Class A Central gets a new look this season with a powerhouse Red Bank Catholic program joining the fold along with three programs in Manasquan, Monmouth Regional and St. Rose that have enjoyed a significant amount of success of the past two seasons. Two-time defending division champion Raritan will have a tall order winning a third straight division title despite bringing back some premium talent, particularly in its lineup.

Pitching will be the name of the game for the favorites in A Central, both of which have a army of hard-throwing hurlers that should be tough to been over an extended division schedule, as well as within a tournament schedule.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: Buddy Hausmann, 12th season
2018 Record: 20-8 (10-4, second in Class B North)
Returners: Vincent Bianchi (Sr., SS/RHP), Ryan O’Hara (Sr., RF/RHP), Alex Gonzalez (Sr., 2B), Chris Sparber (Jr., C), John Nimeth (Jr., RHP), Jack Scrivanic (Jr., 1B), Robert Gonzalez (Jr., SS), Shane Panzini (So., RHP), David Glancy (Sr., CF), Steve Claggett (Sr., RHP)
Key Losses: Austin Nappi (RHP), Blaise Panzini (RHP), Jon Michael Rotando (1B), Dan Ianelli (1B), Nick Merlo (OF), Joe Ianelli (RHP)
Key Newcomers: Sean Ettore (So., SS), Ray Martini (Sr., OF/1B), Anthony Borriello (So., LF), Matt Cloutier (Sr., RHP), Tyler Birnbaum (Jr., RHP), Brayden Kiel (Jr., RHP), Mark Lurie (Jr., OF), Mario Flego (Sr., OF), Jared Terefenko (Jr., 3B/1B), Joe Russo (Sr., 2B), Dylan Wanagiel (So., RHP)

Red Bank Catholic senior David Glancy. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Coming off another 20-win season and a Monmouth County Tournament championship, Red Bank Catholic returns the kind of depth and experience necessary to contend in a loaded Non-Public A state tournament bracket and to win county and conference championships. Unfortunately for the Caseys, they will have to tap into that depth right away. Senior center fielder David Glancy will miss the first several weeks of the season with a broken hamate bone in his hand, according to coach Buddy Hausmann. Glancy was an First Team Shore Sports Network All-Shore outfielder as a junior after he clubbed seven homers, including three in one game vs. Monmouth.

Even with Glancy on the shelf, RBC will have a deep lineup. St. John’s commit Vincent Bianchi is a standout defender at shortstop and will be the Caseys’ big hitter with Glancy out. Seniors Ryan O’Hara and Alex Gonzalez both established themselves as productive players in the top six in the lineup as juniors and will be among the players who need to step up the most with Glancy out. Juniors Robert Gonzalez, Chris Sparber and Jack Scrivanic were productive in the bottom third of the order as sophomores and Sparber was especially impressive at he plate and behind it once he shook off an early-season injury. Newcomers Anthony Borriello and Ray Martini will see time in the outfield, with Borriello lined up for the open spot in the left field even before the Glancy injury.

Even if RBC’s scoring takes a hit without its best power threat, the Caseys’ strength is their pitching and that remains intact. Junior John Nimeth was a steady source of quality innings as a sophomore and had the most complete year of any returning RBC pitcher. Sophomore Shane Panzini, meanwhile, was impressive late in the season after ramping up his innings in the middle of his freshman year. Bianchi’s arm was not 100-percent ready to pitch last year but he dazzled on the mound as a sophomore in 2017. O’Hara, meanwhile, will get his first regular action on the mound, where he features a powerful fastball. RBC has the pitching to roll through A Central and to be a serious postseason threat, but they will need to get healthy by sometime in early May in order to break through in the SCT and South Jersey Non-Public A.

 

Manasquan

Head Coach: Brenan Gordon, second season
2018 Record: 9-12 (5-9, sixth in Class B North)
Returners: James Harmstead (Sr., 3B/RHP), Michael Anthony (Sr., RHP/OF), Alex Galvan (Jr., RHP/1B), Will Hopkinson (Jr., SS), Alec Wells (Sr., C/RHP), Tim McEneny (Jr., LHP), Hayden Kunz (Jr., OF/P), Ryan O’Keefe (Jr., P/OF), Sam Del Guercio (Jr., 2B)
Key Losses: Tommy Antonucci (CF), Ethan Thompson (2B/SS), Dylan Finn (OF/1B), Ricky Flynn (OF/RHP), Jack Kinneally (OF/INF)
Key Newcomers: Spencer Bauer (Sr., RHP/INF), Pat Billelo (Jr., OF), John Foreman (Jr., OF), Cam Tezz (Jr., C)

After winning the overall Group II championship in 2017, Manasquan took a step back last year while restocking their pitching staff with some young talent. This year, the Warriors are primed to return to the ranks of Group II contenders with a pitching staff that could rival the 2017 staff – if not at the top then with its depth. Three of the pitchers – Spencer Bauer, Alex Galvan and Tim McEneny - boast impressive raw stuff and while senior Mike Anthony wouldn’t be considered on par with those three on his stuff alone, he was the most reliable of the group last year. Anthony went 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 33 innings to lead a rebuilding pitching staff and will be a bedrock player this season as well.

What makes Manasquan so imposing is the upside of Bauer, Galvan and McEneny on the mound. Bauer missed all of last season due to a combination of injury and NJSIAA rules, the latter of which forced him out of the first 30 games after he transferred from CBA. The Elon commit burst onto the scene as a sophomore at CBA, where he earned his way into the Colts rotation and delivered some big hits as well. Galvan, meanwhile, broke a bone in his hand during the 2017-18 basketball season and threw only one inning last baseball season, only to bust out during the summer and land a verbal commitment to Louisville. At an athletic 6-foot-6, Galvan has some similarities to 6-8 right-hander Alex Degen, who broke out as a junior at Hunterdon Central and is now a freshman at Kentucky.

McEneny stands 6-7 and has had a full year to polish his mechanics and refine a breaking ball that could be a real weapon for him as a junior. Throw in senior right-hander and Monmouth commit James Harmstead, who has been a dominant relief pitcher for the last two years, and Manasquan has a loaded army of arms. Harmstead will also lead the offense after an All-Shore season with the bat, with Bauer and Galvan also primed for good seasons at the plate. Junior Will Hopkinson is a third-year starter at shortstop and Alec Wells returns to handle the pitching staff behind the plate as well as hit high in the order. The offense might come and go at times, but Manasquan’s pitching makes the Warriors a tough match-up on any day of the week.

 

Raritan

Head Coach: Jeff Struble, seventh season
2018 Record: 21-6 (10-2, first in Class A Central)
Returners: Tyler Bruno (Sr., CF), Jake Tennant (Sr., 3B/RHP), Ryan Kasmer (Sr., OF), Dan Fiore (Jr., OF), Chris Gonzalez (So., SS/RHP), Hunter Neville (Sr., RHP), Shawn Ohea (Sr., INF/OF), D.J. Dekis (Jr., 1B)
Key Losses: Zack Johnston (RHP/INF), Alex Lamattina (C), Dan Vanmeerbeke (2B/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Cameron Rafalko (Sr., RHP/INF), Justin Rivers (Fr., INF/RHP), Jason Lind (Jr., C/1B), Justin Kilyk (So., C), Luke Ohea (So., OF)

Raritan was just one run away from not only winning the Group II championship but beating the team that finished No. 1 in the state to do it. The Rockets rode two locked-in pitchers to within a run of a group title and the first order of business for the Rockets this year with be to replace that duo. Zack Johnston and Dan Vanmeerbeke made up two thirds of Raritan’s starting rotation and now-graduated Alex Lamattina was a leader at catcher – three key spots the Rockets will miss from last year’s championship team.

On the bright side, every other starter returns for Raritan, which could be an even better team on offense. Senior center fielder Tyler Bruno is a two-time All-Shore selection at the top of the order and senior third baseman Jake Tennant was the team’s other top power bat in 2018. Senior right fielder Ryan Kasmer hit .400 as a junior and those three – Bruno, Kasmer and Tennant – will once again be the top three in the batting order this season. Junior Dan Fiore is ready to step up in the lineup after a solid junior season while senior Shawn Ohea and junior D.J. Dekis are also back in the batting order after coming through on a number of occasions for the Rockets.

Raritan’s pitching starts with Tennant, who was 5-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 42 2/3 innings last year as part of the three-headed monster with Johnston and Vanmeerbeke. Sophomore Chris Gonzalez and senior Hunter Neville are two of the leading candidates to pick up big innings for Raritan, with Gonzalez also starting at shortstop again. Although Gonzalez started in the field last year, he saw limited at-bats and will have a lot more responsibility this year now that he is in the lineup and Raritan has innings to fill. Although pitching depth will be a question to answer, Raritan’s offense and the return of Tennant to the top of the pitching pecking order will keep the Rockets relevant in the postseason.

 

Monmouth

Head Coach: Paul Crivello, sixth season
2018 Record: 18-10 (9-5, third in Class B North)
Returners: Dante Ciaramella (Sr., RHP/2B/SS), Chris Anfuso (Sr., OF/RHP), Eli Rife (Sr., INF/OF), Andrew Faccone (Sr., C), Jake Cushing (Sr., INF), Alex Alonso (Jr., INF/RHP), Nick Bogan (Jr., RHP/INF)
Key Losses: Justin Scotto (CF), Liam Kile (SS/3B/RHP), Ricky Voss (1B/LHP), Charlie Kelly (RHP/OF), Anthony Guarino (3B), Seth Gonzalez (RHP/OF), Jack Faletti (C)
Key Newcomers: Kevin Lynch (Sr., INF/P), Nick Alfano (Sr., OF), Trevor Horn (Sr., C), Matt McKincley (Sr., C), Luke Kvederas (Sr., INF), Mike Bateman (Jr., OF/P), Brett Delutis (Jr., INF), Mike Cavalluzzi (So., INF/P), Jake Marcincak (So., OF/P), Dominick Santaniello (So., INF/P), Brian Yadlon (So., LHP/OF)

There have been several instances over the years in which Monmouth has had to reload and the Falcons have been pretty good at it, whether it was with longtime coach Ted Jarmusz or under sixth-year skipper Paul Crivello. There is some reloading to be done for Monmouth this season, with the Falcons graduating six starters and three of their four regulars on the mound. One of the starters back on the mound is Monmouth University commit and senior right-hander Dante Ciaramella, who established himself as the Falcons’ best pitcher by season’s end in 2018. With Ciaramella also playing up the middle at either second base or shortstop, Monmouth will be relying a lot on their ace and captain on the infield.

Monmouth has just as much work to do replacing its top hitters from last year, namely center fielder Justin Scotto, first baseman Ricky Voss and third baseman Anthony Guarino – who occupied three of the top four spots in the order. Ciaramella figures to be back near the top of the lineup for the length of the season while seniors Chris Anfuso (.344, 3 doubles, 21 runs) and Eli Rife (.322, 4 doubles, 1 homer and 17 RBI) return after strong seasons as first-year starters in 2018. The rest of the lineup will be relatively unproven, although junior Alex Alonso, senior Andrew Faccone and senior Jake Kushing all got some at-bats as part-timers. Faccone is back behind the plate after starting during the first part of the season, so the Falcons will have some experience at a critical defensive spot.

Behind Ciaramella, Alonso will be a key cog in the pitching rotation – one of several two-way players who will have to emerge for Monmouth to again challenge for a division title. Sophomores Jake Marcincak, Dominic Santaniello and Brian Yadlon also fall into that two-way category. With some help from its youth movement to go with strong follow-up seasons by players like Ciaramella, Rife and Anfuso, Monmouth should again be a contender throughout the A Central season and into the Group II Tournament.

 

Shore

Head Coach: Jay Kuhlthau, second season
2018 Record: 9-11 (3-9, sixth in Class A Central)
Returners: Mike Deusch (Sr., LHP/1B), Christian Bauman (Jr., RHP/OF), Cody Fleischer (Jr., C/RHP), Brett Young (Sr., OF), Max Cameron (Sr., RHP/1B), Gabe Zwerin (Sr., LHP/OF), Shane McLaughlin (So., SS/RHP)
Key Losses: Mike Shirvanian (SS/RHP), James LaBruno (OF/RHP), Tommy Dunleavy (3B), Bailey Crochet (RHP/SS), Jared Breithoff (C), Jim Maletto (RHP/2B), Jack DuBois (OF)
Key Newcomers: Matt Ippolito (Jr., 3B), Danny Shirvanian (Sr., 3B), Kyle O’Scanlon (Sr., OF/C), Chris Panduri (Sr., 3B/RHP), Sam Martucci (Jr., 3B/RHP)

The Class A Central schedule wasn’t so kind to the Blue Devils last season, when Shore went 3-9 within its own league while going 6-2 outside of it. The pitching was not a problem either, at least not at the top of the rotation. Mike Shirvanian and Mike Deusch both posted an ERA under 3.00 but the two combined to go a modest 6-6. Deusch is back this year and was the left-hander and power arm of the two, racking up 61 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings and finishing the season strong.

With Deusch at the top of the rotation, Shore has a No. 1 pitcher who will help it compete with any division opponents. Junior Christian Bauman, junior Cody Fleischer and sophomore Shane McLaughlin will be tasked with backing up their ace in the rotation, with Fleischer also making a run at the starting catcher job. Fleischer missed most of his sophomore season due to injury but before going down, he struck out four in two innings and doubled twice while going 5-for-14 at the plate. Senior Gabe Zwerin also got a handful of innings and will be among the group that tries to add some depth behind Deusch.

Offensively, Bauman is the top returning bat after a breakout sophomore season that included a .370 average with eight extra-base hits while playing center field. Deusch has also proven he can swing the lumber as well over the course of his career and will be a middle-of-the-order threat for the Blue Devils. Fleischer, McLaughlin, senior Brett Young and senior Max Cameron all got some varsity at-bats as well last year, with Young hitting .263 in 32 at-bats to lead that group. If this group can string some hits together and, more importantly, catch the ball behind Deusch and the pitching staff, the Blue Devils will have a better season inside the division.

 

Holmdel

Head Coach: Chris Arecchi, third season
2018 Record: 4-14 (2-10, seventh in Class A Central)
Returners: Jason Lyons (Sr., SS/CF/RHP), Robbie Shangle (Sr., RHP), Ezra Caspi (Sr., OF), Mike Iulo (Sr., 1B), Brendan Crowley (Sr., UTIL), Aidan Flanagan (Sr., OF), Alec Licato (Sr., RHP), Nick Fanzini (Sr., UTIL), Evan Smith (Sr., INF), Justin Lautenberg (Sr., OF), Jake Umas (So., LHP)
Key Losses: Sal Monticciolo (1B), Alex DiBona (SS/3B/RHP), Brandon Saghafi (C/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Louie Curcio (So., INF), Brett Hilsheimer (So., INF), Jason Sparkes (So., C), Christian Gravier (So., RHP), Victor Wladika (Jr., RHP)

Expectations heading into 2018 were high at Holmdel after the Hornets had a strong showing in 2017 and returned some impact talent in Sal Monticciolo and Alex DiBona. Unfortunately for the Hornets, their good fortune turned to rotten luck in 2018. Holmdel could not build on 2017’s success and they graduated Monticciolo, DiBona and catcher Brandon Saghafi – three productive hitters for their careers, with Monticciolo making an All-Shore Team as a junior.

Holmdel is hoping last season was the fluke and the Hornets can get back to the trajectory they set in 2017, when a few of this year’s key players were sophomores. Senior Jason Lyons slumped at the plate for much of last season after a strong sophomore year and is poised to get his hitting back on track as a multi-dimensional threat for Holmdel. Senior center fielder Ezra Caspi was one of the Holmdel players who did turn in a strong season, hitting .327 with a triple and a homer. Seniors Aidan Flanagan, Nick Fanzini, Mike Iulo and Brendan Crowley will also be key bats in the lineup behind Caspi and Lyons, with sophomores Brett Hilsheimer, Jason Sparkes and Louie Curcio adding some youth and talent to the mix as well.

Pitching will be a wild card for Holmdel this season, with Lyons and fellow senior Rob Shangle bringing some experience and past success to the rubber. Senior Alec Licato will also contribute innings and sophomore Jake Umas will try to build on the nine innings he got as a freshman. If Lyons and Shangle are sharp, Umas progresses into a reliable varsity starter and the Hornets can get contributions from some of the new varsity talent, they could get back to around the .500 mark.

 

Rumson-Fair Haven

Head Coach: Kevin James, 17th season
2018 Record: 10-9 (8-4, tied second in Class A Central)
Returners: Ryan Dupree (Sr., OF), Andrew Schmid (So., SS), Thomas Elgrim (So., OF), Kevin Shanes (Jr., LHP)
Key Losses: Alex Burnett (RHP), Robby Smith (C), Thomas Forlenza (C/DH), Thomas Scinto (CF), Dan Harby (LF), Dylan Avino (RHP), Mike Martino (1B/P), Kevin Stant (SS/RHP), Gordon Forsyth (Jr., 1B/LHP) – Injured (knee), out for season; Sean Mikolajczyk (Sr., 3B/RHP) – Injured (shoulder), out for season
Key Newcomers: Nick Ferrara (So., RHP), Dylan Sakele (So., RHP/3B), Collin, Coles (Jr., C), Matt Rigby (Fr., 1B), Charlie Tallman (Fr., 2B), Jonny Bruno (Fr., OF), Charlie Jones (Fr., OF), Brian Doherty (Fr., INF/RHP), J.C. Carolan (Sr., LHP), Ryan Acacia (Sr., OF), Tim Carey (Jr., OF), Hank Hyduke (So., C), Michael Amendola (Fr., LHP)

The 2018 season was a unique one for Rumson, which balanced a little bit of a youth movement while simultaneously leaning on a pair of dynamite seniors who turned in All-Shore seasons. Right-hander Alex Burnett and catcher Robby Smith both had big senior years for a Rumson squad that competed for the A Central title and replacing them was always going to be the greatest challenge Rumson faced this season. Junior left-hander and slugger Gordon Forsyth and senior infielder Sean Mikolajczyk were two key returning players who would help ease that transition, but the Bulldogs lost both for the season due to injury, according to coach Kevin James.

With two crucial players out of the picture, this year’s team looks like even more of a rebuilding project and that is reflected in the projected five freshman starters James plans to write into the lineup card – Matt Rigby, Charles Tallman, Johnny Bruno, Brian Doherty and pitcher Charlie Jones. Junior Collin Coles, meanwhile, will replace Smith behind the plate, while junior left-hander Kevin Shanes and sophomores Nick Ferrara and Dylan Sakele look to step up on the mound.

One known commodity for Rumson should be sophomore shortstop Andrew Schmid, who seized the starting second base job as a freshman and hit .292. Fellow sophomore Thomas Elgrim returns with outfield experience and senior Ryan Dupree is back as a three-year starter in the outfield as well. The freshman class will be the x-factor this season and that will be more within the context of Rumson becoming a contender over the next couple of years. For now, the Bulldogs are in developmental mode.

 

St. Rose

Head Coach: Rich Lanko, third season
2018 Record: 20-7 (13-1, first in Class B Central)
Returners: Evan Peeke (Sr., 3B/RHP), Jeff DeFazio (Sr., OF/RHP), Joey Blaes (Sr., OF/P), Pat Ferrante (Sr., OF), Frank Bellezza (Sr., 2B/RHP)
Key Losses: Riley Maypother (3B/RHP), Brody Maypother (C), Will Gannon (SS/RHP), John Crowley (OF/RHP), Sammy Sestito (RHP), Mario Bove (OF), Nick Schmidt (RHP), Dan Rose (OF), Phil Morelli (1B/3B), Nick Marini (LHP)
Key Newcomers: Tommy Turnbach (So., 1B/P), Rob Rothery (Sr., SS), Nolan Dacey (Jr., C), Dave Frost (So., P), Matt Gowen (Fr., 2B/C), Ryan Rogers (Fr., OF/P), Anthony Bombacie (Sr., OF), Jack Crawford (So., RHP/3B/OF), Dylan Decker (Sr., P), Matt Tiernan (Sr., P)

St. Rose finally got realigned out of Class B Central, which the Purple Roses owned for multiple decades by overwhelming the competition. This realignment is something so many baseball people around the Shore – including with St. Rose – have wanted to see for a long time now and now that it finally happened, it appears as though this is the worst possible time for the move. St. Rose had some serious talent in each of the past two seasons but the last of their All-Shore, impact Division I players graduated after last season following another B Central title and a run to the Monmouth County Tournament final.

A few role players from last year are back and one bonus of playing in Class B Central is that coach Rich Lanko has a chance to play his bench in lopsided games. Seniors Evan Peeke, Jeff DeFazio, Joey Blaes and Pat Ferrante all got chances to play in big innings for the Purple Roses and Peeke and DeFazio have some innings under their belt as well. Peeke, in particular, threw some important innings and figures to get the ball early in the season with a chance to lead the pitching staff.

The new wave of St. Rose players includes sophomore Tommy Turnbach, junior catcher Nolan Dacey, sophomore pitchers Dave Frost and Jack Crawford and freshmen Matt Gowen and Ryan Rogers. Class A Central is loaded at the top with two dominant pitching staffs and two sectional championship teams from the past two seasons, but there is enough volatility past the fourth-place position to give St. Rose a chance to finish in the middle of the pack, perhaps even in the top half of their new divisional home.

 

Division Lineup (With 2018 Stats)

C – Chris Sparber, Red Bank Catholic (.348/.456/.543, 3 3B, 1 HR, 11 R, 9 RBI, 4 SB)

3B/RHP – James Harmstead, Manasquan (.419/.519/.597, 5 2B, 2 HR, 17 R, 13 RBI)

2B – Alex Gonzales, Red Bank Catholic (.337/.410/.349, 1 2B, 18 R, 12 RBI, 6 SB)

SS/RHP – Vincent Bianchi, Red Bank Catholic (.333/.417/.517, 9 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 19 R, 14 RBI, 11 SB)

3B/RHP – Jake Tennant, Raritan (.329/.421/.477, 6 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 20 R, 29 RBI)

OF – Tyler Bruno, Raritan (.440/.505/.648, 12 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 33 R, 25 RBI, 15 SB)

OF – David Glancy, Red Bank Catholic (.360/.495/.779, 11 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 32 R, 26 RBI, 8 SB)

OF – Christian Bauman, Shore (.370/.387/.520, 5 2B, 3 3B, 20 R, 16 RBI, 5 SB)

OF/RHP – Ryan O’Hara, Red Bank Catholic (.250/.376/.393, 3 2B, 3 HR, 17 R, 16 RBI)

 

Division Rotation

Spencer Bauer, RHP, Manasquan (Did not play – Injured)

John Nimeth, RHP, Red Bank Catholic (4-2, 33 IP, 29 H, 15 BB, 25 SO, 1.70 ERA)

Dante Ciaramella, RHP, Monmouth (4-2, 43 2/3 IP, 39 H, 12 BB, 38 SO, 2.89 ERA)

Shane Panzini, RHP, Red Bank Catholic (3-0, 27 IP, 18 H, 11 BB, 30 SO, 2.07 ERA)

Mike Deusch, LHP, Shore (4-2, 35 2/3 IP, 25 H, 25 BB, 61 SO, 2.94 ERA)

 

Comeback Player to Watch

Spencer Bauer, Manasquan – Bauer missed his entire junior season, sitting 30 days for transferring from CBA to Manasquan and then the final month due to injury. Bauer is back at full strength, two years removed from earning a spot in CBA’s rotation as a junior and flashing plenty of power in his bat as well.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Alex Galvan, RHP/1B, Manasquan

Alex Alonso, INF/RHP, Monmouth

Andrew Schmid, SS, Rumson-Fair Haven

Tim McEneny, LHP, Manasquan

Chris Gonzalez, SS/RHP, Raritan

 

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