Baseball – 2020 Outlook: Class A North
The top three teams in last year’s Class A North standings are all positioned to get back in the running if and when the 2020 baseball season starts. Middletown South authored a rejuvenation campaign and won the division while Manalapan and CBA were not far behind. Two of those three teams have a new head coach in place but have some key pieces back – particularly in their respective pitching staffs.
As always, there is talent beyond the top of the standings in Class A North, with Freehold Township, Howell and Marlboro all a hot stretch away from making a run at some sort of championship. Freehold Boro and Long Branch are also hoping to show their improvement after combining for six wins a year ago. A North is as steady as any Shore Conference division when it comes to top-to-bottom talent and its players are hoping to get a chance to prove this year is no different.
In predicted order of finish
Christian Brothers Academy
Head Coach: Marty Kenney Jr., first season
2019 Record: 18-7 (10-4, third in A North)
Returners: Pat Reilly (Sr., RHP/1B), Braedin Hunt (Sr., RHP/OF/1B), Mason Wolf (Sr., C), Jason Arnott (Sr., SS), Declan Hoverter (Sr., RHP/2B), Ben Settino (Sr., CF), Joe Tutrone (Sr., C), Matt Murray (Sr., UTIL)
Key Losses: Tommy DiTullio (SS), Connor Baksh (OF/RHP), Joe Escandon (LHP), Evan Mahns (LHP), Anthony Pillari (C/RHP), Anthony Celestre (OF/2B)
Key Newcomers: Jack Frankovic (So., 3B/RHP), Colin Reilly (So., RHP), Gavin Kus (So., OF), Mike Kelly (So., RHP), Joe Marini (Jr., LHP/1B)
The headliners for the 2020 Colts are Division I flamethrowers Pat Reilly (Vanderbilt) and Braedin Hunt (VCU) at the top of the rotation, but CBA has some balance and experience throughout the roster as well. Senior catcher Mason Wolf is one of the Shore’s top all-around catchers and seniors Ben Settino, Jason Arnott and Declan Hoverter are quality up-the-middle players with untapped offensive potential that they all hope to showcase this year. Factor in the dangerous bats of Hunt and Reilly and CBA’s offense would have a chance to improve with a chance to play this year.
Coach Marty Kenny Jr., who takes over for his father, Marty Sr., is hoping to get to better know his promising new crop of underclassmen but two names the rest of the Shore should hear over the next three years are sophomores Jack Frankovic and Colin Reilly. Frankovic is ready to make an impact with the bat and is opening eyes on the mound as well, while Colin Reilly is on a similar trajectory to his older brother, Pat. CBA hopes to see more from their underclassmen, but the Colts are hoping against hope that Reilly, Hunt and the rest of the strong senior class get a chance to shine in their high-school uniform in 2020.
Head Coach: Chris LeMore, first season
2019 Record: 17-7 (12-2, first in A North)
Returners: Chris O’Connor (Sr., 3B), Chris Lotito (Sr., CF/RHP), Danny Minze (Sr., RHP/OF), Jack Sheridan (Sr., SS/RHP), Anthony Esposito (Sr., C), Joe Stanzione (Jr., 1B/RF), Mike Keenan (Jr., RHP), Jack Shea (Jr., RHP), Matt Pontari (Jr., RHP/INF), Mike Rauso (Sr., OF/LHP), Pat Eagone (Jr., INF/OF), Mike Barbara (Sr., OF), Jack Shangold (Sr., RHP)
Key Losses: Robby Zega (2B), Trevor Brey (C), Jack Kinsella (OF), Jack Roesch (RHP), Jack Lisowski (LHP), Aurelio Licata (SS)
Key Newcomers: Tom DeMarco (Jr., OF), Mike Cowell (Jr., P/UTIL), Greg Trezza (Jr., C), Will Doyle (Jr., INF), Evan Wood (So., P), Ben Schild (Fr., RHP/INF)
New coach Chris LeMore – who has made head-coaching stops at Marlboro, Red Bank and St. Rose – takes over a ready-made squad that is hoping for a chance to build on an inspired effort in 2019. Seniors Chris Lotito and Danny Minze are two of the Shore's better dual-threat players who also defend in the outfield. Classmate Chris O’Connor has been an all-division hitter in each of his prior two varsity seasons, while junior first baseman Joe Stanzione and seniors Jack Sheridan and Anthony Esposito are all back in the lineup as well.
Esposito is taking over at catcher for Trevor Brey, who replaced Zach Schild after Schild went on to Monmouth. That is relevant because Schild’s younger brother, Ben, is a promising freshman set to join the Middletown South pitching staff whenever play resumes. Schild joins Litito, Minze and juniors Mike Keenan, Jack Shea and Matt Pontari in a pitching that could be the strength of the team just two years after it struggled mightily during back-to-back down seasons.
Head Coach: Brian Boyce, 14th season
2019 Record: 24-9 (11-3, second in A North)
Returners: Nick DiPietrantonio (Sr., SS), Tom Guidice (Jr., 1B/3B), Hunter Serrano (Sr., RHP/2B), Joe Mazza (Jr., LHP/OF), Kyle Sciallo (Sr., 3B), Ethan Rodriguez (Jr., OF), Dylan Hode (Sr., C), Chris Nicol (Sr., LHP), Anthony Matteis (Jr., C/1B)
Key Losses: Ben Levine (LHP/1B), Aaron Ayers (RHP), Jake Pellecchia (SS/RHP), Mike Kuver (OF), Billy Watters (2B/DH), Matt Panzica (OF), Nick Serrentino (C), Rico Spinelli (RHP), Jake Melman (RHP)
Key Newcomers: Anthony Matrone (Jr., OF), Anthony Mauro (Jr., OF), Justin Simone (Jr., RHP), Aarush Sood (Jr., P), Nick DiMaggio (Jr., P), Chris Marzo (Jr., OF), Gino Gambale (Jr., OF), Ken Sclafani (Jr., INF), Tyler Kane (So., SS/RHP)
Manalapan has some important players to replace from its 2019 Central Jersey Group IV championship team, particularly on the pitching staff. As usual, though, the Braves and coach Brian Boyce have the pieces and the culture to figure it out. Nick DiPietrantonio was a streaky hitter throughout the year, found his stroke by season’s end and is ready to take over at shortstop. Seniors Hunter Serrano and Kyle Sciallo are also ready to step up as returning regulars in the infield, while Tom Giudice and Joe Mazza are coming off impressive sophomore seasons as starters as well – Mazza as a two-way player.
Mazza, Serrano and senior Chris Nicol top the pitching staff after Mazza was the team’s No. 3 starter at the end of 2019 and Nicol (21 strikeouts, two walks in 16 1/3 innings) and Serrano (3 saves) were excellent pitching in relief. Junior Justin Simone and sophomore Tyler Kane look ready to go as varsity pitchers should the season finally get started and if it does, Manalapan should again be a player near the top of the conference and in Group IV.
Head Coach: Todd Smith, 11th season
2019 Record: 12-11 (7-7, fifth in A North)
Returners: Jarrett Urban (Sr., OF/P), Zach Gorman (Jr., RHP/OF), Chris Corchado (Jr., 1B), Patrick Burns (Jr., 3B), Griffin Murphy (Jr., C), Andrew Reidy (Sr., C), Alec Schwartz (Sr., RHP), Luke Mulhern (Jr., RHP), Mason Weeks (Sr., LHP), Matt Villapiano (Jr., LHP), Nick Kolozsvary (Jr., OF)
Key Losses: Cristian Corcione (2B), Liam Simon (RHP), Brandon Smith (SS), Ryan Kurczeski (RHP), Mike Woods (CF), Brian Lee (LF), Vladimir Scriptunas (RHP)
Key Newcomers: Mike Marino (Sr., OF/P), Zander Ginter (Sr., OF/RHP), Nick Schulman (Sr., 2B), Patrick Borromeo (Sr., OF), Anthony Czarrunchick (Sr., C), Kyle Checkett (Sr., OF), Brian Lavelle (Sr., P), Brandon Ramos (Sr., RHP/SS), Connor Morie (Jr., 2B), Joe Zappulla (Jr., 2B/DH), Ryan Keegan (So., SS)
Although Freehold Township bid farewell to some noteworthy talent since the end of last season, there is the kind of core remaining in place that could make some serious noise over the course of a potential season. Junior Zach Gorman is coming off a breakout year as a legitimate staff ace and after committing to Wagner during the school year, he is primed to take the next step whenever he gets back on the mound. Gorman is part of a strong group of juniors that also includes returning first baseman Chris Corchado, third baseman Patrick Burns and catcher Griffin Murphy.
Freehold Township also has its share of seniors hoping to get one more bite of the apple in high school. That group is led by Jarrett Urban, who was impressive in 45 plate appearances last year (.293, two homers) and has continued to open eyes leading up to this season. Urban is set to back up Gorman on the pitching staff, which will also hope to get breakout years out of juniors Luke Mulhern and Matt Villapiano. This year will be Freehold Township’s last shot with Urban and his classmates and although they could still play next year, the younger Patriots would like to help send them out on a high note.
Head Coach: Eric Johnson, 11th season
2019 Record: 12-11 (8-6, fourth in A North)
Returners: Tommy Talbot (Sr., OF), Chris Acampora (Sr., C), Jack Bearse (Sr., C/1B/3B), Jake Lenardo (Sr., LHP), Chris Ellison (Jr., INF/RHP), Antonio Gatti (Jr., OF), Vin Impresa (Jr., 3B/RHP), Andrew Furlong (Sr., OF/RHP), Brandon Troop (Sr., 2B), Max Friedeman (Sr., LHP/1B)
Key Losses: Ryan Bearse (2B/RHP), Kyle Brex (SS), Bryan Bernard (LHP), Ryan Gonzalez (1B), Jake Kutcher (OF)
Howell ran into some trouble last year when standout right-hander Ryan Bearse came down with an arm injury, but it helped the Rebels set things up for this season. Now they are just hoping to get a chance to take advantage of last year’s experience, which saw junior Chris Ellison and Jake Lenardo step up as dependable pitchers at the top of the staff. Ellison is also one of the team’s top returning hitters and has the versatility to play multiple spots on the infield after playing mostly third base last year. Senior Max Friedeman is also back as a senior and can fortify the end of the rotation.
The Howell lineup again looks formidable, led by senior center field and 2019 A North Co-hitter of the Year Tommy Talbot. Along with senior catcher Chris Acampora, junior outfielder Antonio Gatti and junior third baseman Vin Impresa, Talbot leads a lineup that can make pitchers work. Throw in seniors Jack Bearse, Brandon Troop and Andrew Furlong, and the Rebels have an experienced group just begging for a chance to see the field.
Head Coach: Craig Helfgott, second season
2019 Record: 10-13 (5-9, sixth in A North)
Returners: Ramon Fontanes (Sr., CF), Josh Schleifman (Sr., RHP), Mark Capell (Jr., OF/1B/RHP), Jeremy Briskin (Sr., 1B/DH), Julian Buchman (So., OF), Nick Wright (Jr., INF/OF), Tyler Villa (So., RHP), Jack McNiff (Sr., RHP), David Vignapiano (Sr., RHP), Joe Lomangino (Jr., RHP/OF), Jason Lewis (Sr., P)
Key Losses: Anthony Brienza (SS), Justin Kapuscinski (C), Vin Ferrigno (1B), Josh Gruber (LHP), Joe Iacabello (RHP), Ian Li (RHP)
Key Newcomers: Jon Spatola (So., 2B/SS), Alex Jankowski (Jr., INF/RHP), Nick Campisi (Sr., C), Dylan Cherichello (Sr., C), Frank Talarico (Jr., OF), Jake Kalfayan (So., P)
After taking some lumps during the regular season, Marlboro came alive during the NJSIAA tournament, advancing to the Central Jersey Group IV semifinal. The Mustangs found themselves a steady No. 1 option on the mound in senior right-hander Josh Schleifman, who is hoping for a chance to head up the pitching staff for one more full season. There is potential for a dramatically-improved staff behind Schleifman, with sophomore Tyler Villa, senior David Vignapiano, senior Jack McNiff and junior Joe Lomangiano all coming back.
Marlboro has a chance to be one of the better hitting teams in the division, led by its dangerous outfield trio of senior Ramon Fontanes, junior Mark Capell and sophomore Julian Buchman (. Senior Jeremy Briskin and junior Nick Wright also return with experience and sophomore Jon Spatola and junior Alex Jankowski could provide instant impact in the middle of the infield. The strong finish to last season was the start of what Marlboro hopes is a new chapter for its baseball program and the Mustangs are hoping they can continue to write their story in 2020.
Head Coach: Jon Block, 29th season
2019 Record: 5-19 (3-11, seventh in A North)
Returners: Shaun Piotrowski (Sr., C/RHP), Sean Wodell (Sr., CF/RHP), Jackson Ballargeon (Sr., 2B), Kyle Wenrich (Sr., RHP/1B), Mario Rivera (Jr., SS/RHP), Dominic Grenata (Jr., 3B/RHP)
Key Losses: Dominic Nonnenmacher (RHP), Henry Nonnenmacher (C), Cam Eslager (2B/OF), Luke Crivelli (SOF), Steven Gee (RHP/OF), Adam Schwerthoffer (RHP/1B), Matt Donlon (1B), Kacey MacCutcheon (2B)
Key Newcomers: Darius Glover (Sr., OF), Ben Aiello (Jr., P/OF), Chris Casale (Jr., C/OF), Michael Gasparo (Jr., INF/OF), Spencer Hurley (Jr., OF), Connor Quinn (Jr., INF/OF), Jack Scharngl (Jr., INF/OF), Liam Wiley (Jr., INF/OF), Giovanni Sive (So., P/1B), Mike Kleschinsky (So., C/OF), Nick Terefenko (So., P/OF)
Last season was unusually rough for Freehold Boro, which has fielded a competitive squad in most of coach Jon Block’s prior 28 seasons. The Colonials will also have to replace their brothers in the battery in Dom and Henry Nonnenmacher, but do have some arms and experience in place to handle the task, should they and the rest of the state be privileged enough to get the opportunity.
Seniors Shan Piotrowski, Sean Wodell, Kyle Wenrich and Jackson Ballargeon all played key roles last year and are now leaders on the team, with Wenrich, Wodell and Piotrowski heading up the pitching staff. Junior Mario Rivera also played important innings while holding the regular shortstop job and classmate Dominic Grenata is back on the left side as well. Depth could be a question, but the Colonials will jump at a chance to answer it in 2020.
Head Coach: Ben Woolley, second season
2019 Record: 1-20 (0-14, eighth in A North)
Returners: Ivan Navarro (Sr., 2B/RHP), Ryan Wolff (Sr., RHP), Andrew Conklin (Jr., C), Robert Baez (Jr., CF), Tyler Abbot (Jr., SS/RHP), Dave Rodriguez (Jr., LF), Thomas Brewer (So., 3B/OF/RHP), Xavier Camacho (So., OF)
Key Losses: Evan Yerman (RHP/SS), Brendan Cuddy (1B), R.J. Hurd (2B/SS), Jaheire Smith-Moore (RHP), Julian Moreno (RHP/OF)
Key Newcomers: Adam Benetsky (So., 2B/SS), Patrick O’Dwyer (Sr., 1B/P), Jahquese Moore (Sr., OF)
A year after a competitive 2018 season, Long Branch took a step back in 2019 and is eager to atone in 2020. The Green Wave bring back a nucleus that emerged as the strength of the team last year, even as players were getting their first taste of varsity baseball – and in a rugged Class A North, no less. Senior Ivan Navarro is a holdover from the 2018 team, while juniors Andrew Conklin, Robert Baez, Dave Rodriguez and Tyler Abbot all emerged as dependable players as sophomore starters.
Sophomores Thomas Brewer and Xavier Camacho also gave the Green Wave a glimpse at the future with solid play as freshmen on the varsity team and will hope, along with the rest of the Shore, that the future won’t have to wait until 2021.
Division Lineup (with 2019 stats)
Mason Wolf, Sr., C, CBA (.278/.363/.392, 9 2B, 15 R, 9 RBI)
Tom Giudice, Jr., 1B/3B, Manalapan (.337/.418/.484, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14 R, 12 RBI)
Hunter Serrano, Sr., 2B/RHP, Manalapan (.304/.385/.429, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 13 R, 10 SB)
Nick DiPietrantonio, Sr., SS, Manalapan (.310/.372/.530, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 14 R, 30 RBI)
Chris O’Connor, Sr., SS/3B, Middletown South (.321/.398/.513, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 18 R, 18 RBI)
Danny Minze, Sr., RF/RHP, Middletown South (.403/.488/.448, 3 2B, 21 R, 8 RBI)
Tommy Talbot, Sr., CF, Howell (.395/.489/.421, 2 2B, 23 R, 14 RBI, 14 SB)
Ramon Fontanes, Sr., CF, Marlboro (.338/.419/.541, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 16 R, 24 RBI)
Joe Mazza, Jr., OF/LHP, Manalapan (.344/.382/.500, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 R, 8 RBI)
Division Rotation (with 2019 stats)
Pat Reilly, Sr., RHP, CBA (7-0, 42 IP, 19 H, 19 BB, 67 K, 0.67 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
Chris Lotito, Sr., RHP, Middletown South (3-2, 36 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 44 K, 1.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)
Braedin Hunt, Sr., RHP, CBA (3-2, 30 IP, 16 H, 19 BB, 44 K, 2.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Zach Gorman, Jr., RHP, Freehold Twp. (5-0, 39.2 IP, 28 H, 13 BB, 39 K, 2.47 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)
Josh Schleifman, Sr., RHP, Marlboro (3-1, 34.2 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 24 K, 2.02 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
Chris Nicol, Sr., LHP, Manalapan (3-1, 16.1 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 21 K, 0.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)