Baseball – 2019 Preview: Class B Central
For decades, St. Rose tormented the rest of the Class B Central division by winning championship after champions, save for a few noteworthy seasons in which some team stepped up to overtake the Purple Roses. Although graduation might have brought an end to St. Rose’s dominance in B Central, realignment got to the Purple Roses first. St. Rose was bumped up to Class A Central in the latest realignment, leaving a free-for-all for the B Central title that has a chance to get pretty wild.
Mater Dei Prep
Head Coach: Pat Riddell, 15th season
2018 Record: 12-10 (10-4, third in Class B Central)
Returners: Sean Turner (Jr., SS/RHP), Brandon Sansone (Sr., RHP/3B), Patrick Mastro (Jr., CF/RHP), Chase Hardy (Sr., 2B/RHP), Rob Cassin (Sr., C), Johnny Eckert (Jr., 3B/RHP), Mike Folk (Jr., OF/RHP)
Key Losses: Mike Dunne (C/OF/RHP), Ryan Turner (OF/1B), Greg Bender (RHP/3B), Matt Carrigy (RHP/UTIL), Thomas Olausen (1B), Joe Profaci (OF), Justin Tumulty (RHP/SS/2B)
Key Newcomers: Pete Gorman (Jr., OF/SS/RHP), Jimmy Cody (Sr., 1B), Jake Jacobsen (Fr., OF), Jack Olausen (So., 1B), Ashton Mejias (Fr., 1B/RHP), R.J. O’Keefe (Jr., 2B/1B)
Mater Dei is the last team to win the Class B Central championship other than St. Rose, which the Seraphs did in 2015. This year could bring a second championship in five seasons for Mater Dei, which like its fellow division mates, no longer has to overcome perennial favorite St. Rose now that the defending division champion resides in Class A Central.
To win a division, it helps to have some pitching and while the Seraphs will have their share of questions to answer over the course of the season, they will be experienced on the mound. Senior right-handers Brandon Sansone and Sean Turner are back to head up the rotation after settling in as Mater Dei’s top two pitching options a year ago. Sansone and Turner both top the depth chart at third base and shortstop, respectively, so both will also be important players within Mater Dei’s defense and lineup. They will help pick up the slack left by key graduates Ryan Turner, Mike Dunne, Greg Bender, Matt Carrigy and Tom Olausen.
Center fielder Patrick Mastro is positioned to take a step forward heading into his junior season, as are catcher Rob Cassin and second basemen Chase Hardy as seniors and returning starters. Juniors Johnny Eckert and Mike Folk will move into more prominent roles this season and will both provide some pitching depth as well. Junior Pete Gorman and freshman Jake Jacobsen appear poised to win significant at-bats while senior Jimmy Cody, sophomore Jack Olausen, freshman Ashton Mejias and junior R.J. O’Keefe battle for a vacant starting spot at first base. If the Seraphs can seal up some holes in the lineup and fill in with solid defense on the left side of the infield when one of their two standouts are on the mound, they appear the most balanced of any B Central team over a 12-game division schedule.
Head Coach: Ryan Lillis, third season (15th overall)
2018 Record: 11-10 (8-6, fourth in Class B Central)
Returners: Liam Meyer (Sr., CF/RHP), Liam Riecks (Sr., INF/OF/RHP), Gabe Torres (Sr., 3B/RHP), Rian Rivera (So., RHP/OF), Frank Sautner (Sr., OF/C/1B), Thomas McKeon (Sr., OF), Connor Graf (So., INF/RHP)
Key Losses: Justin Alessi (SS), Paul Eckleberry (OF/RHP), Joe Osterbye (C), Danny Vital (OF)
Key Newcomers: Chris Desantis (Jr., RHP/1B), Justin Hicks (Sr., OF), Brandon Rizzi (Jr., OF), Derek Martinez (Sr., OF), Louis Chalmers (So., C/INF), James White (Sr., OF), Jesse Berecsky (So., 1B), Waylon Manoes (So., INF), Victor Matay (So., OF), Anthony Bello (Fr., OF), Matt Keelen (Fr., 1B), Glenn Pittius (Fr., C/OF), Andrew Valle (Fr., OF)
It had been a long time since Keansburg defeated St. Rose before last year’s Shore Conference Tournament opening round. It was then that the Titans stunned the Purple Roses behind Liam Meyer’s strong outing on the mound – a No. 27 seed beating No. 6. Now a senior, Meyer returns as arguably the top player in Class B Central and while he was not able to pitch until late April last year, the two-way senior will be ready from the get-go in 2019.
One of the reasons Keansburg will want Meyer at his best early is because the Titans have division title aspirations and two games each against Point Pleasant Beach and Mater Dei Prep before April 15. Every team in B Central is eager to take a shot at the top spot with St. Rose gone and Meyer gives his team a real shot to become the first public school to win the outright B Central title since Point Beach in 2010.
Senior Liam Riecks and sophomore Ryan Rivera give Keansburg two more capable pitchers and solid all-around players who add to the everyday lineup as well. Senior Gabe Torres was Keansburg’s top RBI man in 2018 with 22, edging out Riecks (19). If there is one question surrounding Keansburg, it regards replacing two key spots on the defense with shortstop Justin Alessi and catcher Joe Osterbye graduating. Sophomores Connor Graf, Louis Chalmers and Waylon Manoes will be part of that mix as will senior Frank Sautner. However the pieces come together, Meyer’s presence in center field and on the mound at least once per week give Keansburg a very promising outlook in Class B Central and looking ahead to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I Playoffs.
Point Pleasant Beach
Head Coach: Angelo Fiore, sixth season
2018 Record: 16-9 (12-2, second in Class B Central)
Returners: Hunter Alia (So., OF/INF/RHP), David Terra-Nova (So., C), Matt VanBrunt (So., RHP/2B/SS), Alec Glen (So., 1B/RHP), Aiden Conway (Jr., OF), Luke Testa (So., OF/RHP), Jeff Wall (So., OF/RHP)
Key Losses: John Nista (RHP/3B), Josh Yates (2B/RHP), Chris Russo (LHP/OF), Kenny MacPherson (OF), Jude Lovegren (INF), Vincent Storino (C), Jean Verrier (OF/P), Phil Antoniotti (So., SS/RHP) – transferred to Toms River North
Key Newcomers: Joey Favatto (Jr., OF), Mihalis Hrisafinis (Sr., 2B/C), Steven Hrisafinis (So., P/OF), Kieran Nagle (Jr., OF), Aiden Jones (Jr., OF), Joe Coakley (So., OF), Will Baranello (Jr., LHP/OF), Phil Trebour (So., SS/RHP), Hunter Roselli (Fr., OF/1B), Andrew Banick (Fr.,INF/OF/RHP), Colin Matuschat (Fr., 3B)
As the last public-school team to win the outright Class B Central championship and a team that has been St. Rose’s No. 1 B Central nemesis over the years, Point Beach will certainly be among the teams looking to win the wide-open B Central race. The timing, however, is not exactly perfect for the Garnet Gulls, who graduated their top two pitchers, six starters from the everyday lineup and lost its top potential returning player to a transfer.
Last year, the next wave of Point Beach starters began to force their way into varsity playing time and this is the year that group takes over in full force. Only one senior is likely to figure into the lineup in some capacity, which is infielder Mihalis Hrisafinis. Otherwise, Point Beach will be building up a core that should sustain the Garnet Gulls over the next three years, led by a wave of sophomores. Hunter Alia, Alec Glen, Matt VanBrunt and David Terra-Nova lead that class after cracking the lineup at different points last season. Alia will man the outfield, Glen will play first base, VanBrunt will play up the middle on the infield and Terra-Nova will do the catching.
VanBrunt is a leading candidate to head up the rotation with fellow sophomores Jeff Wall and Luke Testa also returning with some innings under their belts. Junior left-hander Will Baranello will also figure prominently into the pitching staff with a chance to ascend to the top. Freshmen Hunter Roselli and Colin Matuschat will join the lineup at corner spots – Roselli in the outfield and Matuschat at third base. With the division wide open and Point Beach’s history of restocking on talent, the Garnet Gulls are a serious contender for the B Central crown this season and figure to get to the top of the standings in at least one of the next three seasons.
Head Coach: Pat Geroni, first season (eighth overall)
2018 Record: 11-13 (7-7, fifth in Class B Central)
Returners: Ethan Gavin (Sr., RHP/INF), Jacob Field (Sr., LHP/1B), Ben Kraushaar (Sr., RHP/3B), Cole Redman (Sr., C/1B/3B), Ryan Batista (Sr., C/1B), Charlie Chropuvka (So., CF/1B/LHP), Deven Bhatnagar (So., INF/OF), Ryan Kraushaar (So., LHP/1B/OF)
Key Losses: Kiran Shah (OF/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Fabio Tessiore (Sr., OF/RHP), Nathan Aquino (Jr., 1B), Tommy Jensen (Jr., RHP/1B), Gianni Feng (So., OF/1B), Brett Wehringer (Fr., INF/OF/RHP), Lou Spadafora (Fr., OF/3B/RHP)
Since joining the Shore Conference in 2013, Ranney has had six head coaches in seven seasons. Heading into season seven as part of the Shore, the Panthers welcome in coach No. 6 and he is one with a track record of success. Pat Geroni spent the previous seven seasons as the skipper at Monroe and led the Group IV Falcons to a 104-62 record during that span, including a trip to the Central Group IV championship game in 2014, which they lost to eventual Group IV champion Jackson Memorial. Geroni hopes to help quickly move Ranney up the Class B Central standings and with most of its team back from a year ago, some more young talent entering the program and the division seemingly ripe for the taking, it may not take long for the newest Panthers coach to leave his mark.
Offensively, Ranney brings back plenty of production from a team that came up just short of a .500 season overall and made it to .500 within the division. Seniors Jacob Field, Ben Kraushaar, Cole Redman, Ethan Gavin and Ryan Batista have all had individual success at the varsity level and that senior core got a jolt from a freshman trio that burst onto the varsity scene. Center fielder Charles Chropuvka led the trio by posting the fourth-best OPS (1.253) in the division and doing so in his first season of high school baseball. Deven Bhatnagar and Ryan Kraushaar also made an impact as freshmen, which will be the same goal for incoming rookies Brett Wehringer and Lou Spadafora – both of whom look to play right away.
Gavin leads a pitching staff that will have to improve for Ranney to make a serious play for the division title but with an extra year of experience and a coach in place who has experience leading a high-level public-school program, there is reason to think Ranney is on the fast track in B Central. How high the Panthers climb is probably a long way from being settled but at least for the moment, another season close to .500 with some improvements in the run-prevention department would be a significant step in Geroni’s first season.
Head Coach: Matt Mancini, third season
2018 Record: 4-16 (2-12, seventh in Class B Central)
Returners: Liam Hagan (Sr., C/3B/RHP), Timmy Farrell (Sr., SS/RHP), Matt Payne (Sr., OF/LHP/1B), Casey Haupt (Sr., OF/LHP/1B), Mike Hoey (Jr., OF), Tom Doherty (Jr., OF/RHP), Mike Mohr (Jr., C/3B/RHP), Grady Hendrickson (Jr., 2B/3B/RHP), Josh Winters (Jr., 1B/RHP/C), Trevor Hendrickson (So., 2B/OF/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Aaron Lynch (So., 2B), Garrett Shine (Jr., OF), Nick Brown (Jr., OF), Jack Crowley (Fr., OF)
With one of the Shore’s youngest rosters last season, Henry Hudson took its lumps and made its share of strides with a group that currently boasts far more experience than it did a year ago. Even with four seniors – Liam Hagan, Timmy Farrell, Matt Payne and Casey Haupt – likely to provide a large contribution at the plate, on the mound and in the field, the Admirals are still a junior-heavy team with a few sophomores and a freshman in the mix as 2019 opens up.
Hagan and Farrell are coming off solid seasons for Henry Hudson and Hagan could see time behind the plate after spending most of last season at second and third base. Farrell returns at shortstop and will be one of Henry Hudson’s top pitching options as the Admirals try to improve on a pitching staff that was still figuring out what works last year. While Farrell and Hagan helped lead a promising offense, junior Mike Mohr was a legitimate power threat and one of B Central’s top hitters as a sophomore in 2018. Mohr can also catch and will be an option on the mound as well.
Grady Hendrickson, Tom Doherty and Josh Winters are three more junior returnees for Henry Hudson, with classmates Garrett Shine and Nick Brown joining them this year. Trevor Hendrickson and Aaron Lynch lead the sophomore class and Jack Crowley will help the cause as a freshman as the Admirals look to convert some of last year’s experience into a lot more winning this season – a real possibility with the division in a state of transition.
Head Coach: Kyle Keelen, eighth season
2018 Record: 3-12 (3-11, sixth in Class B Central)
Returners: Lucas Dant (Jr., INF/RHP), Tyler Ely (Sr., C/OF), Justin Young (Sr., OF/P), Michael Vargas (Sr., OF/P), Ean Hospital (So., 2B/SS/RHP), John Lachky (Jr., 1B), Sean Lachky (So., C)
Key Losses: Colin Fernandez (RHP/OF), Roan Maxwell (3B), Zack Whitehead (Sr., 2B)
Key Newcomers: Sayvion Campbell (Sr., OF/P), Chris Johnson (Jr., UTIL), Anthony Longo (Fr., 2B/SS/RHP), Bryan Mattos (Jr., 3B), Adrian Sabatino (Jr., OF), Jack DiPaolo (Fr., 1B/P)
Three seasons removed from a trip to the Central Jersey Group I final, the Red Raiders are heading into year two of a rebuilding project. After a disappointing 2017, Keyport had a lot to replace last year and went to work getting its future leaders some in-game experience. Junior Lucas Dant led the way with a respectable showing on the mound as a sophomore last year, when he struck out 29 batters in 29 innings while ascending to the position of staff ace. Dant, sophomore Ean Hospital and seniors Justin Young and Michael Vargas will try to lead when the Red Raiders hope is an improved pitching staff that learns from the lumps it took last year.
Keyport’s offense was also a mixed bag last season, but Young turned out to be a bright spot. The senior outfielder hit .273 with four of Keyport’s 11 extra-base hits as a team, including its only to home runs. The rest of the core of returnees will have to improve for Keyport to contend and that should be an attainable goal with Dant heading into his junior year and Hospital and catcher Sean Lachky hitting their sophomore seasons. Senior Tyler Ely also showed some savvy in the batter’s box last year and should be a top contributor.
Freshmen Anthony Longo and Jack DiPolo will help continue to move the program forward as Keyport tries to get back to the level it reached back in 2016, when it beat St. Rose and made its deep state tournament run. With some other young rosters in the division, Keyport has a lot to prove over the next several years and this season will be an indicator of how close a return to glory might or might not be.
Head Coach: Johnny Grasso, 13th season
2018 Record: 1-13 (1-13, eighth in Class B Central)
Returners: Alex Peavy (Sr., RHP/2B), Jansi Medez-Garcia (Jr., OF/P), Jamier Cancel (Sr., 2B/RHP), Jarred Chathuant (So., 3B/RHP), Jasir Walker (So., P/INF)
Key Losses: Devin Nash-McGee (Sr., SS/CF), Luis Rodriquez (Sr., C), Kyrie Moore (Sr., 1B), Tylil Tulley (Sr., P), Bismarck Mendez-Garcia (Sr., 1B/P), Miguel Diaz (OF/P)
Key Newcomers: Darwin Gutierrez (Sr., RHP/SS), Exiever Chathuant (Fr., C/P)
After a rough go of it for most of 2018, Asbury Park salvaged its season by beating Keyport at the tail end of the schedule for its first and only win of the year. With some of its top producers from last season graduated, the Blue Bishops might struggle early again with some new pieces in place but hope to build up their experience and depth over the course of the season.
Senior Alex Peavy will head up the rotation this season as Asbury Park looks to find the right mix on the mound. Junior Jansi Mendez-Garcia is likely to be another top innings man for the Blue Bishops after throwing a handful of innings as a sophomore. Mendez-Garcia also led the team with three doubles at the plate last year and his two-way talent could make him Asbury Park’s best all-around player over the next couple of seasons if he continues his trajectory.
Senior Jamier Cancel and sophomores Jarred Chathuant and Jasir Walker all return with experience at the plate and in the field with some potential to absorb some innings. Darwin Gutierrez is a varsity baseball newcomer but is positioned to join Peavy and Mendez-Garcia as prominent pitchers. Exiever Chathaunt leads the program’s freshman class and will get a chance to make an immediate impact for an Asbury Park team that will again hope to surprise a team or two or three during the course of the B Central season.
C/3B – Liam Hagan, Henry Hudson (.412/.673/.471, 2 2B, 12 R, 6 RBI, 16 SB)
1B – Mike Mohr, Henry Hudson (.458/.559/.875, 6 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 16 R, 25 RBI, 15 SB)
2B/SS/RHP - Matt VanBrunt, Point Beach (.296/.424/.333, 1 2B, 5 R, 3 RBI
SS/RHP – Sean Turner, Mater Dei Prep (.338/.436/.476, 6 2B, 1 HR, 23 R, 9 RBI, 7 SB)
3B – Gabe Torres, Keyport (.323/.432/.402, 5 2B, 11 R, 22 RBI)
OF/RHP – Liam Meyer, Keansburg (.390/.532/.576, 5 2B, 3 3B, 21 R, 12 RBI, 14 SB)
OF/LHP – Charles Chropuvka, Ranney (.462/.561/.692, 7 2B, 4 3B, 23 R, 15 RBI)
OF – Patrick Mastro, Mater Dei Prep (.274/.367/.313, 2 2B, 13 R, 8 RBI)
OF/RHP – Liam Riecks, Keansburg (.373/.397/.508, 2 2B, 3 3B, 12 R, 19 RBI, 7 SB)
Brandon Sansone, RHP, Mater Dei Prep
Rian Rivera, RHP, Keansburg
Lucas Dant, RHP, Keyport
Ethan Gavin, RHP, Ranney
Comeback Player to Watch
Ryan Batista, Ranney – Batista put up all-division numbers as a freshman and sophomore before hitting a bit of a slump last year.
Breakout Players to Watch
Chase Hardy, 2B, Mater Dei Prep
David Terra-Nova, C, Point Beach
Jansi Mendez-Garcia, OF/P, Asbury Park
Anthony Longo, 2B/SS/RHP, Keyport