Baseball – Countdown 2020: Top Pitchers in the Shore Conference
The 2020 spring sports season in New Jersey has officially been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means the top athletes in the state won't have a chance to show off their skills and compete for their schools at all this spring. Amateur sports is a big part of the culture in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the current shutdown of competition represents a major change for the athletes who compete, the coaches who coach them and the people who follow them on a day-to-day basis.
Baseball is particularly big at the Shore and the 2020 season would have featured some big-time talent to boot. There will be no 2020 All-Shore team to recognize the top players, but we at Shore Sports Network want to take a tour through the conference to recognize the very best players at each position on the field. With that being said, SSN Baseball Editor Matt Manley has compiled lists of the top players at each position on the field with some input from coaches in the area. The goal is to recognize the players who have been the best during their careers and had some momentum coming into this year as well. There are also plenty of players who would have been debuting at the varsity level this season but this feature is designed for the players who have already established track records.
In the last decade, the Shore Conference has seen two of the most impressive pitching careers in the history of the conference turned in by Luca Dalatri (CBA) and Trey Dombroski (Wall), a No. 12 overall MLB Draft pick in Jay Groome (Barnegat) and dozens of other high-Division I arms pass through Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
As great as the pitching at the Shore has been during the 2010's, 2020 had a chance to be a season to remember. Three seniors entered March with a legitimate chance to be drafted out of high school and a number of juniors and sophomores were already lined up with major Division I programs.
Like the outfield list, the list of pitchers will start at 20 and ends with a very competitive battle for the No. 1 spot. In this case, there are three pitchers with a legitimate claim for the top spot and a whole bunch more worth recognizing. We'll count it down from 20 and also check out the top relievers at the Shore at the bottom of the post.
20. Tim Egan, Jr., LHP, Matawan
Egan was primed to be one of the breakout arms of 2020, if he wasn’t already one in 2019. The 6-2 left-hander entered 2019 as a No. 3 starter and elevated himself to the top of the rotation. His first big performance was a seven-strikeout outing over five innings vs. St. John Vianney and he later pitched six strong innings and left with the lead vs. No. 1 Wall before the Crimson Knights rallied against the bullpen in the seventh inning. Egan works off a good changeup and has his velocity trending into the high-80-miles-per-hour range, according to head coach Bobby Carnovsky.
Coach’s Insight: “We were looking forward to seeing him develop because he was going into his junior year and he is the correct age for his year in school. He has gotten bigger, taller and stronger. We felt like he was ready to be our number one last year and in a lot of ways, we already looked at him as our best pitcher, but we didn’t want to blow out his arm throwing him more innings than he was ready to throw. He came in fresh and in the first week, he was really bringing it. We knew by junior year, he was going to be at the top of the rotation and we were going to match him up with any team’s best pitcher.” – Bobby Carnovsky, Matawan head coach
19. Sam Young, Sr., RHP, Point Boro
On a lot of other teams, Young would have been at least a No. 3 pitcher but on a Panthers team with a dominant pitching staff, he worked as the No. 4 starter and part-time reliever. Heading into 2020, Young would have been the No. 2 starter for the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 heading into the season on the heels of his strong 2019, during which he finished 20th in ERA and 21st in WHIP in the conference among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched.
Coach’s Insight: “We were very fortunate to have four really good pitchers last year. Obviously, Guzzi was our horse and Sam Collins was our number two but we always felt like Christian Aurin and Sam Young were as good or better than a lot of the pitchers that we faced throughout the year and even in the tournaments. It’s tough having to replace two of those guys but with Nicholas coming back, Sam moving up to the number two spot in the rotation and some other guys in the mix, we really felt like we were still going to have that one-two punch to throw at teams.” Dave Drew, Point Boro head coach
18. Joe Mazza, Jr., LHP, Manalapan
Like Young at Point Boro, Mazza appeared as one of the Shore’s top outfielders and it’s not yet clear where Mazza will make his greatest impact: at the plate or on the mound. While he hit his way into the starting lineup in May, Mazza was a key pitcher for the Braves before that and already has 36 varsity innings under his belt after two high-school seasons. He closed the year by picking up wins over both CBA and Wall in the Shore Conference Tournament and has already committed to Rutgers.
Coach’s Insight: “We were bringing him along slowly. He got injured during the hockey season so we were just taking it easy, making sure we got him to 100 percent. He was going to be our number one, probably ready for opening day but even if we wanted to give him another week or two, we could have done that. He worked with (former Manalapan ace and Texas Rangers draft pick) Ryan Harvey in the offseason and he was looking forward to stepping up as the leader of the pitching staff.” – Brian Boyce, Manalapan head coach
17. Reece Miller, Sr., RHP, Toms River East
Miller turned in one of 2019’s best performances when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Jackson Memorial – the Shore’s second-highest scoring offense. He closed out a 1-0 win with a one-hit shutout over the Jaguars in the Ocean County Tournament quarterfinals for his biggest win of the year and one of the more memorable upsets of 2019. Miller’s best performance might actually have come earlier in the year, when he pitched a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and one walk vs. Brick Memorial.
Coach’s Insight: “Reece is a hard-working kid. He really came on strong last year, especially late in the season. He gained confidence every time out. Every start, he just got better and better every time we gave him the ball. I think that was a big key for both Miller and (Matt) Santos last season and it definitely seemed like it was carrying into the offseason and into this year. You could see their confidence going into this season. They only had a chance to get in one bullpen other than the tryout pen and it looked like they had everything working.” – Keith Smicklo, Toms River East head coach
16. Zach Crotchfelt, So., LHP, Jackson Memorial
Despite entering 2020 with only 12 career innings on the mound, Crotchfelt is one of the most exciting prospects in the Shore Conference. He is a two-way talent who has already committed to Auburn and was preparing to mark his territory as part of a devastating three-headed monster within the Jackson Memorial pitching rotation. Crotchfelt runs up to 90 miles-per-hour with his fastball and in his first four appearances as a freshman, he did not allow an earned run while striking out 13 and walking five over 12 innings.
Coach’s Insight: “He has a lot to live up to in terms of expectations. He’s already committed to Auburn, but for a young guy, he is not satisfied. He knows he has a great opportunity but there is a lot of responsibility when you are as talented as he is. (Matt) Thaiss went through it when he committed to Virginia, Carmine (Petosa) went through after he committed to Wake – when those schools lock you up, people are looking for you. He wants to be in the fire. He (Crotchfelt) was going to live up to that.” – Frank Malta, Jackson Memorial coach
15. Matt Santos, Sr., RHP, Toms River East
After a rocky start to his junior season on the mound, Santos found his groove and became one of the Shore’s better pitchers during the stretch run. Starting with an April 25 shutout of Brick, Santos went 2-2 over 30 innings with a 1.40 ERA to close out the season. He appeared in all three of Toms River East’s South Jersey Group III Tournament games, posting a 0.58 ERA in 12 innings with 13 strikeouts and seven walks – including seven one-hit innings with nine strikeouts in a no-decision vs. Ocean City in the sectional quarterfinals.
Coach’s Insight: "Santos got some quality experience as a sophomore and then at the beginning of his junior year, he got hit around early in the year. As the year went on, I think he got some confidence and you started to see him settle in. Santos was lights out vs. Ocean City. He carried us that game and when you started to think about this year and the big-game experience we were going to have on the mound, it was exciting." – Keith Smicklo, Toms River East head coach
14. Ryan Sekman, Jr., LHP, St. John Vianney
Sekman got a varsity opportunity as a freshman and made a greater impact at the plate, although he did get a look on the mound as well. Last year, he showed that he was ready to take over as the No. 1 pitcher on the Lancers staff, with a season-ending injury to returning ace Brendan Martin accelerating Sekman’s ascent in the rotation. His best outing was a four-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and one walk against rival Matawan and Sekman also pitched a six-inning two-hitter in a state-tournament win over Donovan Catholic.
Coach’s Insight: “We got into an intra-squad (scrimmage) and he struck out three guys in a row like it was nothing. Watching him throw bullpens and the way he has been carrying himself has really impressed me. He played a lot of first base as a freshman to get his feet wet. He grew up, got dedicated, worked hard in the offseason and with his mechanics and watching him throw, I really think he would have been one of the best players in the Shore.” – Mike Morgan, St. John Vianney head coach
13. John Wade, Jr., RHP, Brick
Brick entered the season with a young, patchwork pitching staff, which opened the door for Wade to emerge as the ace of the staff. The junior right-hander struck out more than a batter per inning while also showing that he can live in the strike zone. Of all returning pitchers in the Shore Conference who walked fewer than 10 batters last year, only three (Jackson Memorial’s Matt Potok, Ocean’s Kevin Schoenberger and Keyport’s Anthony Longo) logged more innings than Wade did and Wade’s strikeout rate was better than all three.
Coach’s Insight: “We were planning on having some good depth on the mound and it was all going to revolve around Wade. He was really solid as a sophomore and we were looking forward to having that ace to give the ball to start the week. He throws pretty hard, he throws strikes and he’s got good stuff so he’s got what you look for in a No. 1. Fortunately for us and for him, he’ll be back next year.” – Jason Groschel, Brick head coach
12. Patrick Apgar, Sr., RHP, Pinelands
Expectations at Pinelands were high in 2019 because of the Wildcats’ one-two pitching punch of Joey Ventresca and Noah Dean, who are now at Monmouth and Old Dominion Universities, respectively. Little did first-year head coach Justin Loomis know he was taking over a team that had Apgar waiting in the wings as a Division I pitcher from the Class of 2020. With increased velocity, the 6-7 right-hander and University of New Orleans commit found his dominant side in 2020, highlighted by six shutout innings against Point Boro in which Apgar struck out nine and allowed only three hits in a 5-0 Wildcats win.
Coach’s Insight: “Pat is the ultimate coachable kid. He came in last year behind three really good kids in Ventresca, Dean and Pete Hammond. He got a chance to pitch and when he did, he made the most of it. Last offseason, his workout program helped him gain velocity. He was in the upper 70’s as a sophomore and now he is close to 90. It’s more than just the velocity too. He pitched some big games for us last year. He threw a two-hit shutout against Point Boro and he was phenomenal. At that point he changed and you could see it. He was full of confidence after that.” – Justin Loomis, Pinelands head coach
11. Zach Gorman, Jr., RHP, Freehold Twp.
In his 19-plus innings as a freshman, Gorman made it clear he would be a top-of-the-rotation force at Freehold Township at some point in his career and that point came during his sophomore campaign in 2019. The Wagner commit earned a spot on the Shore Sports Network All-Shore team and turned in strong performances against three premier programs in Manalapan (no decision, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO), Middletown South (7 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 10 SO in a win) and Toms River North (three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in a 1-0 win).
Coach’s Insight: “Zach is a really good athlete and it all translates to baseball because he does the work. He had a good year as a sophomore but there is no doubt he would have been even better as a junior. What we always say with him that’s so impressive is that he is totally unflappable. He is just a mentally tough kid and he is always calm. When it comes to the mental side, he gets it. He is always in control of himself.” – Todd Smith, Freehold Township head coach
10. Alex Galvan, Sr., RHP, Manasquan
Galvan put together a solid body-of-work as a high-school hitter (and a superb resume as a high-school basketball player) but never got the chance to do the same as a pitcher. A breakout summer in 2018 landed him an offer to pitch at Louisville – which he accepted – but he only got to flash the same potential for 10 2/3 innings last year because of a mid-season sprained ankle that caused Manasquan coach Brenan Gordon to use him more cautiously. Galvan was dominant in those 10-plus innings and was going to be unleashed without restrictions this season as the Warriors’ No. 1 starter. The 6-7 right-hander was a possibility to be selected in the MLB Draft, but with the Draft now limited to five rounds, his focus will shift entirely to Louisville.
Coach’s Insight: “He is still learning the mental part but he’s got the fastball, the breaking ball, the athleticism. He was ready to be our horse and there’s no question the innings this year would have helped him. A lot of (MLB) scouts were talking to him, but he just kind of flows with it. I’ll bring it up to him and he’ll just be like, ‘Yeah, it’s okay.’ He loves to compete and all the other stuff is just extra. Other people are more excited about it than he is. He just kind of goes with it, and that’s how he is.” – Brenan Gordon, Manasquan head coach
9. Braedin Hunt, Sr., RHP, CBA
Following an exceedingly impressive debut as a sophomore, Hunt had a roller-coaster junior year. He had initially verbally committed to play at Rutgers, but a coaching change nixed that commitment and re-opened his recruitment. He then struggled mightily at the plate as a junior after hitting .453 as a sophomore and at the outset of the season, he struggled to find his command on the mound too. As last season went on, however, Hunt again became a dominant pitcher striking out 26 while walking only five with a 0.42 ERA over his final 16 2/3 innings. Now signed on to play at Virginia Commonwealth University, Hunt features a low-90’s fastball with a wipeout slider that would have made him very tough for Shore Conference hitters to square up.
Coach’s Insight: “He dominated in the second half of the season to the point where he was our best pitcher in the second half of the year. And that’s with two All-Shore pitchers (Reilly and Joe Escandon) on the staff with him. With Braedin, it’s all about how quickly he finds his command and I think going through that rough patch at the start of the year forced him to learn how to adjust and self-correct when there is something off in his mechanics.” – Marty Kenney Jr., CBA head coach
8. Kevin Schoenberger, Sr., RHP, Ocean
For his two varsity seasons, Schoenberger was a model of consistency on the Ocean pitching staff and he fine-tuned his game as a junior. While throwing eight more innings, he cut his walks and hits allowed, upped his strikeouts and the result was an ERA less than half of what it was in 2018. Among pitchers with 40 or more innings, Schoenberger finished 10th at the Shore in both ERA and WHIP. The Dominican College commit fired five complete games last season, including three seven-inning complete games coming against St. John Vianney, Shore and Middletown North.
Coach’s Insight: “He is different kind of pitcher and a different kind of ace. He is not going to throw it by you in the upper 80’s (miles-per-hour). He comes at you with that lower arm-slot and is just painting for six or seven innings. Twice he had 70-something-pitch complete games. When he is on, he just cuts right through a lineup and before you know it, the game is over and he’s got a shutout.” – Cip Apicelli, Ocean head coach
7. Chris Lotito, Sr., RHP, Middletown South
Middletown South’s pitching staff went from liability to strength between 2018 and 2019 and it was the primary reason the Eagles transformed into a division-winning club with a roster that could have made major noise in 2020. No player better exemplified Middletown South’s improvement than Lotito, who struggled in seven innings as a sophomore, opened his junior season as a reliever and after mastering that role, he was the Eagles’ most dominant starter. The Seton-Hall-bound right-hander only made three starts but put up dominant numbers since his first start of May 9: 21 2/3 innings, 26 strikeouts, six walks, a 0.97 ERA and 0.83 WHIP.
Coach’s Insight: “He is an athlete in every sense of the word and he is also super competitive. That’s a great quality to have in your No. 1 pitcher, which is probably what Chris would have been for us this year. What’s so impressive about him is when football season ended, he got right into the weight room with our guys and I don’t think he missed more than a day. The team is so much better and a pitching staff is so much better when your best athlete is also your hardest worker and that’s Chris Lotito.” – Chris LeMore, Middletown South head coach
6. Nick Beetel, Sr., LHP, Jackson Memorial
Beetel set the bar high as a sophomore, when he went 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA and became the go-to starter for a 25-win Jackson Memorial team that won the South Jersey Group IV championship. His follow-up season had a few more bumps in the road, as Beetel went just 2-2, saw his walk-rate increase from three walks per seven innings to 3.5, and did not last as deep into games as he did as a sophomore on a start-to-start basis. Other than that, however, his numbers were basically the same – perhaps even a little better. The Lehigh commit improved both his ERA and WHIP and his strikeout rate spiked from seven per seven innings to 9.03.
Coach’s Insight: “He was very good last year, but we wanted to get him back to that dominance he had at the end of his sophomore year when he was going deep into games and not giving up anything. He worked so hard in the weight room. I would have loved to see him pitch because he is the kind of guy would have fit in any year on our pitching staff. He comes sprinting off the mound after every inning and shows that emotion that gets everybody going. Those are the kind of pitchers that I like.” – Frank Malta, Jackson Memorial head coach
5. Teddy Sharkey, Sr., RHP, Wall
A look at Sharkey’s career numbers by season reveals a rough sophomore season on the mound but that might have turned around for him had he not played for a team with the most loaded pitching staff in the Shore Conference. After Sharkey’s rough start to 2018, Wall basically shut him down as a pitcher and when he came back in 2019, he was a different guy. He became the No. 2 starter on the Shore’s best team behind the Shore’s best pitcher (Trey Dombroski) and his stuff – a 90-mile-per-hour heater and sharp curveball – really started to play. Sharkey was considered more of an outfield prospect at the college level through his first two years but his pitching over the last year has made him a legitimate a two-way talent heading to Coastal Carolina.
Coach’s Insight: “The biggest transformation going into his junior year was the way he changed as a pitcher. He showed some signs of it as a freshman but he didn’t quite put it all together. All of a sudden Teddy showed up as a junior and he just dominated. We kind of eased him in and it got to the point where he was clearly out second-best starter and it gave us a dominant one-two with Dombroski and him. He just matured mentally and really focus in on becoming a great pitcher.” – Jim Rochford, Wall head coach
4. Matt Potok, Jr., RHP, Jackson Memorial
In other programs, Potok might have racked up close to 50 innings as a sophomore because he would have been the ace on just about every Shore Conference staff and has exhibited the kind of dominance that can carry a team. Jackson Memorial, however, has one of the deepest stables of arms in the conference and was able to manage Potok’s workload as a young pitcher without losing much in turning to its depth. In 34 innings, Potok was barely touched, finishing (among pitchers with at least 30 innings) third at the Shore in both ERA and WHIP, No. 2 in strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.0) and No. 1 in walks-per-seven innings (0.62). The 6-5 right-hander has committed to Coastal Carolina and will be among the Shore’s arms to watch in 2021.
Coach’s Insight: “Nothing bothers him. He is that unflappable guy you want on the mound. He has always been a big kid, but in our preseason, he looked like a man. He just looked different. He is so much bigger, stronger, the breaking stuff is nastier. I was excited to see how dominant he could be. What’s funny about him is his breaking stuff was far ahead of his fastball in his first two years and now his fastball is catching up. What we saw from him in our first intra-squad game made you say ‘Whoa.’”
3. Nick Guzzi, Sr., RHP, Point Boro
As great as pitchers like Sharkey, Potok, Beetel and others on this list have been over the past several years, we are now entering the rarefied air of this countdown. Guzzi has a case to be the No. 1 pitcher on the list based on the fact that no one returning to the Shore Conference in 2020 has been as much of a workhorse as the St. John’s-bound right-hander. Working consistently in the 88-to-93 miles-per-hour range with his fastball and featuring a plus curveball to boot, Guzzi finished in the top-five in the Shore Conference in innings pitched each of the past two seasons – including second behind Dombroski last year. From 2017 to 2019, Guzzi’s 188 strikeouts are more than any Shore Conference pitcher during that stretch with the exception of Dombroski (228) and his career strikeout total, were he able to complete his fourth varsity season, might have rivaled some of the best to come out of the area over the last decade.
Coach’s Insight: “From that first year as a freshman all the way until the state final last year, if he was pitching, we felt like we were going to win. I feel really bad that his last game was his only loss last year. Knowing he was pitching against a kid (Ryan Ramsey) who got drafted (by the Cleveland Indians) the next day and (Guzzi) was pitching a one-hitter for almost six innings was a little bit of a consolation. From the moment last year ended, Nick was ready to go for this year. The only reason we were in a game like that was because we have a guy like Nicholas Guzzi.” – Dave Drew, Point Boro head coach
2. Shane Panzini, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
On track record, Guzzi has had a better career than Panzini to date, but the trajectory of the RBC junior and University of Virginia commit has him headed toward a special tier of Shore Conference athlete. The Caseys right-hander entered camp in March sitting at 93 miles-per-hour with his fastball thanks to his first offseason of serious weight-training, which begs the question: how much better could he have been than he was in 2019? As a sophomore Panzini finished in the top-five at the Shore in wins, ERA and strikeouts and at 2.64 hits per seven innings, no pitcher in the conference was harder to hit on a per-inning basis. On top of his great high-school season in 2019, Panzini was selected to participate in the MLB Prospect Development Pipeline Showcase in Santa Clara, Calif. in the summer. While that event is now unlikely to take place, Panzini will still be one of the top arms returning to N.J. high school baseball in 2021 and will be very much on the MLB Draft radar.
Coach’s Insight: “He was really good last year and he is even better this year. He really got serious about lifting and putting on some muscle in his lower body and he is consistently throwing 92, 93 (miles-per-hour) with his fastball. His breaking ball is much, much better this year and his changeup has really come along and his ability to locate everything is definitely improved. There were times last year when he would lose his command or maybe start overthrowing but from what I’ve seen so far, he has been spotting everything.” – Buddy Hausmann, Red Bank Catholic head coach
1. Pat Reilly, Sr., RHP, CBA
Reilly’s story is one of hard-work, good genes and special skill all coming together at the right time for a young athlete. At an athletic 6-4, Reilly stood out enough as a sophomore to land an offer from Northeastern University, which he verbally accepted before ever getting an extended look as a varsity player. He then got that look as a junior and blew away all expectations by flashing a fastball from 88-to-92 miles-per-hour and finishing among the Shore’s top-10 in strikeouts and WHIP and top-five in wins and ERA. As good as they were, Reilly’s junior year stats don’t quite do his ability justice, but some of his individual performances might. He started the year by striking out 16 with no walks in a two-hitter vs. Allentown, then threw a one-hitter with seven strikeouts vs. St. Peter’s Prep. Reilly’s most noteworthy game, however, was a 12-strikeout, six-inning masterpiece against Wall to pick up a 1-0 win over Dombroski and the Crimson Knights. Reilly was clocked as high as 96 miles-per-hour in the fall and after re-opening his recruitment, he signed to play at pitching factory Vanderbilt next season. Despite MLB shortening its June 10 Draft to five rounds, Reilly will still get legitimate consideration from MLB clubs.
Coach’s Insight: He got to throw one bullpen in front of some scouts and coaches and all they could say was ‘Wow.’” It was a 30-pitch pen: 15 (pitches) easy and 15 at game speed. Once scout said ‘Jeez, it’s just so effortless.’ We were so excited for everyone to see him throw this year. We all heard about how he threw in Jupiter (Fla.) and we were looking forward to seeing that here. Sometimes you here about a kid over the summer and you never know if he is going to have it when things start up in the spring, but from what we saw in the first few days at practice, it was very real.” – Marty Kenney Jr., CBA head coach
Other Notable Seniors
Danny Minze, Sr., RHP, Middletown South – Minze became a go-to starter as a sophomore at Middletown South and was a steady, top-of-the-rotation option in 2019, going 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.
Nick Gillen, Sr., RHP, Brick Memorial – Only two pitchers came back in 2020 having thrown more than the 51 1/3 innings Gillen threw last year. They were quality innings too: 2.37 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 20 walks to go with a 3-4 record.
Josh Schleifman, Sr., RHP, Marlboro – The Mustangs’ No. 1 starter went 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings, including a big win over No. 2 seed Hillsborough in the opening round of the NJSIAA Central Group IV Playoffs.
Matt Ostroman, Sr., LHP, Toms River North – After opening the season as a shutdown reliever, Ostroman got his chance to start at the end of the year and came through with a two-hit shutout against rival Toms River South. He finished his junior year with a 1.84 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 26 2/3 innings.
Kevin Shanes, Sr., LHP, Rumson-Fair Haven – A senior leader on an otherwise young team, Shanes went 3-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings as a junior ace of the staff.
Justin Coppola, Sr., RHP, Colts Neck – Coppola led Colts Neck with 26 2/3 innings, over which he struck out 34 and posted a 3.15 ERA.
Will Baranello, Sr., LHP, Point Beach – Like Shanes, Baranello would have been a senior ace on a young team. As a junior who moved from England before the 2018-19 school year, Baranello went 5-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 43 punchouts in 39 1/3 innings.
Shane Hickey, Sr., RHP, Jackson Liberty – Hickey was Jackson Liberty’s top starting option on the mound by the end of the 2019 season, during which he went 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in a team-high 30 2/3 innings.
Robert Jeans, Sr., RHP, Toms River North – Jeans started off hot on the mound before getting injured, going 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings in April, which included a win over Jackson Memorial.
Patrick Mastro, Sr., RHP, Mater Dei Prep – Among pitchers with at least 30 innings, only one (Dombroski) posted a better ERA than Mastro’s mark of 0.47 in 30 innings.
Logan Spakowski, Sr., RHP, Toms River South – Spakowski was effective in multiple pitching roles as a junior, posting a 1.69 ERA in 20 2/3 innings.
Ryan O’Keefe, Sr., LHP, Manasquan – O’Keefe was one of several Manasquan starters to battle an injury last year but when he got his chance to start early in the year, the left-hander delivered a 1.71 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Alex Alonso, Sr., RHP, Monmouth – Alonso ran an impressive 20-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24 1/3 innings in 2019, finishing 3-3 with a 3.16 ERA.
Tim Duffy, Sr., RHP, Jackson Liberty – Duffy was as dependable as can be in 2019, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 24 innings for the 23-win Lions.
Ryan Chin, Sr., RHP, St. John Vianney – A solid option on the mound for the Lancers over the past two years, Chin was set for a No. 2 spot in the 2020 rotation after going 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 21 1/3 innings last year.
Declan Hoverter, Sr., RHP, CBA – Hoverter only pitched 9 1/3 innings last year but seven of them came in the first ever seven-inning perfect game in CBA history.
Dan Greene, Sr., RHP, Central – After getting some starts as a sophomore on an 18-win team, Greene assumed the role of No. 1 last year and would have led the staff as a senior.
Chase Masterson, Sr., LHP, Colts Neck – The senior left-hander whiffed 26 in just 15 2/3 innings as a junior and was lined up for the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the Colts Neck rotation.
Ryan Gallacher, Sr., RHP, Jackson Liberty – A useful starter and reliever, Gallacher amassed 26 1/3 innings last year and finished 2-0 with a 3.99 ERA and 22 strikeouts.
John Nimeth, Sr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic – The cancellation of the season was elementary for Nimeth, who was already recovering from a season-ending elbow injury. As a junior, he went a perfect 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 36 1/3 innings.
Tim McEneny, Sr., LHP, Manasquan – Like Nimeth from RBC, McEneny was not going to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He also missed nearly all of 2019 but will still head to Cornell to pitch next year.
2021 Watch List
Brandon Feigin, Jr., RHP, Toms River North – As a sophomore, Feigin finished the season as Toms River North’s go-to starter and wound up with a 1.91 ERA over 25 2/3 innings.
Chris Ellison, Jr., RHP, Howell – Although he was 0-5, Ellison took the mound against Manalapan, Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic, Freehold Township and Cherry Hill East and came out with solid numbers: 2.96 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks in 28 1/3 innings.
Nick Zarycki, Jr., RHP, Lacey – Already a two-year varsity pitcher, Zarycki led Lacey with 46 innings as a sophomore and put up a 3.35 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 2019.
Anthony Longo, So., RHP, Keyport – Even though he was only a freshman last year, Longo was one of the conference’s best control pitchers. He walked only nine batters in 32 1/3 innings while striking out 32 and posting a 2.60 ERA.
Jacob Bowles, Jr., RHP, Lacey – With a team-best 1.69 ERA, Bowles was a steady option as a sophomore for the Lions and has the upside to be even better when he gets back on the mound.
Nick Danbrowney, Jr., RHP, Barnegat – With a deep arsenal of pitches that features a knuckleball, Danbrowney struck out 30 in 30 1/3 innings with a 3.33 ERA and a 3-3 record.
Dom Santaniello, Jr., RHP, Monmouth – By most measures, Santaniello was Monmouth’s second-best pitcher as a sophomore in 2019, when he went 1-2 with a 2.21 ERA and just five walks in 25 1/3 innings.
Nick Ferrogine, Jr., RHP, Red Bank – After ace Jack Povey, Ferrogine was Red Bank’s best pitcher, going 3-4 with a 3.60 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Matt Colucci, Jr., RHP, Donovan Catholic – Donovan Catholic’s pitching staff made a big jump last year and most of that staff is back, led by Colucci. As a sophomore, the right-hander posted a 1.81 ERA in 31 innings.
Mike Amendola, So., LHP, Rumson-Fair Haven – Amendola will be returning to the mound off a promising freshman season in which he went 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.
Jeff Wall, Jr., RHP, Point Beach – Part of a deep, dependable pitching staff at the Beach, Wall put up an ERA south of 2.00 (1.93) with 17 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.
Tom Turnbach, Jr., RHP, St. Rose – Turnbach stepped up as a sophomore No. 1 pitcher for the Purple Roses, putting up a 3.95 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.
1. Chris Nicol, Sr., LHP, Manalapan (3-1, 16.1 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 21 SO, 0.86 ERA)
Nicol was untouchable to open his junior season in 2019 and the only thing to slow him down was some arm fatigue late in the year. He opened the season with 13 2/3 straight scoreless innings and went 14 2/3 before issuing his first walk. Working with a heavy, sinking fastball, Nicol finished the season with two walks and struck out 21 before he issued that first free pass.
2. Rocco LaVista, Sr., RHP, Jackson Memorial (2-0, 12 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 12 SO, 1.17 ERA)
Last year, Joe Princiotta got a chance to slot into the No. 3 spot in the Jackson Memorial rotation and with the extended chance to pitch, he turned in an All-Shore senior season. LaVista might have had a similar opportunity this year, even if his role might not have been as easily defined as “starter” or “reliever.” As a reliever last season, he was sharp in his 12 innings of work, allowing two earned runs and nine baserunners.
3. Russ Thistle, Jr., LHP, Toms River North (0-0, 2 Saves, 17.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 8 SO, 0.81 ERA)
Thistle made all 10 of his sophomore-year appearances out of the bullpen and when he was on the mound, opposing hitters just couldn’t square him up. He notched a modest eight strikeouts in his 17 1/3 innings, but gave up only eight hits and six walks. Thistle saved Toms River North’s win over Jackson Memorial in April with three scoreless innings and did not allow an earned run until his last outing of the year, when he gave up two at Jackson Memorial in the Shore Conference Tournament.
4. Jake Lenardo, Sr., LHP, Howell (2-0, 2 Saves, 20.2 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 20 SO, 2.03 ERA)
Lenardo nailed the role of swingman for Howell, making 10 of his 11 2019 appearances in relief. Seven of his outings lasted more than three outs and he recorded six outs in at least five of them. After giving up a pair of runs to Freehold Township on April 27, Lenardo was lights-out in May with a 0.75 ERA, 13 strikeouts and six walks in 9 1/3 innings.
5. Dan Keenan, Jr., RHP, Jackson Liberty (3-0, 2 Saves, 20 IP, 19 H, 14 BB, 30 SO, 3.15 ERA)
As a sophomore, Keenan made 10 of his 11 appearances out of the bullpen and was often a calming influence within hectic games for the Lions team that found themselves in plenty of slugfests. His numbers as a reliever (17.2 IP, 17 H, 12 BB, 27 SO, 1.98 ERA) were better than his overall numbers and he delivered in big spots. In two Liberty wins over Point Boro during the regular season, Keenan won the first game in relief and saved the second two days later. He earned wins in tournament games vs. Central and Colts Neck and threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts vs. Northern Burlington in the Central Jersey Group III Tournament.
6. Hunter Serrano, Sr., RHP, Manalapan (1-0, 3 Saves, 8.2 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 SO, 1.61 ERA)
Although he didn’t pitch even nine whole innings, Serrano proved his worth in some of Manalapan’s highest-leverage situations. He saved the Braves’ first win of the season over Freehold Township and did not allow an earned run in appearances against Jackson Memorial, CBA and Wall. In the latter two games, Serrano closed out a 3-2 win over CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and secured Manalapan’s first trip to the SCT final with 2 2/3 scoreless innings to save a 5-3 win over Wall.
7. Phil Trebour, So., RHP, Point Beach (0-0, 5 Saves, 21.2 IP, 14 H, 13 BB, 18 SO, 2.58 ERA)
As Point Beach’s starting shortstop, Trebour was deemed too valuable to pitch for an entire outing but the Garnet Gulls used him as a closer and a good one at that. He led the Shore Conference with five saves in five opportunities, including a pair of two-inning saves in Point Beach’s run to the Central Jersey Group I championship game - all as a freshman.
8. Ryan Lasko, Sr., RHP, Jackson Memorial (0-0, 2 Saves, 6 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 8 SO, 1.17 ERA)
As the team with the best run differential in the Shore Conference, Jackson Memorial did not have many save opportunities to offer last year but the three they did have, the Jaguars handed to Lasko. The hard-throwing centerfielder converted the first two before giving up a two-run lead to Cherokee in the state tournament and would have had a chance to do the job again as a senior.
9. Dan Greenwood, Sr., RHP, Jackson Memorial (1-0, 9 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 8 SO, 0.78 ERA)
Greenwood had an adventure in his first outing of the season, giving up four unearned runs with three strikeouts in one inning in a wild win over Toms River North. He was nearly spotless the rest of the way, including a scoreless, one-hit, four-inning outing vs. Brick Memorial for his one win of the season.
10. Jack Shea, Jr., RHP, Middletown South (4-0, 16.2 IP, 13 H, 10 BB, 5 SO, 1.68 ERA)
In his first varsity season, Shea pitched in tandem with another pitcher for most of his appearances and almost exclusively in relief. His last appearance of the season was a start on May 3 in which he gave up three runs so just as a reliever in 2019, Shea was 4-0 with a 0.50 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 14 innings for the Eagles.
Next Five Out of the Pen
Evan Pollack, Jr., RHP, St. John Vianney (0-3, 3 Saves, 21.1 IP, 22 H, 9 BB, 21 SO, 2.30 ERA)
Andre Harris, Sr., LHP, Neptune (1-0, 9.2 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 11 SO, 2.17 ERA)
Anthony DiMaiuta, Sr., RHP, Marlboro (1-0, 11 IP, 10 H, 5 BB, 9 SO, 1.27 ERA)
Hayden Kunz, Sr., RHP, Manasquan (1-0, 1 Save, 12 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 10 SO, 0.58 ERA)
Dan Facchiano, Sr., RHP, Toms River East (2-2, 1 Save, 19 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 12 SO, 2.94 ERA)