Baseball – 2016 Final Top 10
1. Christian Brothers Academy (21-9, 9-5)
When the Colts had a chance to pitch Luca Dalatri, they were once again unbeatable. Without him on the mound, they were still comparable to the rest of the A North field, although not the juggernaut that won a third straight Monmouth County Tournament title as well as a third consecutive Shore Conference title. CBA was 11-9 with pitchers other than Dalatri on the mound, including 6-5 in Class A North play. One of those six wins was against Middletown South, against whom CBA went 4-0. That head-to-head dominance against the team that was the most consistent from start-to-finish gives CBA the clear nod as the No. 1 team at the Shore for the second straight year.
2. Middletown South (23-6, 11-3)
If not for running into the force that was Luca Dalatri three times, Middletown South could very well have won two tournament titles and would very likely be the No. 1 team in the conference in 2016. The Eagles won Class A North by going 8-1 over their final nine divisional games, ripped off an 11-game winning streak in the middle of the season and went 23-2 against teams other than CBA. A heartbreaking loss to Wall in the NJSIAA Tournament was one of those losses, which denied the Eagles a chance at postseason tournament championship, but an 11-3 mark in A North, 23 wins and a trip to the SCT final is a resume worthy of No. 2.
3. Toms River North (17-9, 9-5)
The Ocean County champs check in at No. 3 and while the Mariners did beat Toms River South twice in three meetings and Red Bank Catholic in the lone meeting the two teams played, there is some room from debate. The head-to-head 14-2 win over RBC gives Toms River North the nod in that comparison, and while Toms River South can claim a division title and a deeper run in the Shore Conference Tournament, the common opponent record was nearly identical – 14-6 for Toms River South and 12-6 for Toms River North. The Mariners also beat both Jason Groome and Robbie Peto this season, scoring seven runs off both.
4. Red Bank Catholic (22-8, 13-1)
The comparison between Red Bank Catholic and Toms River South for the No. 4 spot is not nearly as cut-and-dried as the one between the Toms River teams, or RBC and Toms River North, for that matter. Both teams won 22 games, reached the SCT semifinals, both lost in the championship game of their respective county tournaments and both won their respective divisions. RBC gets the nod over Toms River South for playing a tougher non-divisional schedule and doing a better job avoiding losses to sub-.500 teams. RBC did drop a game to Barnegat, but the other seven losses came against CBA (twice), Bergen Catholic, Toms River North, Middletown South, Colts Neck and Camden Catholic. The Caseys also gave Luca Dalatri more trouble than anyone else this season, scoring three runs against the CBA ace in the SCT semifinals.
5. Toms River South (22-9, 10-4)
If there is a case to be made for Toms River South as the No. 4 team, it’s that Class A South was deeper than Class B North this season and the Indians were competitive against Toms River North while RBC lost 14-2 to the Mariners. To counter those points, though, RBC was three games better in division play than Toms River South was and the loss to Toms River North was a regular-season game that was played less than 24 hours after the Monmouth County Tournament final, which RBC lost to CBA. Toms River South also lost to Central, Manchester and Southern – all of which were under .500. Now that the bad is out of the way, the Indians had a big season, winning their first outright division title and reaching their first OCT final since 2010. They sported one of the best one-two pitching punches in the conference in Trevor Wagner and Justin Fall, while also getting standout seasons on the mound from T.J. Scuderi and Nick Scrudato. With Fall, Scuderi and three quarters of the starting infield back, Toms River South should be a force in A South again next year.
6. Point Pleasant Boro (21-5, 14-0)
An 8-1 loss to Manasquan in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals was a sour way to end an otherwise great season for the Panthers. Point Boro did not lose a Class B South game, reached the 20-win mark in only 26 games and reached the SCT quarterfinals by rallying from an 8-4 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Ocean. The Panthers had been building toward this season with a wealth of talent in the 2016 class and two of their three postseason runs ended when they ran into a pair of first-team All-Shore pitchers – John Poccia of RBC in the SCT and Tommy Sheehan of Manasquan in the state tournament. If not for that luck of the draw, a 21-win season with a Class B South title might have been even better.
7. Colts Neck (15-8, 11-3)
The Cougars had a relatively quiet season in that they did not win an outright division championship and could not win a game in either the MCT or the state tournament. They did, however, win the Class B North public title, defeated RBC in the second meeting between the teams and reached the SCT quarterfinals – when they took a game against Middletown South to the bottom of the sixth tied at 5 before the Eagles pulled it out. While Colts Neck never found its collective power stroke this season – Tim Cavrak’s home run was the only one the team hit all season – they rode the stellar pitching of Mike D’Ottavio and Mario Ferraioli to a solid overall campaign.
8. Ocean (22-9, 10-4)
One of two public school programs from the Shore still standing on sectional final Friday, Ocean came up just shy of its first sectional championship since 2007 in losing 8-5 to Nottingham in the Central Jersey Group III final. Scoring runs had been an Achilles heel for Ocean in recent years, but the Spartans broke that slump this year by scoring 192 total runs in 31 games this season – good for second in the Shore Conference behind St. Rose (210). Shortstop Brian Kochenash had one of the greatest individual seasons in program history by collecting a single-season record 51 hits and hitting .510.
9. Brick (16-11, 6-8)
After beginning the season 3-6, the Green Dragons rallied to finish 13-5 over their final 18, including trips to the Ocean County Tournament and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Brick defeated Brick Memorial to reach the OCT semis and knocked off top-seeded Steinert in the Central Group III quarterfinals before losing to Ocean in the sectional semifinals. The only Class A South team Brick did not beat in 2016 was Toms River South, which beat the Green Dragons in both regular season meetings, again in the OCT semifinal and once more in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16. The Green Dragons lose two thirds of its all-lefty rotation, but will bring back a long list of seniors-to-be in 2017.
10. Middletown North (14-11, 8-6)
A head-to-head loss to Brick keeps the Lions behind the Green Dragons, but Middletown North still makes the cut and finishes in the final top 10. The Lions finished tied for third place in Class A North with Marlboro, who also has a rather strong case to be a top-10 team. While the Mustangs beat Middletown South – which Middletown North never did – the Lions owned an ever-so-slight edge in record vs. common opponents, 9-8 to 8-8. While the loss column is even, Middletown North played two extra games against CBA – including one against Luca Dalatri – and Marlboro played one against Middletown South (a 4-0 MCT loss). The lone common opponent outside of B North was Colts Neck and Middletown North beat the Cougars while Marlboro lost to them in the SCT round of 16.
Marlboro (13-10, 8-6) – The Mustangs have the best case to be in the top 10 of any non-top-10 team given that they scored a win each over the top two teams in the rankings.
Freehold Boro (14-12, 6-8) – The Colonials beat No. 1 and No. 3, including an SCT win over Toms River North, but a sub-.500 divisional record and a loss to Ocean turned out to be too much to overcome in Freehold’s pursuit of a top-10 spot.
Wall (11-11, 8-6) – Although only .500, Wall picked up wins over Colts Neck, Manasquan and right-hander Jack Sheehan, and, most importantly, Middletown South in the Central Group III semifinals.
Manasquan (13-7, 10-3) – The Warriors won an outright division title for the first time since 1999, capturing the Class A Central title behind its one-two sibling punch of Tommy and Jack Sheehan.
St. Rose (19-7, 13-1) – The Purple Roses fell one win shy of becoming the seventh 20-win team in the Shore Conference, won the Class B Central title and scored non-divisional wins over No. 6 Point Boro and No. 8 Ocean.
Brick Memorial (15-11, 9-5) – Injuries to Matt Cuppari and James Donlon derailed Brick Memorial’s season, which did include a season sweep of Toms River North and a 9-5 mark in A South.