Baseball – 2022 NJSIAA Tournament Preview: Non-Public A and B
The Shore Conference has had a solid state tournament track record in recent years, with overall NJSIAA Group championships in Groups III and IV in the past three years and back-to-back Group II championship appearances in 2018 and 2019 as well.
The Non-Public groups, however, haven't been quite as kind to the Shore representatives in the field. Since St. John Vianney and Christian Brothers Academy brought the Non-Public A championship back to the Shore in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015, the Shore has yet to get back to a Non-Public final and has only just two representatives even reach the sectional final round since the end of 2015.
The last sectional finalist was just last year, when Red Bank Catholic was one out away from beating four-time champion St. Augustine in the South Non-Public A final until an error opened the door for an improbable game-tying rally and extra-inning win by the Hermits. Prior to that, St. Rose made it to the South Non-Public B final in 2017 and fell to Gloucester Catholic.
This season, the Shore has no shortage of contenders to make it to Veterans Park in Hamilton on June 15 for the group championship round. Ranney is the No. 1 seed in its section for the first time ever behind a 21-win regular season, while Red Bank Catholic is coming off a Shore Conference Tournament championship as the Shore's highest seed in Non-Public A. St. John Vianney, CBA and Donovan Catholic are al capable teams in Non-Public A as well, but the road to a championship will go again go through St. Augustine -- the No. 1 team in N.J.
The sentimental favorite for the Shore will be in North Jersey, where Mater Dei Prep will make its final NJSIAA Tournament appearance ever as the school prepares to shut its doors for good at the end of June. The last time Mater Dei was facing permanent closure back in 2015, the Seraphs baseball team gave the school a lift by beating St. Rose in a thriller to win the Class B Central division championship.
Do the Seraphs have one last bit of magic before the curtain closes on the school? Can Red Bank Catholic redeem itself after coming so close last year? Is it Ranney's time in Non-Public B? Let's take closer look at the brackets and seek some preliminary answers before we get some actual ones starting on Tuesday.
South Jersey Non-Public A
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, No. 4 St. John Vianney, No. 6 CBA, No. 10 Donovan Catholic
Top Seed: St. Augustine
Defending Champion: St. Augustine
Favorite: St. Augustine
Darkhorse: No. 8 Notre Dame. There are limited options for sleeper teams in a bracket that only has 12 teams, including a few that look like they would be lucky to get out of the first round. With that being said, it’s a bracket that probably goes about eight deep in teams that have a puncher’s chance to make a run at a title. In the case of Notre Dame, the Irish opened the season with 14 straight wins and scored 10 runs or more in 11 of them. The offense has cooled off considerably since then as the competition has ramped up, but they have shown they have it in them. CBA and Donovan Catholic could be better bets since they are on the side of the bracket opposite top-seeded St. Augustine, but No. 2 St. Joseph of Metuchen is not much easier of a matchup.
Bracket Breakdown: Two of the top 10 teams in the state top this section, with No. 2 St. Augustine looking to win a sixth straight sectional championship and No. 4 St. Joe’s leading the field of teams looking to end that streak. Both teams boast deep pitching staffs and St. Joe’s has the best of the bunch in left-hander and Viriginia commit Donovan Zsak. Three of the four Shore teams are likely to have St. Joe’s standing in their way, with Donovan Catholic likely to see Zsak if the Griffins can first get by Union Catholic. CBA and Red Bank Catholic are likely to clash in the sectional quarterfinals and each teams will have to expend some pitching to get by the other, which will make beating the Falcons tough. RBC junior ace Alex Stanyek also tweaked his oblique on the mound in the Shore Conference final, so his availability and effectiveness will be worth watching on Friday. On the other side, St. John Vianney has shown it can compete with the top teams in the state in recent years, nearly knocking off Bishop Eustace in last year’s sectional quarterfinal.
Championship Prediction: St. Joseph over St. Augustine. The Falcons have the pitching depth and the top starter to make major noise this June. They just lost to North Brunswick and Rutgers commit Zach Konstantanides in the Greater Middlesex Conference final, so they have seen some quality on the mound and should be fired up to bounce back.
South Jersey Non-Public B
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 1 Ranney, No. 6 St. Rose
Top Seed: Ranney
Defending Champion: No. 5 Holy Spirit
Darkhorse: Holy Spirit. Non-Public B is a top-heavy field, with four teams boasting the kind of roster that can make a bid for a championship. Holy Spirit is probably the lowest-seeded team with a chance to reach the final, and while the 9-16 record might suggest otherwise, the schedule is stacked and should have the defending Non-Public B champion prepared to deal with what is ahead.
Bracket Breakdown: Ranney getting the No. 1 seed was a huge development since the sectional finals are now at the site of the higher seed. The Panthers will get to host any game they play and their toughest competition will have a long bus ride ahead of them before having to deal with Ranney’s deep pitching staff. Gloucester Catholic beat the Panthers in the sectional semifinals a year ago and both teams have a good deal of talent back, while Bishop Eustace remains a threat despite losing a lot from last year’s loaded squad that competed in Non-Public A. St. Rose has improved over the course of the season with some sophomores and juniors on the roster and has a good No. 1 starter in senior Ryan Rogers to throw against Bishop Eustace in the sectional quarterfinal. It’s a tough road, but the Purple Roses have been challenged throughout the year.
Championship Prediction: Ranney over Gloucester Catholic. The Panthers were close last year and have a deeper, more polished pitching staff this time around, with A.J. Gracia now in the fold after not pitching at all a season ago. The Panthers will need the depth of the lineup to perform and, for the most part, that has not been a problem during Ranney’s 20-win campaign.
North Jersey Non-Public B
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 11 Mater Dei Prep
Top Seed: Rutgers Prep
Defending Champion: No. 4 Morristown-Beard
Favorite: No. 2 St. Mary Rutherford
Darkhorse: No. 5 Immaculata. The Spartans enter the tournament a game under .500, but have played a tough schedule and have some noteworthy wins, including one on the road over Red Bank Catholic.
Bracket Breakdown: There is no hands-down favorite to win the North Non-Public B section, with the top five seeds all appearing to be in the running. St. Mary’s welcomed five new starters in late April who all played at Hudson Catholic last year and that has added depth to a team that won its first 10 games of the season without the newcomers. Mater Dei is the Shore’s lone representative and with the school closing its doors for good at the end of the month, the Seraphs are hoping for a surprise run through the bracket in their final tournament appearance ever. Gavin Sansone and Sean Hanna have had solid years on the mound and will give Mater Dei a legitimate shot for at least one win. The Seraphs head to No. 6 Gill St. Bernard in Tuesday’s opening round.
Championship Prediction: St. Mary Rutherford over Rutgers Prep. With home-field advantage and a pair of talented underclassmen – freshman Zach Fronio and sophomore Max Treonze – at the top of its pitching staff, Rutgers Prep is still a big obstacle for any team trying to get through the north-end of Non-Public B. St. Mary’s seems to be hitting its stride, with a win over St. Joseph of Montvale heading into the tournament.