With so much rain at the start of April, only one team in the Shore Conference has played seven games, so even though we are two weeks into the season, it feels more like a week or a week-and-a-half, depending on the team.

Even with a small sample of games, there remain only five undefeated teams left in the Shore Conference: Toms River East, Southern, Matawan, Point Pleasant Beach and St. Rose. Two of those teams ranked in the top 10 to open the season and just one (Southern) started the season in the top five, so when narrowing down the candidates for No. 1 spot in the rankings, just about all of the candidates have some flaw holding them back, while the teams with the flawless records are still proving themselves.

All of those factors make picking a No. 1 team ahead of the third week of the 2024 season a tricky proposition. Given that the schedule has been unusual, this week's rankings again exercise patience with some of the preseason's top teams that have stumbled, but it is also time for some of the season's fast-starting teams to make a big move up the list.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 2-0) Last Week: 2

While CBA did not exactly kick the door down to the No. 1 spot, the Colts have the most going for them of any of the contenders right now. Their loss, ugly as it may have been, is to a 6-1-1 Seton Hall Prep squad and they essentially 10-runned two ranked teams in their other two games (Middletown South and Manalapan). CBA has a devastating ace in Chris Levonas and a budding one in sophomore left-hander Danny DiTullio. With a lineup that scored 22 runs in 11 innings to open the year and some more arms getting used to varsity baseball, the Colts are the team that most resembles a No. 1 squad.

2. Red Bank Catholic (4-2, 3-2) Last Week: 1

RBC had a better week this past week than it did during the first week, but the drop from No. 1 comes now instead of then. The Caseys’ pitching has shown some vulnerability, but the lineup is making an impact from top-to-bottom. This is RBC’s big out-of-conference week, with matchups against Bishop Eustace and Gloucester Catholic following another tough divisional game vs. Raritan.

3. Donovan Catholic (3-1, 3-1) Last Week: 3

Both Donovan Catholic’s losses are to quality opponents – its most recent defeat coming at the hands of Delbarton on Sunday in a game that featured both aces squaring off and was decided in the final inning. A win over Point Boro is a enough to keep Donovan Catholic in the top three for the time being but there are a trio of unbeaten teams beginning to put cracks in the barrier between the top non-publics and the rest of the field.

4. Southern (5-0, 5-0) Last Week: 4

The Rams stared down their first loss on Saturday and collectively said, “Not today.” A three-run rally in the top of the third stymied Brick Memorial’s bid for a big Class A South win and kept Southern unbeaten. An unbeaten start is usually a luxury but with fellow Class A South rival Toms River East also out to an unbeaten start, every game counts in what looks like it will again be a very crowded race. Southern gets its big test this week in the form of a trip to Toms River East.

5. Matawan (5-0, 5-0) Last Week: 6

It is still early, but Matawan is living up to all its lofty expectations entering the season. The closest game the Huskies have played so far was a 7-2 win over Ocean that Matawan blew open in the middle innings. Every other game has been decided by at least eight runs – a product of Matawan’s overpowering pitching staff that is now complemented by a more complete offense.

6. Toms River East (6-0, 5-0) Last Week: 11

There are two unbeaten teams left in Class A South and based on the scoreboard, Toms River East has been the more dominant of the two. The 60-7 run differential is the best in the Shore Conference outside of Point Pleasant Beach, which has only played Class B Central competition so far. Even when Central jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning vs. Toms River East, the Raiders responded with 16 unanswered runs to make it another lopsided win.

7. Point Pleasant Boro (3-1, 3-1) Last Week: 8

On the first Saturday of the season, Point Boro threw itself into the Class B South race by splitting a double-header with Donovan Catholic. This week, the Panthers will play three crucial games in the public-division title race. Jackson Liberty is also off to a solid start to the season and will play Point Boro to open the week, which the Panthers will follow with a game vs. Barnegat on Wednesday for a three-games-in-three-days stretch that could signal a turning point in the division race.

8. Jackson Memorial (3-1, 2-0) Last Week: 15

Jackson Memorial is not undefeated like Southern and Toms River East are, but the Jaguars have yet to lose a Class A South game and their lone loss was a walk-off heartbreaker at No. 2 Red Bank Catholic. Pitching was Jackson Memorial’s greatest unknown coming into the season and it remains that way, although sophomore left-hander Matt Colaneri has been promising out of the gate. The lineup, meanwhile, has been as good as any in the Shore Conference considering the competition.

9. Ranney (2-2, 2-2) Last Week: 7

The new-look Panthers have performed like a young, inexperienced team so far. In starting 2-2, they have also shown their potential. In the last two games alone, Ranney has hit a combined nine homers in the last two games and while those have come at the friendly confines of its home field, the Panthers out-homered their two opponents in those games, 9-0. The pitching is still unsettled while Rutgers-bound ace James Hare continues to build up following a preseason injury, but the lineup is clearly still dangerous.

10. Middletown South (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: 12

Even with a 10-0 loss to CBA hanging around their collective neck, the Eagles have flashed some impressive pitching. Brevin Bezick walked 28 in 25 innings last year and has yet to walk a batter or give up an earned run while striking out 11 in six innings. Mason Christopher, Jake Wenzel and Dan Daly have also held opponents without an earned run. The offense and defense have not been as reliable, but Middletown South has demonstrated it has the pitching to be dangerous.

11. Manalapan (3-3, 3-2) Last Week: 13 – Colts Neck shut out Manalapan and the Braves responded by putting up 16 runs on Howell. The Braves gets another shot at CBA on Monday.

12. Manasquan (3-0-1, 3-0-1) Last Week: Not ranked – A win over Ranney has Manasquan on the verge of the top 10, which the Warriors likely would have cracked if that tie at Red Bank was a win.

13. Brick Memorial (2-3, 2-3) Last Week: 9 – The scheduled-makers did not do Brick Memorial any favors giving them Jackson Memorial and Southern back-to-back and the first three of those games have all been losses for the Mustangs, with one game left vs. Southern.

14. Wall (3-3, 3-2) Last Week: Not ranked – With a win over No. 2 Red Bank Catholic, Wall breaks into the rankings having only lost to RBC, Monmouth Regional ace Collin Denton and Wake-Forest-bound Robbinsville ace Luke Billings.

15. Point Pleasant Beach (4-0, 4-0) Last Week: 16 – The Garnet Gulls overwhelmed Keyport, Long Branch and Keansburg last week and this week could be more of the same, although a Monday trip to Pinelands is a non-divisional challenge to open the week.

16. Marlboro (3-2, 3-0) Last Week: Not ranked – Marlboro debuts in the rankings as an undefeated team within Class A North, which includes wins over Middletown North, Freehold Township and Colts Neck.

Dropped Out

Middletown North (1-3, 0-3) Last Week: 5 – The Lions’ infield defense is an early issue but the pitching remains promising and top hitter Dylan Briggs is off to a good start.

Rumson-Fair Haven (2-3, 2-3) Last Week: 10 – With a win over Red Bank Catholic and another over Collin Denton and Monmouth, the Bulldogs are still close to the Top 10, even after getting swept by Holmdel.

Howell (2-3, 2-3) Last Week: 14 – Both of Howell’s wins so far are over Freehold Township and the three losses (two to Manalapan and one to Middletown South) are all to ranked teams. The Rebels remain in the mix.

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