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One of two Shore Conference baseball divisions to end with co-champions at the top of the standings, the two defending champions are back for 2022 and primed to lead the pack against this season. Colts Neck at Wall split their 2021 series, each dropped just one other game in the division and finished tied for the division lead, but Colts Neck separated itself with a run to the program’s first ever NJSIAA sectional championship.

Now, the last two Central Jersey Group III champions are poised for another race for first place and subsequent postseason push, which will start right out of the gate when Wall and Colts meet on opening day in Wall and again at Colts Neck on Monday. With other capable teams in the field this season and some emerging stars on the mound at almost every turn, the race won’t end after two games, but it’s a pressure-packed way to open the 2022 season in Class B North.

In predicted order of finish

1. Colts Neck

When senior Dave Cohen unloaded on the game-ending, would-be-grand-slam that wound up a game-winning RBI single in the 2021 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III final, it marked what the Cougars sincerely hoped to be not only the culmination of a long-awaited championship run, but just the beginning of the next championship push. The short-term pursuit ended in the next round with a loss to Ocean City in the Group III semifinal, but the long-term push continues this season with much of the Cougars’ roster back for another run at a championship.

When last season ended, Colts Neck anticipated bringing back four standout pitchers to carry the Cougars through the season, but do to varying circumstances, only two of them will be in this year’s pitching staff – at least at the outset. Shortstop and closer Collin Kratzer moved to South Carolina to attend the P27 Academy and returning senior Christian Rice will not be able to get on a mound until sometime in May due to injury, according to coach Mike Yorke.

Despite missing two Division I arms, the Cougars will still have the two pitchers who carried them through most of the 2021 season and logged a bulk of the postseason innings. Senior left-hander Anthony Gubitosi and junior right-hander Tyler Spencer were both All-Shore selections a year ago and both came up big throughout the season, particularly during Colts Neck’s push for a first ever sectional championship. Yorke will look to senior Gianluca Varile, sophomore Tom Diffley, junior Vinny Zaffarese and others to file in behind the two aces with the hope of getting Rice back on the mound in some capacity for the stretch run.

Colts Neck sophomore Tyler Spencer. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Colts Neck sophomore Tyler Spencer. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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Colts Neck will also miss Kratzer at shortstop and in the lineup, but the Cougars will have Rice’s services at the plate early in the season – a relief considering the senior checked in with nine doubles as a junior. Spencer is also a two-way standout who has shown his versatility, starting last season in centerfield, then moving to third base and now primed to play some shortstop with the spot open. Cohen is back at first base and the rest of the infield will be in development, with Rice a possibility for second base along with Nick Carell, Ryan Tan and Chris Scully.

Colts Neck’s top two returning hitters are catcher Joe Cilea and senior outfielder Brad Salamone, both of whom were statistical standouts and All-Shore players in 2021. Cilea led all Shore Conference backstops with 29 RBI and Salamone finished tied for the conference lead in runs scored. Sophomores Tosh Mancini and Casey Gardiner look ready for starting spots in the outfield, with senior Andrew McDevitt also looking to pick up key at-bats this season.

It won’t necessarily be the most ideal version of the roster that Yorke could have dreamed about at the end of last season, but Colts Neck still has two No. 1 caliber pitchers to lead the rotation, five proven bats in Cilea, Salamone, Cohen, Spencer and Rice and a core that has already experienced winning a championship. That’s a winning combination, regardless of what title the Cougars are chasing.

Colts Neck junior Anthony Gubitosi. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Colts Neck junior Anthony Gubitosi. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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Colts Neck at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Yorke, 22nd season
2021 Record: 22-8 (12-2, tied first in Class B North)
Key Losses: Cameron Knipp (CF), Ben Goldman (2B), Nick Villani (2B/3B), Brendan Whalen (RHP), Matt Jacobson (OF), Colin Kratzer (Sr., SS/RHP) – Transferred to P27 Academy (S.C.)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Joe Cilea, Sr. (.351/.505/.486, 4 2B, 3 3B, 3 R, 29 RBI)

First Base: Dave Cohen, Sr. (.345/.442/.440, 8 2B, 16 R, 13 RBI, 6 SB); Christian Rice, Sr.; Tom Diffley, So.

Second Base: Nick Carell, Sr.; Christian Rice, Sr.; Ryan Tan, Jr.; Chris Scully, So.

Shortstop: Nick Carell, Sr.; Tyler Spencer, Jr.

Third Base: Tyler Spencer, Jr. (.244/.337/.302, 3 2B, 1 3B, 16 R, 20 RBI, 6 SB); Chris Scully, So.

Leftfield: Brad Salamone, Sr. (.369/.495/.560, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 32 R, 19 RBI, 11 SB)

Centerfield: Tosh Mancini, So.; Andrew McDevitt, Sr.; Jon O’Connor, Jr.

Rightfield: Casey Gardiner, So.; Andrew McDevitt, Sr.

DH: Christian Rice, Sr. (.330/.375/.432, 9 2B, 16 R, 13 RBI, 13 SB);

 

Pitchers

Anthony Gubitosi, Sr., LHP (6-2, 2.87 ERA, 46.1 IP, 37 H, 34 BB, 73 K)

Tyler Spencer, Jr., RHP (6-1, 1.61 ERA, 56.1 IP, 54 H, 10 BB, 50 K)

Tom Diffley, So., LHP

Gianluca Varile, Sr., RHP

Vinny Zaffarese, Jr., RHP

Dave Cohen, Sr., LHP

Chris Scully, So., RHP

Tosh Manchini, So., RHP

Christian Rice, Sr., RHP (3-3, 2.75 ERA, 28 IP, 25 H, 17 BB, 24 K)

 

College Commitments

Anthony Gubitosi – University of Delaware

Christian Rice – Wofford University

Brad Salamone – Embry-Riddle University

Joe Cilea – Sacred Heart University

 

2. Wall

During its run to the 2019 Group III championship and in the years leading up to that championship celebration, Wall had one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the state and a balanced offense that could beat opponents in several different fashions. Last year, the Crimson Knights won 19 games and a Class B North co-title by bludgeoning teams with a relentless lineup. While the 2019 team ran up a mix of contact hitters and speed guys to go with a few gap hitters, this Wall outfit produced mashers at just about every spot in the order.

This year’s team will look similar, with four hitters back and several more who had a small helping of success ready to do it on a more full-time basis. To illustrate how good Wall’s lineup was, senior rightfielder Jerry Winchester was the team’s No. 9 hitter throughout most of the season and all he did was hit .362 with seven doubles, 16 RBI and a .421 slugging percentage. It’s safe to say Winchester has played his way out of the No. 9 spot for this, his senior season, but the Crimson Knights are likely to find someone else to plug into the bottom of the order an wreak havoc, because that’s just what they do.

As far as the top of the lineup goes, that is even more of an advantage for Wall. Seniors Andrew Fischer and Nick Lovarco are coming off monster junior seasons at the plate, with Lovarco returning to centerfield and Fischer taking over third base full time after the graduation of three-year starter and Monmouth University freshman Jay Bant. Fischer was one of the Shore’s best hitters as a junior, leading the conference with 32 walks while finishing second in on-base percentage (.600).

The rest of the infield consists of Seton Hall commit Gabe Cavazzoni at shortstop and new starters Matt Johnson at first base and Nick Colbert at second. Cavazzoni was, arguably, the best offensive shortstop in the Shore Conference as a sophomore and could be due for a huge two-year stretch. While Johnson and Colbert don’t have extensive offensive track records as varsity players, the early returns have been promising for each.

Senior Jackson Coan joins Lovarco and Winchester in the starter outfield after a loud five at-bats in 2021 (a homer, double and 21 runs scored as a specialty base-runner). Coan, Johnson and Colbert both primed for big first years and sophomore Jake Howlett is next in line to play catcher for the Crimson Knights, who have done a good job bringing backstops along under coach Jim Rochford, who was a longtime assistant prior to taking over the program after the 2019 season.

Wall’s lineup will win plenty of games, but for the Crimson Knights to have a better showing in the postseason this time around, they will need more out of the starting staff. Johnson will lead that group as the No. 1 starter, with senior Jake Burt returning 18 innings of 2021 experience and talented junior Zach Szatkowski looking to parlay an impressive start at the end of the season into a season-long breakout in 2022. With some success from those three, as well as sophomore T.J. Legere, Derek Baksh and the other rotation pieces, Wall will be a Shore Conference Tournament and Group III contender thanks to that imposing lineup.

Wall junior Andrew Fischer. (Photo by Steve Meyer)
Wall senior Andrew Fischer. (Photo by Steve Meyer)
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Wall at a Glance

Head Coach: Jim Rochford, second season
2021 Record: 19-7 (12-2, tied first in Class B North)
Key Losses: Jay Bant (3B), Max Harrell (C), Max Kaplan (OF), Christian Cosenza (2B), Ryan Legere (1B), Jimmy Bertrand (LHP), Ryan Lasko (RHP), Bobby Leete (RHP)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Jake Howlett, So.

First Base: Matt Johnson, Jr. (1-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI); Jake Layton, Sr.

Second Base: Nick Colbert, Sr. (4-for-12, 1 3B, 3 R, 4 RBI)

Shortstop: Gabe Cavazzoni, Jr. (.403/.500/.597, 8 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 27 R, 28 RBI, 8 SB)

Third Base: Andrew Fischer, Sr. (.409/.600/.788, 7 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 26 R, 21 RBI, 3 SB)

Leftfield: Jackson Coan, Sr. (2-for-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 21 R, 2 RBI, 6 SB)

Centerfield: Nick Lovarco, Sr. (.397/.500/.658, 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 26 R, 26 RBI, 7 SB)

Rightfield: Jerry Winchester, Sr. (.362/.421/.464, 7 2B, 18 R, 16 RBI)

DH: Ryan O’Neill, Sr.

Other Hitters

Andrew Teutenberg (Jr., C)

Drew Jarkowski (Jr., 3B)

Colin MacDermant (Jr., OF)

 

Pitchers

Matt Johnson, Jr., RHP (3-4, 4.03 ERA, 33 IP, 35 H, 14 BB, 30 K)

Zach Szatkowski, Jr., RHP (1-0, 1.40 IP, 5 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 2 K)

Jake Burt, Sr., RHP (2-1, 5.83 ERA, 18 IP, 33 H, 13 BB, 21 K)

T.J. Legere, So., RHP

Jake Layton, Sr., LHP

Derek Baksh, Sr., RHP

John Brown, So., RHP

Sean Killea, So., RHP

Mike Horowitz, So., RHP

 

College Commitments

Andrew Fischer – Duke University

Gabe Cavazzoni – Seton Hall University

Jerry Winchester – York College

Jake Burt – University of Hartford

Ryan O’Neill – Felician University

Derek Baksh – Kings College

 

3. St. John Vianney

With Colts Neck and Wall bringing back so many major players from division co-championship teams that won a combined 41 games, it would be easy to overlook St. John Vianney as a contender for the division title. That would be a mistake; the Lancers are also reloaded after an eye-raising performance in the NJSIAA Tournament that included a dramatic first-round win over CBA and a near-upset over Bishop Eustace when the Crusaders were ranked No. 1 in the state.

The Lancers will miss 2021 ace Ryan Sekman and rotation mates Thomas Wright and Robert Smith, as well as collection of capable bats in the starting lineup, but St. John Vianney will have six starters back in the batting order to go with a young flamethrower who is ready to move to the top of the rotation after making his varsity debut in 2021.

That young ace is junior right-hander Aiden Cody, who came on strong at the end of his sophomore season and will now be called upon to lead a pitching staff that will have to overcome some inexperience. Senior left-hander Nick Ferraioli also returns with some innings under his belt, with senior utility man Dan Afflitto, junior southpaw Andrew Zottar and sophomore CBA transfer David Hamlin all likely to contribute the bulk of the innings.

The pitching rotation will be a work in progress early in the season, but the lineup and the defense should hit the ground runner. Afflitto and senior Brady Oswick are a well-rounded double-play tandem that gets the job done on both sides of the ball and third baseman Matteo Pasculli is a masher at third base who is poised for a bounceback season after hitting under .300 despite making quality contact throughout the year. The Lancers also have a standout at catcher with Marist commit Kyle Pollack, who posted an on-base percentage over .500 and a slugging percentage better than .600.

Ferraioli will be back in the outfield when he is not pitching, this year making the move from centerfield to left. That move comes with senior Dylan Galamb – the late-inning hero in the state-tournament win at CBA – taking over in center and senior Danny Flynn joining the outfield mix. Senior A.J. Kurtz also figures to contribute at the plate and on the mound.

Last year, it was St. John Vianney that entered the season with the expectations as the division favorite and this season, that burden will now belong to Colts Neck. The Lancers, who beat Colts Neck last season, can go about their business and look to knock off the top two teams, starting with two-game set vs. Colts Neck that begins on April 6.

St. John Vianney junior Dylan Galamb. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
St. John Vianney senior Dylan Galamb. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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St. John Vianney at a Glance

Head Coach: Mike Morgan, 15th season
2021 Record: 12-7 (9-4, third in Class B North)
Key Losses: Ryan Sekman (LHP/OF/1B), Jacob Ramirez (C), John Furch (1B), Dominic McCaffrey (OF/RHP), Thomas Wright (RHP), Robert Smith (RHP), Evan Pollack (RHP)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Kyle Pollack, Sr. (.333/.529/.611, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 R, 12 RBI)

First Base: Andrew Zottar, Jr.; Dan Afflito, Sr.

Second Base: Dan Afflitto, Sr. (.412/.455/.510, 5 2B, 12 R, 7 RBI, 4 SB); Kevin DiPede, So.; Mike Pape, Jr.

Shortstop: Brady Oswick, Sr. (.386/.410/.491, 4 2B, 1 3B, 12 R, 11 RBI, 5 SB)

Third Base: Matteo Pasculli, Sr. (.275/.439/.490, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 R, 9 RBI, 3 SB)

Leftfield: Nick Ferraioli, Sr.

Centerfield: Dylan Galamb, Sr. (.310/.375/.379, 1 2B, 1 HR, 7 R, 10 RBI, 8 SB)

Rightfield: Danny Flynn, Sr.

DH: A.J. Kurtz (Sr., 1B); Devin Chandra (Sr., INF/OF)

Other Hitters

Zach Berger (Sr., INF/OF)

Nick Martin (Sr., INF)

Luke Centanni (Jr., OF)

John Corncchio (Jr., C/INF)

Matt Recco (Jr., OF)

Chris Santoro (Jr., INF)

David Hamlin (So., INF)

Owen Murtha (So., INF)

Pitchers

Aiden Cody, Jr., RHP (4-2, 2.96 ERA, 23.2 IP, 27 H, 13 BB, 22 K)

Nick Ferraioli, Sr., LHP

Dan Afflitto, Sr., RHP

Andrew Zottar, Jr., LHP

David Hamlin, So., RHP

Andrew Kurtz, Sr., LHP

Matt Recco, Jr., RHP

Chris Santoro, Jr., RHP

Owen Murtha, So., RHP

 

College Commitments

Kyle Pollack – Marist College

Dan Afflitto – Felician University

 

4. Manasquan

While there was a pretty sizable drop-off between St. John Vianney and the next team in the Class B North standings, a few of the teams in the four-through-eight spots in the standings had a pitcher who could turn the standings upside-down on a given day. Neptune ace Brian Young – now at Rider – definitely fit that bill last year and by the time May rolled around, Manasquan appeared to have a pitcher like that on its hands.

As a freshman, Cullen Condon got off to late start on the mound and his first two starts did not exactly go as planned. After taking his lumps in those first two games, however, Condon appeared to find himself, giving up 2 earned runs over 16 1/3 innings in three appearances the rest of the way, including a 16-strikeout one-hitter against Matawan. Along with Condon, senior James Cosgrove brings a quality repertoire to the No. 2 spot in the rotation, with junior Jack O’Shea in the mix to pitch early in the rotation along with Luca Marshall and Nicolas Galvan.

Manasquan’s offense was not consistent throughout the season, but showed up in spots, not the least of which was a 7-6 win over Colts Neck to effectively spoil Colts Neck’s pursuit of an outright division title. Centerfielder Brett Patten is the top returning bat to the lineup after he put up an on-base percentage well-north of .500, but he was the only player among the returning group to hit better than .250. Senior Mike Antonucci was the .250 hitter and brings some more speed to the outfield, as well as the lineup en masse. Football standouts Pat Woodword and Cole Kozlowski are also in the mix as outfielders, with Woodward the front-runner to join the other two football players – Patten and Antonucci – in the outfield.

O’Shea will also play some first base when he is not on the mound, while Manasquan returns starters at two more infield spots: Ryan Deegan at second base and Mike Presbrey at third. Both will need to progress as hitters, but when Condon is at shortstop, Manasquan will have a formidable infield, which includes Josh Terry and Jack Dawson in a battle for the bulk of the time at catcher.

Manasquan already showed it could pull off the proverbial upset within the division last year, and with a quality pitching staff and a focused, young roster, the Warriors will have a chance to spoil the season for one of the top teams in B North, while perhaps even volunteering themselves as a championship contender.

Manasquan at a Glance

Head Coach: Brenan Gordon, fourth season
2021 Record: 6-15 (5-8, fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: David Frost (3B), Trevor Wells (C), Sean McWalters (1B/LHP), Zac LaVigna (Sr., LHP) – Transferred to St. Rose

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Josh Terry, Sr.; Jack Dawson, Jr.

First Base: Jack O’Shea, Jr. (.237/.352/.271, 2 2B, 7 R, 7 RBI); Nicolas Galvan, Sr.; James Cosgrove, Sr.; Cole Kozlowski, Sr. (1-for-10, 7 R, 12 SB)

Second Base: Ryan Deegan, Sr. (.183/.317/.367, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, 6 SB)

Shortstop: Cullen Condon, Jr. (.203/.342/.322, 3 2B, 2 3B, 4 R, 16 RBI); Ryan Deegan, Sr.; Brett Patten, Jr.

Third Base: Mike Presbrey, Sr. (.234/.321/.234, 6 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB)

Leftfield: Mike Antonucci, Sr. (.250/.408/.333, 3 2B, 1 3B, 14 R, 10 RBI, 11 SB)

Centerfield: Brett Patten, Jr. (.298/.528/.426, 2 2B, 2 3B, 16 R, 6 RBI, 16 SB)

Rightfield: Pat Woodford, Sr. (.098/.164/.137, 2 2B, 8 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB); James Cosgrove, Sr.

DH: James Cosgrove, Sr. (3-for-13, 1 2B, 3 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB); Pat Woodford, Sr.; Nicolas Galvan, Sr.; Cole Kozlowski, Sr.

 

Pitchers

Cullen Condon, Jr., RHP (2-2, 4.82 ERA, 20.1 IP, 18 H, 13 BB, 28 K)

James Cosgrove, Sr., RHP (1-3, 3.95 ERA, 28.1 IP, 26 H, 16 BB, 24 K)

Luca Marshall, Sr., LHP (0-2, 8.00 ERA, 14 IP, 20 H, 17 BB, 19 K)

Jack O’Shea, Jr., LHP (1-1, 0.70 ERA, 10 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 11 K)

Nicolas Galvan, Sr., RHP

 

College Commitments

James Cosgrove – McDaniel College

Luca Marshall – Franklin & Marshall College

Mike Antonucci – Stockton University

Nicolas Galvan – Monmouth University

Pat Woodford – Salve Regina University (football)

Cole Kozlowski – Colgate University (football)

 

5. Neptune

Some very good Class B North players graduated at the end of the 2021 school year, but none that had the impact on his team that left-handed ace Brian Young had on Neptune last year. The Rider University freshman shut down the opposition just about every time out, was the team’s top hitter and also led the Scarlet Fliers with 20 stolen bases – a package that landed him a spot on the Shore Sports Network All-Shore second team.

Life without Brian will be challenging for Neptune, but the Fliers are fortunate to have bid farewell to just one other starter beyond Young, leaving coach Kevin Frederick with an experienced group that has already tasted a fair amount of success at the varsity level. Senior shortstop Ryan Cole leads the returning core after doing plenty of damage at the plate as a junior playing in the middle of the diamond and also pitching.

No other returning player on Neptune approached the level of success Cole had last season, but a lot of the young Scarlet Fliers players laid the groundwork for big jumps this season. Junior centerfielder Quincy Esannason jumps out as one of those players after a solid all-around showing as a sophomore and classmate Nick Quagliato is a capable catcher with some offensive ceiling as well. From the senior class, Dan Moran and Tyler Persico both had some good moments as juniors and bring a lot to the table as corner infielders. Kevin O’Neill, Joe Juliano, Jack Tinik and Brennan Moloughney are three more juniors to watch, with Juliano and Tinik both getting starter at-bats last season.

The offense, as a whole, should be better despite losing Young, but the pitching staff has a long way to go to collectively reach the level that Young reached on his own. Cole has a gifted arm and will try to work in the zone more this season – a theme that will have to stick with all the returning members of the rotation. Joe Juliano and William Foy can also provide a major boost by cutting back on the walks, while Moran, Moloughney and Esannason all are ahead of the game when it comes to throwing strikes – at least based on last year’s results.

Putting that pitching staff together will be the year-long challenge, but if and when it starts to take shape, there is a promising collection of talent at Neptune that could yield a big finish to the season and even greater potential in 2023.

Neptune at a Glance

Head Coach: Kevin Frederick, Neptune
2021 Record: 10-12 (7-7, tied fourth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Brian Young (LHP/1B/OF), Austin Celiberti (2B)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Nick Quagliato, Jr. (.258/.365/.323, 4 2B, 9 R, 8 RBI, 7 SB)

First Base: Tyler Persico, Sr. (.212/.263/.364, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, 6 SB); William Foy, Sr.; Brennan Moloughney, Jr.

Second Base: Kevin O’Neill, Jr. (5-for-21, 1 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 SB); Aedan Martin, So.; Hunter Morgan, Fr.

Shortstop: Ryan Cole, Sr. (.397/.481/.556, 7 2B, 1 HR, 14 R, 20 RBI, 10 SB); Dan Moran, Sr.

Third Base: Dan Moran, Sr. (.275/.359/.348, 3 2B, 1 3B, 8 R, 6 RBI, 7 SB); Kevin O’Neill, Jr.; Mike Bruno, Sr.

Leftfield: Jack Tinik, Jr. (.231/.333/.308, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB)

Centerfield: Quincy Esannason, Jr. (.254/.427/.381, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 14 R, 5 RBI, 7 SB)

Rightfield: Joe Juliano, Jr. (.216/.341/.297, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 4 RBI, 3 SB); Brennan Moloughney, Jr.; Kevin O’Neill, Jr.

DH: Tyler Persico (Sr., 1B); Brennan Moloughney (Jr., 1B/OF)

 

Pitchers

Ryan Cole, Sr., RHP (0-1, 8.29 ERA, 12.2 IP, 19 H, 11 BB, 17 K)

Joe Juliano, Jr., RHP (1-2, 6.79 ERA, 11.1 IP, 12 H, 15 BB, 15 K)

William Foy, Sr., LHP (1-1, 6.79 ERA, 11.1 IP, 10 H, 17 BB, 13 K)

Dan Moran, Sr., RHP (1-2, 3.58 ERA, 13.2 IP, 10 H, 7 BB, 7 K)

Brennan Moloughney, Jr., LHP (1-0, 4.50 ERA, 9.1 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 8 K)

Jack Tinik, Jr., RHP

Quincy Esannason, Jr., LHP (0-3, 8.92 ERA, 13.1 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 12 K)

Aedan Martin, So., RHP

Kevin O’Neill, Jr., RHP (0-1, 5.79 ERA, 19.1 IP, 23 H, 18 BB, 15 K)

 

6. Freehold Boro

There were not too many highlights in Freehold Boro’s 2-16 season in 2021, beyond just the appreciation of getting on the field for the Colonials’ many first-year varsity players. One such highlight was a performance by then-junior right-hander Nick Terefenko, who took the ball against Manasquan on May 18 and fired a no-hitter in a 4-0 Freehold Boro win over the Warriors. That win was bookended by two separate six-game losing streaks and this season, the Colonials are looking to bottle that game and drink it up more often in 2022.

It sure helps that Terefenko returns to help create more moments like his no-hitter a year ago. The senior will again lead the pitching staff and this season, he will also be the team’s shortstop when he is not asked to pitch. Terefenko is part of a solid core up the middle, with senior Mike Kleschinsky returning at catcher and sophomore Aiden Rivera making the move from second base, where he started as a freshman, to centerfield.

Senior Giovanni Sive and third baseman Aiden Denham are two promising players on either infield corner, and the outfield will include two more juniors – Connor Owen and returning part-time starter Anthony Vingelli. Sophomores Nick Montello, Danny Opramolia and Josh Medina will also have key roles to play, with Montello in line to start at second base, Medina as a fill-in at first when Sive pitchers and Opramolia at short when Terefenko is on the mound.

Speaking of the mound, Freehold’s improvement is likely to most hinge on how the rotations falls into place beyond Terefenko. Denham has improved since his sophomore year and will pitch early in the rotation and Sive is a reliable left-handed starter to lead into a sophomore group – including Rivera, Opramolia and Shane Conover – that will solidify the rotation’s depth.

The Colonials are not that far removed from success against top teams in the Shore Conference and have a veteran coach in Jon Block steering the ship. It is going to take some toil, but there is an opening to get into the top-half of the division this season and with an interesting group of sophomores on hand, that could be the start of something for Freehold Boro.

Freehold Boro at a Glance

Head Coach: Jon Block, 31st season
2021 Record: 2-16 (2-12, eighth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Dominic Grenata (3B/RHP), Mario Rivera (SS/RHP), Chris Casale (DH), Liam Wiley (OF/RHP), Spencer Hurley (OF), Mike Gasparo (OF)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Mike Kleschinsky, Sr.

First Base: Giovanni Sive, Sr.

Second Base: Nick Montello, So.

Shortstop: Nick Terefenko, Sr.; Danny Opramolia, So.

Third Base: Aiden Denham, Jr.

Leftfield: Connor Owen, Jr.

Centerfield: Aiden Rivera, So.

Rightfield: Anthony Vingelli, Jr.

DH: Josh Medina (So., 1B)

 

Pitchers

Nick Terefenko, Sr., RHP

Aiden Denham, Jr., RHP

Giovanni Sive, Sr., LHP

Aiden Rivera, So., RHP

Danny Opramolia, So., RHP

Anthony Vingelli, Sr., RHP

Shane Conover, So., RHP

Connor Owens, Jr., LHP

 

7. Matawan

No matter what happens the rest of the way, Matawan will be the youngest starting lineup on opening day compared to the rest of the B North division. It’s not the superlative that most programs strive for, but when the youth can play, there are worse situations for a team to be in. Over the last two season, the Huskies graduated a wave of talented players in the field, at the plate and on the mound, with a group of quality pitchers graduating after last season. The offense was not as complete as it would have been during the 2020 season and the Huskies will only be able to wonder about what that group could have done.

For now, however, it is time to move on to the future, which is now for Matawan. Coach Bobby Carnovsky is set to run out an opening-day lineup that will feature sophomores at all but two positions. Junior Joey Bodin will squat behind the plate as one of the returning starters – and at a critical position, no less – while Jake Brigandi serves as the lone senior in the lineup. Brigandi can play either first or third base as needed and will occupy an important spot in the order, as well as an important role in the dugout.

The leader of the sophomore class at the moment is Brandon Falco, who is ticketed to be Matawan’s No. 1 starter, as well as its shortstop on most days. Falco saw limited action at the plate, but he got time in the field and was rather impressive 21 innings on the mound as a freshman. While it remains to be seen how the rest of his classmates adjust to life at the varsity level, Falco showed last year he is ready to compete and should only be better this year.

Around the diamond, the sophomores will make and impact at all four infield spots and which three start will depend on whether Falco is pitcher and where Brigandi is playing. Sal Cassano and Chris Galasso are the middle-infield options, with Sean Hart slated for time at first base and Eric Friedman the alternative to Brigandi at third.

The outfield will be all sophomores who could also see time on the mound. On opening day, though, Mike DiPietro, Jack Sassa and Mark Kovach will start together in the outfield, with Sassa manning center. The other sophomore to watch is Andrew Gendi, who can play any position on the field, including catcher, and is likely to find his way into the lineup most days.

Gendi will be a prominent figure on the pitching staff, slotting in behind Falco in the rotation as either he No. 2 or 3 starter along with Brigandi to open the season. Kovach, Cassano, DiPietro, Friedman, Hart and Sassa will provide some depth as well and while a lot of those sophomores are sure to labor in their first chance at varsity playing time, Matawan could be in great shape with just one or two breakouts each on the staff and in the field. It might not get the Huskies any hardware in 2022, but with so much young talent, brighter days are not far off.

Matawan at a Glance

Head Coach: Bobby Carnovsky, ninth season
2021 Record: 8-15 (4-10, tied sixth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Tim Egan (LHP/1B), Mike Caldon (RHP/3B), Eli Gries-Smith (RHP/OF), Luke Elliot (OF), Dom Salot (OF), Tyler Bull (2B)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Joey Bodin, Jr. (.213/.284/.246, 2 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI)

First Base: Jake Brigandi, Sr.; Sean Hart, So.

Second Base: Sal Cassano, So.; Chris Galasso, So.

Shortstop: Brandon Falco, So. (1-for-11, 2 R, 1 RBI); Chris Galasso, So.

Third Base: Jake Brigandi, Sr. (.206/.311/.302, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 13 R, 12 RBI); Eric Friedman, So.

Leftfield: Mike DiPietro, So.

Centerfield: Jack Sassa, So.

Rightfield: Mark Kovach, So.

Other Hitters

Andrew Gendi (So., UTIL)

 

Pitchers

Brandon Falco, So., RHP (0-3, 3.94 ERA, 21.1 IP, 23 H, 13 BB, 27 K)

Andrew Gendi, So., RHP

Jake Brigandi, Sr., RHP (1-2, 6.00 ERA, 16.1 IP, 27 H, 5 BB, 9 K)

Mark Kovach, Sr., RHP

Sal Cassano, So., RHP

Mike DiPietro, So., RHP

Eric Friedman, So., RHP

Sean Hart, So., RHP

Jack Sassa, So., RHP

 

8. Red Bank

Red Bank is another team that would really liked to have had a crack at the 2020 season, when the Bucs would have had more pitching to go with a lineup that remained rather potent in 2021 despite the losing record. Andrew Glauber, Sean O’Mara, Gus Dal Pra and Nate Ruth all produced pretty big numbers at the plate and the silver lining for the Bucs is that two of those players are back in 2022.

Glauber and O’Mara were indeed Red Bank’s top all-around performers, but Dal Pra and Ruth are capable hitters who will play on either side of the infield – Ruth at first base and Dal Pra at third. Junior Jackson Hyman is another key cog back in the lineup and he held his own as a sophomore shortstop. With a full year to learn in 2022, Hyman will be an x-factor at the dish, with some newfound offensive production potentially providing a lift to Red Bank.

Red Bank has a number of first-year starters who saw varsity at-bats in 2021, namely Cole Armond (21 at-bats), second baseman Grayson Sandoz (15), infielder Jack Glassberg (6) and starting centerfielder James White (19). Jake Cohen, Alex Choback and Jack Grassi are three more projected starters in the outfield and at designated hitter. With positions up for grabs in camp, sophomores Tommy Ruth, Hoyt Smith, Tim Kelly and P.J. Whitehead will be in play for at-bats and innings as the season moves along.

On the mound is where the Bucs need the most help and there was not much the senior glass of 2021 could do to help. Red Bank gave up 185 runs on the season, with only Henry Hudson, Mater Dei Prep and Long Branch giving up more. Most of that group is back and the key to a turnaround will be cutting back on the walks after the top three projected starters – Armond, Nate Ruth and Hyman – issued 52 of them in 51 combined innings. Glassberg was the exception, walking only eight in 29 innings of work that mostly came in relief. Getting the pitching in order is priority No. 1 for coach Nick Tucker and with some progress on that front, the Bucs have enough offense remaining to make an improve and exceed this projection.

Red Bank at a Glance

Head Coach: Nick Tucker, eighth season
2021 Record: 8-15 (4-10, tied sixth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Andrew Glauber (2B/RHP), Sean O’Mara (CF), C.J. Paolino (C), Aidan Keale (OF), Matt Keegan (OF)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2021 starters in bold, with available stats)

Catcher: Hank Dal Pra, Jr.

First Base: Cole Armond, Sr. (4-for-21, 1 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI); Nate Ruth, Jr. (.278/.349/.407, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB)

Second Base: Grayson Sandoz, Jr. (3-for-15, 3 RBI); Tommy Ruth, So.

Shortstop: Jackson Hyman, Jr. (.234/.379/.298, 3 2B, 9 R, 6 RBI, 4 SB); Hoyt Smith, So.

Third Base: Gus Dal Pra, Sr. (.435/.487/.493, 4 2B, 14 R, 17 RBI, 6 SB); Jack Glassberg, Sr. (1-for-6, 2 RBI)

Leftfield: Jake Cohen, Sr.; Tim Kelly, So.; P.J. Whitehead, So.

Centerfield: James White, Jr. (4-for-19, 1 2B, 6 R, 3 RBI)

Rightfield: Alex Choback, So.; Will Brodeur, Sr.

DH: Jack Grassi (Sr., C)

Other Hitters

Jack Barber (Sr., OF)

Cian Curylo (Sr., OF)

Anthony DeVitto (Sr., OF)

Matt Dengler (Sr., OF)

Michael Grande (Sr., OF)

Harry McCabe (Sr., OF)

 

Pitchers

Cole Armond, Sr., RHP (1-2, 15.75 ERA, 6.2 IP, 10 H, 15 BB, 8 K)

Nate Ruth, Jr., LHP (1-3, 7.78 ERA, 18 IP, 29 H, 20 BB, 19 K)

Jackson Hyman, Jr., RHP (1-2, 5.32 ERA, 26.1 IP, 33 H, 17 BB, 22 K)

Jack Glassberg, Sr., RHP (2-1, 5.07 ERA, 29 IP, 42 H, 8 BB, 15 K)

Greyson Sandoz, Jr., RHP (1-0, 10.28 ERA, 15.2 IP, 37 H, 9 BB, 8 K)

Nick Gandolofo, So., LHP

Tommy Ruth, So., RHP

 

Class B North Lineup

Joe Cilea, Sr., C, Colts Neck

Kyle Pollack, Sr., C, St. John Vianney

Ryan Cole, Sr., SS/RHP, Neptune

Gabe Cavazzoni, Jr., SS, Wall

Andrew Fischer, Sr., 3B, Wall

Brad Salamone, Sr., LF, Colts Neck

Nick Lovarco, Sr., CF, Wall

Brett Patten, Sr., CF, Manasquan

Dan Afflitto, Sr., UTIL, St. John Vianney

 

Class B North Rotation

Tyler Spencer, Jr., RHP/INF, Colts Neck

Anthony Gubitosi, Sr., LHP, Colts Neck

Aiden Cody, Jr., RHP, St. John Vianney

Nick Terefenko, Sr., RHP, Freehold Boro

Brandon Falco, So., RHP, Matawan

Cullen Condon, Jr., RHP, Manasquan

 

Breakouts to Watch

Matt Johnson, Jr., RHP/1B, Wall

Jackson Coan, Sr., OF, Wall

Jackson Hyman, Jr., SS/RHP, Red Bank

Ryan Deegan, Sr., 2B, Manasquan

Quincy Esannason, Jr., CF, Neptune

Jake Brigandi, Sr., 1B/3B/RHP, Matawan

Aiden Denham, Jr., 3B/RHP, Freehold Boro