Baseball – 2020 Outlook: Class A South
Jackson Memorial was the heavy favorite to win the Class A South championship in 2019 and while the Jaguars did finish the job, it was not the walk-over that it could have been considering how much of the 2018 South Jersey Group IV championship team had returned from the prior year. This year, the preseason outlook would be the same for the Jaguars and the rest of A South should the season get underway: Jackson Memorial is arguably the Shore’s most loaded team and it will take a lot to be the Jaguars, let alone overcome them in the division race.
At the same time, this is Class A South and there is no shortage of talent and no bad team in the field. Central finished last in the division despite beating Jackson Memorial during the year and that is a program just two years removed from going to the Shore Conference Tournament final. Every team in this division is worth a good, hard look so let’s at least get started with a quick look at what each was cooking up before the world dropped everything.
In predicted order of finish
Head Coach: Frank Malta, 16th season (21st overall)
2019 Record: 20-5 (12-2, first in A South)
Returners: Ryan Lasko (Sr., CF), Carmine Petosa (Sr., 1B), Christian Pellone (Sr., 2B), Jake Wendell (Sr., 3B), Andrew Sefick (Sr., C), Tom Cartnick (Sr., C), Nick Beetel (Sr., LHP), Matt Potok (Jr., RHP), Ty Beck (Jr., SS), Zach Crotchfelt (So., LHP/OF/1B), Dan Greenwood (Sr., RHP), Rocco LaVista (Sr., RHP), Matt Feld (Sr., OF), Joe Santoriello (Sr., RHP), Greg Carillo (Jr., LHP)
Key Losses: Alex Iadisernia (RF), Ahmir Cournier (SS), Troy Bathmann (LF), Joe Princiotta (LHP)
Key Newcomers: Zach Rogacki (Jr., OF/INF/C), Devin Foderaro (So., LHP), Sage Goeke (So., LHP), Zach McCabe (So., LHP), Chris Cartnick (So., INF), Jordan Naffaa (Jr., RHP), Zach Appuliese (Sr., OF), Jared Caruso (Sr., C), Nick Storaci (Jr., RHP), Bill Petrina (Sr., OF), Austin Parikh (Sr., OF/INF), Andrew Patire (So., OF), Tom Kendrick (So., INF), Charles Meglio (Fr., INF), J.R. Osmond (So., INF/OF)
For most of the 2019, Jackson Memorial looked like the Shore’s most dominant team – one that could seriously challenge for multiple championships and likely win one or two. Despite winning a South Jersey Group IV title in 2018 with a sophomore-heavy group, Jackson Memorial struggled come tournament time and settled for 20 wins and an A South title as its 2019 prizes. The good news is most of the team is back for 2020 and the talented, experienced nucleus is just hoping for a chance to atone for last year’s shortcomings.
Sluggers Ryan Lasko and Carmine Petosa and pitchers Matt Potok and Nick Beetel were All-Shore players a year ago and are three of Jackson’s many Division I commits. Second baseman Christian Pellone has put up big numbers in each of the past two seasons, Tom Cartnick and Andrew Sefick are both proven catchers, and Jake Wendell and Ty Beck give Jackson Memorial a strong defensive left side of the infield. Sophomore left-hander Zach Crotchfelt – who committed to Auburn – flashed his talent last year and could be in for a big spring and summer. The talent is going to keep coming and there should be happy days ahead for the Jaguars, but with a chance to do something special off last year’s disappointment, this Jackson group does not want to wait.
Toms River North
Head Coach: Andy Pagano, seventh season
2019 Record: 15-11 (11-3, second in A North)
Returners: Robert Jeans (Sr., OF/RHP), Jake Dawson (Sr., C), Phil Antoniotti (Sr., 2B/RHP), Nick DeRose (Sr., 3B/RHP), Brandon Feigin (Jr., INF/RHP), Matt Ostroman (Sr., LHP), Russ Thistle (Jr., 1B/LHP), Nick Mortellito (Jr., 2B), Zach Goodale (Jr., CF), Lucas Malave (Jr., UTIL)
Key Losses: Dylan Feigin (SS), Sam Angelo (1B/LHP), Christian Wood (RHP), Sean Aguiar (OF), Mike Colella (OF/2B)
Key Newcomers: David Ventura (Jr., SS), Sean Mindas (Jr., OF/INF), Jack Tava (Jr., 1B/RHP), Dominick Saldida (So., INF), Brandon Valles (Jr., LHP), Tyler Avallone (Sr., OF), Jake Kazanowsky (Jr., 3B/1B)
While last year’s second-place finish in Class A South and championship-less tournament season is not what the decorated Mariners had gotten used to in recent years, 2019 was a solid showing for a team that had a lot of production to replace – especially in the rotation. Now Toms River North returns the bulk of its pitching staff from a year ago and should they get the chance, the Mariners could climb back up the rankings behind that deep stable of arms – led by Brandon Feigin, Robert Jeans, Matt Ostroman and Russ Thistle.
Jeans and catcher Jake Dawson are ready to lead the lineup, while Phil Antoniotti returns with experience and Nick DeRose is back as a senior after an injury-riddled 2019. Nick Mortelitto, Zach Goodale and Lucas Malave all got time as sophomores and now lead a strong junior class of talent that also includes Feigin and Thistle on the pitching side. That junior class will still have a chance to make some noise next year but the Mariners would have a chance to do so this year in some version of a season.
Toms River East
Head Coach: Keith Smicklo, third season
2019 Record: 10-14 (4-10, seventh in A South)
Returners: Ryan Goodall (Sr., C/OF), Matt Santos (Sr., RHP/1B), Reece Miller (Sr., RHP), Ryan Cicardo (Sr., SS), Robert Pero (Sr., INF), Mason Tampuu (Sr., P), Dan Facchiano (Sr., RHP), Joe Ussery (Jr., OF), Sal Gioia (Jr., OF), Jake Steinmetz (Sr., INF)
Key Losses: Aidan Meola (So., 3B) – Transferred to Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.); Logan Sommerer (OF), Brandon Coyle (LHP), Mark Murtha (OF), Tyler Toth (OF)
Key Newcomers: Riley Engelhard (Sr., INF), Nasceem Davis (Sr., OF), Erik Munoz (Sr., P/OF), Alex Xenakis (Sr., P), Paul Deluca (Jr., INF), Mike Florie (Jr., P/INF), Michael Mezza (Jr., P), Evan Mills (Jr., P/OF), Mark Roma (Jr., INF/OF), Elijah Santiago (Jr., OF), Aidan Gallipoli (So., P/INF), Akkash Santiago (So., C/OF)
Toms River East finished with a losing record last year, finished seventh in the eight-team Class A South and yet 2019 was a pretty memorable season for the Raiders. They stunned Jackson Memorial in the Ocean County Tournament quarterfinals and later made a dramatic run to the South Jersey Group III semifinals. Senior right-handers Reece Miller and Matt Santos were right in the middle of both accomplishments and will again lead a pitching staff that will also lean on Dan Facchiano for innings.
Santos also returns as Toms River East’s top power threat in the lineup, with catcher Ryan Goodall also returning to the heart of the lineup. Those two and Aidan Meola – an Oklahoma State commit who moved to Palm Beach, Fla. – led the way at the plate in Toms River East’s three competitive state tournament games. Senior Ryan Cicardo and Robert Pero are lineup up to contribute on the infield, with Cicardo returning at shortstop. The Raiders gave themselves something to build off of at the end of 2019 and they are hoping for the chance to get to work in 2020.
Head Coach: Jay Groschel, 15th season
2019 Record: 11-13 (7-7, fourth in A South)
Returners: Anthony Prato (Sr., CF), John Wade (Jr., RHP/1B), Ethan Gonzalez (Jr., LHP), Robbie Page (Sr., RHP/OF), Dan Scheri (Sr., 2B), Nick Guiro (Sr., RHP/SS), Robbie Blair (Jr., C), Jesse Evensen (Jr., SS/RHP), Jake Bilheimer (Jr., P), Kyle Chirichello (Sr., P/1B)
Key Losses: Cole Groschel (CF), Jimmy Leblo (RF/LHP), Joe Carchio (LF/3B/RHP), Christian Malta (1B), Tyler Skurat (3B/RHP)
Key Newcomers: John McFadden (Jr., P), Ryan Duffy (Jr., 3B), Mike Detata (Sr., OF), Zach Smith (Sr., OF), Joe Scamardella (So., OF), Chris Heuner (So., P), Matt Kunzman (So. P/3B), Dylan Affinito (Sr., 2B)
Another team that returns most of its pitching, Brick settled on its rotation over the course of last season and will have some room to improve during a potential 2020 season. John Wade and Ethan Gonzalez were the innings leaders as sophomores, with Wade assuming the mantle of ace with 2.01 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings. Seniors Nick Guiro and Robbie Page would also be key rotation members.
Brick took a bigger graduation hit in the lineup than in the pitching staff, with four of its top five hitters moving on. Wade, however, was arguably the team’s best hitter as a sophomore and would be the centerpiece of a Green Dragons lineup this year. Anthony Prato would move to the outfield fill a centerfield opening, while catcher Rob Blair and second baseman Dan Scheri return with some experience in the field and at the plate. The pitching, though, would be the key for a continuation of Brick’s revival in 2020.
Toms River South
Head Coach: Ken Frank, 42nd season
2019 Record: 13-10 (8-6, third in A South)
Returners: Maximus Rivas (Sr., SS), Mike Montenegro (Sr., C), Logan Spakowski (Sr., RHP/INF), Erik Narvaez (Sr., RHP/OF), Kiefer Samul (Sr., RHP/INF), Tyler Madeo (Jr., OF), Joe Ferreri (Sr., P/1B)
Key Losses: Colin Mackle (OF/RHP), Jordan Erbe (SS/RHP), Matt Hartshorn (RHP/1B), Gabe Driscoll (1B/RHP), Mike Lazzaro (3B), Sam Conover (CF), Damien Scott (RHP), Brandon Leatherman (OF)
Key Newcomers: Bo Marro (Sr., OF/P), Nick Iaderosa (Sr., OF), Christian Blaska (Sr., OF/P), Connor Cavanaugh (Sr., INF), Nick Luongo (Sr., OF), Austin Beard (Jr., 3B/P), Ty Gibson (Jr., OF/1B), Ryan Mackle (Jr., INF/P), Eli McEwan (Jr., C), Joe Schifilliti (Jr., INF/P), Chris Yuro (Jr., OF/P), Nick Manning (Sr., C), Anthony Alexander (Sr., OF) Brandon Condon (Sr., OF), Jacob Decker (Sr., P/DH)
Toms River South is in line to return some experience to this year’s roster but the question for the Indians during any potential 2020 schedule will be power. The top five 2019 hitters by slugging percentage all graduated and the Indians also lost their two power arms. On the mound, Logan Spakowski returns after a solid showing as a junior and seniors Kiefer Samul, Erik Narvaez and Joe Ferreri offer coach Ken Frank – currently six wins shy of 900 for his career – some experience to lean on as well.
Shortstop Max Rivas – headed to Stetson next year – is the main cog in the offense and in the field for Toms River South, which has the foundation of a good defense. On top of Rivas at shortstop, the Indians welcome back catcher Mike Montenegro and junior outfielder Tyler Madeo, who hope to step up their game in the batter’s box this spring. The loss of talent from a year ago is is an obstacle for every program at some point and few public-school teams handle it better than Frank and Toms River South.
Head Coach: Evan Rizzitello, 11th season
2019 Record: 14-13 (6-8, fifth in A South)
Returners: Nick Gillen (Sr., RHP/UTIL), Max Cala (Jr., C/OF), Colin Turner (Sr., P/1B), Andrew White (Sr., 1B), Cole Manfro (Jr., RHP/3B), Kyle Cline (Sr., RHP/OF), Joe Terkildsen (Sr., INF/RHP), Sean Beck (Sr., UTIL)
Key Losses: T.J. Rosace (SS), Mike Murphy (C), Tristan Savoia (RHP/1B), Greg Hanlon (2B), Graham Harrigan (OF/RHP), Torrey Savoia (RHP/OF), Lucas McLaughlin (OF/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Nick Doubt (Sr., C), Matt Terkildsen (Sr., 1B), Aiden Patella (Jr., P/OF), Joe Gioia (Jr., INF), Jack Flood (So., INF), Reese Hackett (Jr., INF/P), Nick Riker (Jr., OF), Ryan Mulcahey (So., P/OF), Anthony Martino (So., INF), Brady Leach (Fr.)
Brick Memorial is in an unusual position in that the Mustangs have a lot of key seniors from 2019 to replace but also a lot of seniors on hand to do the replacing. So in one sense, 2020 is potentially a developmental year but on the other hand, a host of seniors were going to get a turn to try to turn some heads in 2020. They are still holding out hope that the chance comes their way, with senior right-hander Nick Gillen back as the likely ace of the pitching staff and a key hitter in the lineup as well.
Seniors Colin Turner and Andrew White got at-bats last year and are in line to get more this season, while juniors Max Cala and Cole Manfro look to take the next step within the program. Cala was an all-division selection as a sophomore outfielder and will take over the catching duties whenever play resumes. If it does, Brick Memorial will have both some urgency to win now as well as a backup plan in the form of a strong core returning for 2021.
Head Coach: Jerry Frulio, 10th season
2019 Record: 3-18 (3-11, eighth in A South)
Returners: Mike Masino (Sr., RHP/SS), Dan Greene (Sr., RHP/1B), Gavin Whalen (Sr., 2B/RHP), Nick Firetto (Sr., C), Evan Agrapides (Jr., OF), Trevor Coltenback (Jr., 3B/C), Shane Sajewicz (So., 1B/LHP), Ryan Black (Sr., OF), Mike Ottomanelli (Sr., 3B), Javier Rios (Sr., OF)
Key Losses: Scott Truhan (OF), Nick Altieri (CF), Jack Santora (SS), Andrew Forrester (RHP), Fischer Senatore (P/OF)
Key Newcomers: Rob Schneider (Jr., C), Eddie Jacoby (Sr., 1B), Seth Kirwan (Sr., 2B), Jeremy Bruner (Jr., P), Joe Viespoli (Jr., P), Nico Argento (Jr., OF), Cam Leiter (So., 3B/RHP)
As rough as last season was for Central – particularly coming off of an outstanding 2018 season – there were still some significant bright spots. The Golden Eagles were young, racked up some experience and, in the process, upset Jackson Memorial during the regular season. Although a handful of contributors graduated, Central returns a solid group of starters that should continue to move the program forward should there be a season.
Seniors Dan Greene and Mike Masino will be key pitchers on the staff again, while sophomore Shane Sajewicz returns to the mound as well. One name of note is sophomore Cam Leiter, who is the nephew of former Major Leaguers Al and Mark Leiter and moved to the area from British Columbia, Canada. On the offensive side, Masino, Greene and center fielder Evan Agrapides will lead the way after strong individual 2019 seasons.
Head Coach: Keith Cocuzza, sixth season
2019 Record: 9-11 (5-9, sixth in A South)
Returners: Aiden Hosszu (Sr., 3B), Ricky Glascock (Sr., RHP/1B), Jack Plesniarski (Jr., SS/RHP), Mike Gallaro (Jr., C), Xavier Hendricks (Jr., OF), Kevin Cooney (Jr., OF), Dustin Howarth (Jr., RHP), Derek Serino (Sr., OF), Bradley Mills (Jr., DH/C)
Key Losses: Cole Markley (SS/RHP), Mike Schiatarella (RHP/OF), Frankie Pellegrino (OF/RHP), A.J. Mandell (1B)
Key Newcomers: Taylor Munt (Jr., RHP), Mike Mucci (Jr., LHP)
On the position-player side, Southern is positioned to be a solid team during a would-be 2020 season. The Rams return enough solid at-bats from a year ago to put it together at the plate, particularly from junior catcher Mike Gallaro, who hit .390 in 46 plate appearances. Kevin Cooney, Jack Plesniarski and Xavier Hendricks are three more juniors with starting experience as sophomore that will set the Rams up for the next two years, while seniors Aiden Hosszu and Ricky Glascock are desperate to get back on the field after missing most of last season due to injury.
Pitching is where the Rams have the most pressing questions to answer after the graduation of its three best arms from 2019. Plesniarski will take on a more prominent role as a pitcher and shortstop, while fellow junior Dustin Howarth and Glascock are looking to join the staff after both were injured last year. Juniors Taylor Munt and Mike Mucci are also hoping to help this year, which could certainly be a good one for Southern if there is a season and the Rams’ inexperienced pitching can settle it.
Division Lineup (with 2019 stats)
Tom Cartnick, Sr., C, Jackson Memorial (.368/.460/.515, 1 2B, 3 HR, 16 R, 21 RBI, 6 SB)
Carmine Petosa, Sr., 1B, Jackson Memorial (.410/.538/.754, 6 2B, 5 HR, 23 R, 21 RBI)
Christian Pellone, Sr., 2B, Jackson Memorial (.370/.464/.605, 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 30 R, 9 RBI, 6 SB)
Maximus Rivas, Sr., SS, Toms River South (.339/.468/.371, 2 2B, 11 R, 7 RBI)
John Wade, Jr., 3B, Brick (.369/.449/.415, 3 2B, 12 R, 13 RBI)
Ryan Lasko, Sr., CF, Jackson Memorial (.380/.423/.747, 8 2B, 7 HR, 24 R, 33 RBI, 14 SB)
Robert Jeans, Sr., OF, Toms River North (.342/.369/.418, 6 2B, 10 R, 17 RBI)
Max Cala, Jr., C/OF, Brick Memorial (.333/.356/.430, 3 2B, 2 HR, 17 R, 22 RBI, 11 SB)
Ryan Goodall, Sr., C, Toms River East (.265/.390/.456, 4 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 8 R, 13 RBI, 6 SB)
Division Rotation (with 2019 stats)
Matt Potok, Jr., RHP, Jackson Memorial (6-0, 34 IP, 25 H, 3 BB, 33 K, 0.62 ERA, 0.82 WHIP)
Nick Beetel, Sr., LHP, Jackson Memorial (2-2, 35.2 IP, 23 H, 18 BB, 46 K, 1.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Matt Santos, Sr., RHP, Toms River East (3-4, 42 IP, 35 H, 20 BB, 31 K, 2.33 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
Reece Miller, Sr., RHP, Toms River East (3-2, 47 IP, 43 H, 21 BB, 30 K, 2.98 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)
Brandon Feigin, Jr., RHP, Toms River North (1-2, 25.2 IP, 23 H, 12 BB, 19 K, 1.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)