.

Anthony Bartolomei, RHP, Ocean – Ryan Lillie went into the season as the No. 1 pitcher, but by the end of the year, Bartolomei was just as reliable, as was every other starter for that matter.

A.J. Forgione, RHP, Red Bank – Walks were a little high (27), but Forgione was a workhorse last year who managed to strike out 42 batters in 41 innings as the Bucs' ace.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Sam DeVitis, SS, Colts Neck – The Cougars just need his defense, but the College of New Jersey recruit likely has a solid all-around season in him as his senior year beings.

Aaron Ahn, 3B, Red Bank Catholic – Already committed to Navy, Ahn will get a chance to contribute right away and he could settle in as one the Caseys' top hitters in his first varsity season.

Travis Carroll, 3B, Long Branch – After hitting .290 as a junior, Carroll is in line for his best season in his last season after contributing for all four of his high school years.

Jake Talarico, RHP, Ocean – It’s hard to argue with 10 scoreless innings, which is what Talarico produced last year with four starters ahead of him in the rotation.

Leo DiGuilio, SS, Red Bank – A .262 batting average on balls in play is bound to get better for a senior who walked 13 times, struck out just eight and popped a couple of doubles as a junior.