Baseball – 2020 Outlook: Class B South
As much as any other Shore Conference division, Class B South showed in 2019 that a lot can change over a full season. During the first part of the season, Jackson Liberty had Point Pleasant Boro’s number, beating the Panthers twice on the way to an undefeated showing in divisional play. Come tournament time, however, Point Boro dug in, beat Jackson Liberty in the Ocean County Tournament final and made it all the way to the NJSIAA Group II championship game.
Point Boro entered March as the team-to-beat in Class B South but the encouraging news for the rest of the division is that multiple teams beat the Panthers last year during the regular season – including a split with Barnegat and a sweep by Pinelands. The depth in the division still looks strong and if there is some version of a divisional schedule, Point Boro would be the favorite but not necessarily untouchable to the rest of the field.
In predicted order of finish
Point Pleasant Boro
Head Coach: Dave Drew, 10th season
2019 Record: 23-7 (9-5, second in B South)
Returners: Nick Guzzi (Sr., RHP/3B), Sam Young (Sr., OF/RHP), Ryan Jasaitis (Sr., C), Nick Zbikowski (Sr., 2B/SS/RHP), Cole Young (Sr., OF/RHP), Frankie Dominici (Jr., 3B/SS/RHP), Connor Kennedy (Sr., INF), Zach Hill (Jr., OF), Luke Severio (Sr., OF/P), A.J. Hernandez (Sr., RHP/INF), Thomas Bamburak (Sr., 3B/1B), Joey Picolli (Jr., OF/2B/RHP)
Key Losses: Sam Collins (SS/RHP), Christian Aurin (OF/RHP), Paul Franceschini (OF/C/RHP)
Key Newcomers: Oscar Scott (Sr., OF/RHP) – transfer from Shore; Kyle Fisher (Sr., 2B/SS) – transfer from Cherokee; Connor Cilento (Fr., SS), Austin Drucquer (Sr., 2B), Dan Meccia (Sr., OF), Nick Scelfo (So., OF), Trey Harpootlian (So., 1B/P)
A year after losing in the South Jersey Group II championship, Point Boro captured the Central Jersey Group II crown in 2019 behind an imposing pitching staff and a lineup that got hot at the right time of the season. This year’s roster shaped up to be just as good, perhaps even better than last year’s championship team and if the season can start at some point in the next six-to-eight weeks, Point Boro has a group that can take full advantage.
Nick Guzzi and Sam Young return to head the pitching staff, with Guzzi committed to St. John’s and positioned to make a run at Shore Conference and state pitcher of the year awards. Both rotation horses are also big bats returning in the batting order, along with supporting players in catcher Ryan Jasaitis, middle infielder Nick Zbikowski, third baseman Frankie Dominici and outfielder Cole Young. Connor Kennedy and Zach Hill are pushing for starting jobs, while senior transfers Oscar Scott (Shore) and Kyle Fisher (Cherokee) are primed to make a major impact. Freshman Connor Cilento is also a player to watch whenever play resumes and if it does, Point Boro is as exciting a team as there is at the Shore.
Head Coach: Jim Rankin, 13th season
2019 Record: 23-4 (14-0, first in B South)
Returners: Shane Hickey (Sr., SS/RHP), Brandon Kinsman (Sr., C/2B), Dan Keenan (Jr., CF/RHP), Jake Hickman (Jr., INF), Tim Duffy (Sr., RHP), Ryan Gallacher (Sr., RHP), Carl Barth (Jr., OF/1B/LHP)
Key Losses: David Melfi (C), Connor Keenan (CF), Alex Torres (SS), Kevin Ritz (1B/RHP), Nick DeCarlo (RHP/1B), Scott Wierciszewski (OF), Charlie Rudderow (OF)
Key Newcomers: Aaron Montgomery (Sr., C), Gavin Maarberg (Sr., OF), Matt Milne (Sr., 1B/C), Casey Braun (Jr., OF), Chris Sasso (So., 1B/P), Garrett Drew (So., INF)
Last year was likely Jackson Liberty’s best chance yet to win a tournament championship but the Lions fell short by losing to Wall in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, Northern Burlington in the Central Group III semifinal and Point Boro in the Ocean County Tournament final. Some major production graduated from the lineup and three prominent pitchers are gone from the rotation but there is reason to expect Jackson Liberty could remain a top-10 fixture going forward.
Senior Shane Hickey and sophomore Dan Keenan emerged as two of Jackson Liberty’s more reliable pitchers down the stretch and also were two clutch hitters within lineup – Hickey as a three-year starter at third base who is set to move to shortstop. Brandon Kinsman is a Swiss Army Knife who is getting a chance to replace SSN Player of the Year David Melfi at catcher. Second baseman Jake Hickman and outfielder Carl Barth are in line to see more time while Tim Duffy and Ryan Gallacher bring back some experience on the mound as well. If there is season, Jackson Liberty may be in that sweet spot where there is still enough talent to win big but not as much pressure to do it.
Head Coach: Dan McCoy, ninth season
2019 Record: 12-13 (8-6, tied third in B South)
Returners: Lukas Torres (Sr., LHP/OF/1B), Matt Scott (Sr., OF), Nick Danbrowney (Jr., 2B/RHP), Sean Lucas (Sr., 3B), Kyle Moore (Sr., C), Collin Zarenkiewicz (Sr., LHP), Steven Meier (Sr., OF),
Key Losses: Tyler Suydam (RHP/INF), David MacGillvray (3B), Brian Finucan (OF), Dexter Dambroski (LHP)
Key Newcomers: Luke Bush (Sr., RHP/C), Matt Vernieri (Sr., RHP), Trevor Fox (Sr., INF), Bryan Snowden (So., SS), P.J. Craig (So., INF), Rian Tully (Jr., 1B), Anthony Molfino (So., C), Jared Schworn (So., 1B), Justin Bye (So., 1B), Christian Greene (Jr., INF)
Barnegat has stayed in the B South mix since the graduation of Red Sox prospect Jay Groome in 2016, but other programs have had the upper hand in overall roster talent. This year, the Bengals could potentially close the gap, particularly compared to Jackson Liberty and its new-look roster. Senior and Wagner commit Lukas Torres returns as Barnegat’s best player and will lead both the lineup and help out in the pitching staff. Nick Danbrowney is also emerging as a two-way threat and promising arms Matt Vernieri, Collin Zarenkiewicz and Luke Bush add to the pitching depth.
Seniors Matt Scott, Sean Lucas, Steven Maier and Kyle Moore also return with plenty of varsity experience at the plate, while fellow senior Trevor Fox got a taste as well. Most of Barnegat’s wave of new sophomores and juniors will eventually help out on the position-player side as well, with sophomore Justin Snowden slated to take over at shortstop when baseball comes back. Those young additions could certainly use the 2020 reps while the solid group of seniors is hoping for one last chance to prove they can get over the hump in B South.
Head Coach: Justin Loomis, second season
2019 Record: 10-11 (8-6, tied third in B South)
Returners: Patrick Apgar (Sr., P/1B), Bryce O’Rourke (Sr., INF/RHP), Rian O’Rourke (So., INF/RHP), Michael Schaffer (Jr., P/INF)
Key Losses: Joey Ventresca (SS/RHP), Noah Dean (LHP/OF), Anthony Diaz (3B/C), Pete Hammond (RHP/1B), Billy Crawford (2B), Jake Sorbara (OF), Bobby LeFevre (OF)
Key Newcomers: Matt Cox (Sr., INF/P), Cade Farmer (Sr., OF/P), Jack Lawrie (Jr., OF), Jon Levy (Jr., OF), Robert Plant (Jr., OF), Alex Ulrich (Jr., C), Anthony Weedo (Jr., 1B), Casey Baglivo (So., C/INF/RHP), Cassey Bunting (Sr., C/1B), Chris Mitchell (So., P/1B/OF), Brendan Sweeney (Jr., 2B)
With graduation of two of the more talented pitchers and players in the Shore – Joey Ventresca and Noah Dean – Pinelands lost a big piece of its identity from the past four seasons. Those two were not, however, the whole team and this year could serve as a chance to show the Wildcats have emerged as a program that is built to turn over competitive teams year-in and year-out. Right-hander and New Orleans University commit Patrick Apgar is the example of that, having emerged as a third weapon on the mound behind the two aces.
While Ventresca and Dean are pitchers first, Pinelands may miss their offense even more, especially considering Anthony Diaz and Pete Hammond also graduated as top hitters. Apgar brings a good bat to the lineup and sophomore Rian O’Rourke is coming off an impressive showing as a freshman infielder. Bryce O’Rourke returns to play shortstop as well and will look to increase his output, while a wave of new faces complements that trio in the order. There are some questions, but the presence of Apgar and the O’Rourkes plus an improving feeder system has Pinelands in position to compete if there is a season.
Head Coach: Adam Taha, second season
2019 Record: 12-12 (7-7, fifth in B South)
Returners: Nick Zarycki (Jr., RHP/OF), Jacob Bowles (Jr., RHP/1B/3B), Matt Kaliske (Jr., 1B), Brandon DeAngelo (Jr., C/OF), John Fracasso (Jr., INF/RHP), Donnie Kirk (Jr., OF)
Key Losses: Jorden Jurkiewicz (C), Miles Feaster (SS), Jimmy Roselli (OF), Sam Sramaty (RHP), Colin Trembly (OF/P), Garrett Reilly (1B/3B), Quint Kearns (OF)
Key Newcomers: Michael Todaro (So., INF/P), Matt McClung (So., INF/OF), Nino Saccomanno (Jr., OF), Noah Quinn (Fr., P/OF)
Although Lacey lost its two best offensive players from last year in Jorden Jurkiewicz and Miles Feaster, they Lions are in a position to not miss a beat whenever the baseball picks up again. They are very light on seniors, so while a lost 2020 season could stymie their growth somewhat, the sophomores and juniors on hand aren’t going anywhere soon. It starts in the rotation, with juniors Nick Zarycki and Jacob Bowle back off successful sophomore campaigns.
Donnie Kirk was a solid all-around player in the outfield as a sophomore and Brandon DeAngelo is a talented catcher ready to play behind the plate with Jurkiewicz gone. Matt Kaliske also returns as a starter at first base and John Fracasso is back after playing second a year ago. With so much youth in the mix, not all is lost in a scenario in which the current season is canceled, but like any team, the Lions would benefit from getting their core the reps to set them up for a potential big showing in 2021.
Head Coach: Dave Beauchemin, fifth season
2019 Record: 9-14 (4-10, seventh in B South)
Returners: James Johns (Sr., CF/LHP), Evan Scala (Sr., RF), Nick Chippisi (Sr., 3B/RHP), Chris Grille (Jr., UTIL), Blake Warren (Jr., INF), Jarek Vargas (Jr., 1B/LHP)
Key Losses: Jack Felipe (C), Mike Conger (UTIL), Markel Hourigan (1B), Dom Racioppi (OF), Ryan Costello (Jr., LF/RHP), Jacob Tafrow (Jr., INF)
Key Newcomers: Dylan Kyle (Sr., OF), Logan Duffy (So., OF/RHP), Nick Johnson (So., C), Colin Fazio (So., C), Michael Damato (So., 3B)
Although Manchester finished seventh in B South last year, the Hawks were a competitive outfit that was only a few bounces here and there away from getting to the .500 mark. There is also some talent on hand that should put the rest of the division on notice if there is some version of a season. James Johns is an all-division outfielder and a top option on the mound, which he has been for Manchester ever since his freshman year. Senior Nick Chiappisi returns as another solid option on the mound and can also swing the bat as a third baseman, while juniors Chris Grille and Jarek Vargas fortify the rotation.
One player who would especially like to get out on the field in 2020 is senior outfield Evan Scala, who produced a huge offensive season as a sophomore (.418/.536/.691, 11 extra-base hits) but didn’t have as much success during his junior campaign (.258, three doubles, 11 RBI). A rebound year for Scala would set Manchester up to have a hard lineup for the rest of the division to deal with and a team that could make a significant jump if there is a 2020 season.
Head Coach: Corey Hamman, second season
2019 Record: 10-16 (6-8, sixth in B South)
Returners: Sam Gates (Jr., OF), Liam Leonard (Sr., OF), Christian McElroy (Sr., UTIL), Bob Nosti (Jr., 2B/RHP), Matt Colucci (Jr., RHP), Mike Faranaccio (Sr., SS), Anthony Mursko (So., 3B/OF), Tyler Hmielewski (Jr., INF), Joe Payne (Jr., C), Andrew Castro (Jr., P), Damian Johnson (Sr., OF), Pat Dowling (Sr., P)
Key Losses: Matt Morro (OF), Lawrence Zingi (SS/RHP), Andrew Connallon (P), Brandon Dupont (C)
Key Newcomers: Jack Renaud (Fr., RHP/1B)
In season one under Corey Hamman – a former Minor League pitcher – Donovan Catholic had a deep, improved pitching staff that will bring back some important pieces if there is a 2020 season. Juniors Matt Colucci, Bob Nosti and Andrew Castro are back, with Colucci and Nosti occupying two rotation spots along with graduated right-hander and all-division selection Lawrence Zingi. Freshman right-hander Jack Renaud will also be a pitcher to watch going forward.
Liam Leonard was one of Donovan Catholic’s top hitters as a junior and hopes to get a chance to anchor the lineup in 2020. Fellow seniors Christian McElroy and Mike Faranaccio are also returning starters looking for one last chance to keep Donovan Catholic on the upward trajectory. Junior Sam Gates is a standout athlete in centerfield who hopes to be the spark at the top of the order, while Tyler Hmielewski, Anthony Mursko and Joe Payne also have multiple years left to make their mark.
Head Coach: Gene Drumright, 16th season
2019 Record: 1-16 (0-14, eighth in B South)
Returners: Marcos Ramos (Jr., INF/RHP), Jonathan Santiago (Sr., INF)
Key Losses: Justin Vega (INF/RHP), Juadae Rosario (OF/INF), Julian Guzman (OF/P), Eric Rice (INF), Jonathan Santiago (OF/INF), Miguel Torres (C/RHP), Cristian Conde (INF), Pierce Tye (INF), Fernando Luna (OF/P), Alexander Lopez (INF), Felipe Luna (Sr., OF/P)
Key Newcomers: Jalen London (So., C)
With only two returning starters and coming off a 1-16 season, Lakewood’s prospects for 2020 were not promising to begin with but coach Gene Drumright is optimistic this would be a group that improves and could possibly get back into a competitive position in 2021.
Senior Jonathan Santiago is the only senior in the group and batted over .300 last season to help highlight Lakewood’s season. Marcos Ramos is the top junior after starting on the infield and providing some big innings as well, while Jalen London joins the picture as a promising young catcher. Those two returners would lead Lakewood through the season and could set them up for better days ahead in 2021.
Ryan Jasaitis, Sr., C, Point Boro (.358/.392/.400, 4 2B, 2 R, 17 RBI)
Brandon Kinsman, Sr., UTIL, Jackson Liberty (.291/.410/468, 5 2B, 3 HR, 23 R, 21 RBI)
Nick Zbikowski, Sr., 2B/SS, Point Boro (.274/.398/.321, 4 2B, 23 R, 12 RBI, 6 SB)
Shane Hickey, Sr., SS/RHP, Jackson Liberty (.353/.471/.506, 10 2B, 1 HR, 20 R, 22 RBI)
Rian O’Rourke, So., 3B, Pinelands (.366/.410/.451, 6 2B, 15 R, 7 RBI, 7 SB)
Sam Young, Sr., OF/RHP, Point Boro (.329/.439/.519, 3 2B, 4 HR, 18 R, 21 RBI)
Lukas Torres, Sr., CF/LHP, Barnegat (.329/.432/.452, 5 2B, 2 3B, 23 R, 4 RBI, 9 SB)
James Johns, Sr., CF/LHP, Manchester (.338/.420/.451, 5 2B, 1 HR, 20 R, 7 RBI, 7 SB)
Liam Leonard, Sr., OF, Donovan Catholic (.286/.346/.443, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 15 R, 15 RBI)
Nick Guzzi, Sr., RHP, Point Boro (9-1, 62.2 IP, 33 H, 16 BB, 84 K, 1.23 ERA, 0.78 WHIP)
Patrick Apgar, Sr., RHP, Pinelands (1-3, 30.2 IP, 21 H, 13 BB, 43 K, 2.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)
Nick Zarycki, Jr., RHP, Lacey (2-4, 46 IP, 52 H, 12 BB, 29 K, 3.35 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
Jacob Bowles, Jr., RHP, Lacey (3-3, 29 IP, 32 H, 14 BB, 20 K, 1.69 ERA, 1.59 ERA)
Dan Keenan, Jr., OF/RHP, Jackson Liberty (3-0, 20 IP, 19 H, 14 BB, 30 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.65 WHIP)
Nick Chiappisi, Sr., RHP, Manchester (3-3, 31.1 IP, 28 H, 23 BB, 23 K, 2.90 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)