Baseball – Last Dance Preview: Ocean County Sites
Ocean County will be home to four pool-play sites in the New Jersey Last Dance World Series, presented by RWJ Barnabas Health, including a "Tri-County" Regional with teams from three different counties and yet, none from Ocean County.
Of the 16 teams at the four sites, 13 are from the Shore Conference and 12 hail from Ocean County. The Brick Regional is comprised completely of teams from Brick and Jackson, Barnegat will be the site of a crosstown rivalry being played out of town, and Bayville is set up to put Class B South vs. Class A South.
The other Ocean County site, meanwhile, is at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood and is, arguably, the most competitive pool from Nos. 1 through 4.
Below is a look at each pool, with a list of players from the spring preview who are not playing and others not included in the spring preview who will be on the Last Dance rosters. You can go back and read the previews on each team by following the accompanying links.
Brick Twp. Regional (At Brick American League)
Jackson Jags (Jackson Memorial)
Lost: Andrew Patire (So., OF), Tom Kendrick (So., INF), Charles Meglio (Fr., INF), J.R. Osmond (So., INF/OF)
Add: Reese Rasinski
For the most part, Jackson Memorial’s spring varsity roster remains intact to pursue the Last Dance championship as the Jackson Jags. Shore Sports Network’s No. 1 team is loaded with seniors and will likely feature seven starters in the lineup from the Class of 2020 and perhaps even more since teams will be allowed to bat up to 11 in the batting order. Their pitching staff is also as loaded as any in Monmouth or Ocean County, which makes them especially well-suited to get through the next three weeks.
Liberty Lions (Jackson Liberty)
Add: Will Poole-Cruz (Sr., 2B), R.J. Vashey (So., 3B), Gavin DeGregorio (Fr., 2B/SS), Ethan Bloomfield (Fr., P/OF), Zaine Toneske (Fr., 1B/3B), Anthony Nannini (Fr., 1B/P)
Jackson Liberty entered the spring hoping to answer some questions stemming from a heavy loss to graduations in 2019 and will have a chance to answer some of them in the Last Dance. The Liberty Lions will have Jackson Liberty’s full roster, led by senior hitters Shane Hickey and Brandon Kinsman. The pitching was inconsistent at the end of 2019, but Hickey and junior Dan Keenan were two of the team’s more reliable options and, along with Tim Egan and Ryan Gallacher, will be among the Lions’ top pitchers this coming week.
Mustangs Baseball Club (Brick Memorial)
Add: Brandon Hulsart (Jr., P/1B), Kole Dispensierre (So., UTIL), Tim Quackenboss (So., OF), Joe Credi (Fr., INF)
Another team that will have its full slate of players from the spring, the Mustangs will feature a Brick Memorial roster that has a lot of new starters compared to 2019. A more typical tournament would suit Brick Memorial fairly well considering it has a quality senior ace in Nick Gillen but with an unproven staff behind him, there is an air of mystery heading into Tuesday’s pool-play opener vs. the Liberty Lions. Even top player Max Cala brings an element of the unknown with him, as he’ll move to his primary catcher position after playing in the outfield last year.
Dragons Baseball Club (Brick)
Lost: John McFadden, Dylan Affinito, Zach Smith
Add: Ethan Keegans
Brick Township’s representative in the Last Dance will have all its key returning players from the 2019 team who were set to participate in the spring, but will have to replace John McFadden – a key newcomer in the pitching staff. On the bright side, Brick was set to have a deep staff during the spring and will have plenty of options, led by Class of 2021 right-hander John Wade. Playing Jackson Memorial in the first game is a rude welcome to the tournament, but the Dragons shouldn’t be an easy out either.
Nick Beetel, LHP, Jackson Jags
Matt Potok, RHP, Jackson Jags
Zach Crotchfelt, LHP, Jackson Jags
Nick Gillen, RHP, Mustangs
John Wade, RHP, Dragons
Ryan Lasko, CF, Jackson Jags
Carmine Petosa, 1B, Jackson Jags
Tom Cartnick, C, Jackson Jags
Christian Pellone, 2B, Jackson Jags
Jake Wendell, 3B, Jackson Jags
Shane Hickey, SS, Liberty Lions
Brandon Kinsman, UTIL, Liberty Lions
Max Cala, C, Mustangs
John Wade, 1B, Brick
X-Factors on the Mound
Rocco LaVista and Dan Greenwood, Jackson Jags
Tim Duffy and Ryan Gallacher, Liberty Lions
Cole Manfro and Joe Terkildsen, Mustangs
Ethan Gonzalez and Rob Page, Dragons
Tri-County Regional (At FirstEnergy Park)
Monmouth Monarchs (Manalapan)
Lost: Hunter Serrano (Sr., 2B/RHP)
Manalapan graduated two ace-level pitchers from 2019 in Ben Levine and Aaron Ayers, so the Braves might not have had as ideal of pitching staff when it comes to winning a traditional state tournament. In a tournament that includes so many games on back-to-back days, however, these Monmouth Monarchs will be in their element. Even with senior closer and starting second baseman Hunter Serrano injured, Chris Nicol was also one of the best relief pitchers at the Shore last year. On top of that, and as is the case in most seasons, there is plenty of pitching depth in Manalapan to get through three games in week one. As for the lineup, the Braves returned plenty of offense and athleticism on the infield this past spring, so the Monarchs roster works on a lot of levels.
Allentown as sported one of Central Jersey’s top programs of the last five years, winning the NJSIAA Group III championship in 2017, reaching the 2018 final and losing a competitive sectional quarterfinal game at Jackson Liberty last year. The Redbirds were set to bring back a pair of exciting arms in juniors Matt Bethea – a Seton Hall commit – and Dan Merkel. They also have a reliable senior in Jack Nitti to go with the juniors, which will make Allentown a formidable challenger to the top seed.
Monroe Twp. Baseball (Monroe)
Monroe lost most of its 2019 lineup and lost a key Class of 2020 to a transfer and would have been reliant on a couple of returning hitters, pitcher Anthony Bruno and some new faces. The Falcons have a traditionally-strong program with a good recent history of producing college talent, so it should be no surprise if Monroe turns out to be a tough out this week.
R-Ville Ravens (Robbinsville)
Robbinsville came excruciatingly close to winning the Central Jersey Group II title and made that run with a senior-heavy club. R-Ville has a pair of experienced outfielders in senior Shane Martin and sophomore Tyler Provost but will be unproven elsewhere. They are, however, proven as a Group II program and will be a stubborn day-one opponent for the Monmouth Monachs.
Joe Mazza, LHP, Monmouth Monarchs
Chris Nicol, LHP, Monmouth Monarchs
Jack Nitti, RHP, Allentown
Matt Bethea, RHP, Allentown
Anthony Bruno, RHP, Monroe
Chris Au, RHP, R-Ville
Nick DiPietrantonio, SS, Monmouth Monarchs
Tom Guidice, 1B, Monmouth Monarchs
Joe Mazza, OF, Monmouth Monarchs
Danny McCormick, 3B, Allentown
Dan Merkel, OF, Allentown
Bryant Skurbe, OF, Monroe
Shane Martin, OF, R-Ville
Tyler Provost, OF, R-Ville
X-Factors on the Mound
Marc Rivera and Tyler Kane, Monmouth Monarchs
Dan Merkel, Allentown
Nick Coniglio, Monroe
Blake Grembowitz, R-Ville
Barnegat Regional (Barnegat High School)
Point Pleasant Boro
Lost: Nick Guzzi, Connor Kennedy
Add: Eric Anilonis, Andrew Lockwood, Roberto Rodriguez, Thomas Laspina, Declan Pratt, Trey Harpootlian, Matt DeWitte, Chris Piggio, Ryan Ehrman
The top story surrounding Point Boro heading into the Last Dance is that the team will be without ace and St. John’s-bound right-hander Nick Guzzi. Over the last two seasons, Guzzi rounded into one of the best pitchers in the Shore Conference and his team developed along with him. This week, however, the Panthers will try to win three games relying on an otherwise inexperienced pitching staff and a lineup that has a chance to be deeper than the one that reached the Group II final in 2019. Sam Young will be the leader at the plate and on the mound and Shore Regional transfer Oscar Scott should help in all three phases – offense, defense and on the mound.
B Baseball (Barnegat)
Lost: Kyle Moore (Sr., C)
Add: Tyler Delpercio, Rafael Dominguez, Joe Fiorentino, Donovan Fraim, Ryan Kulpa, Michael Pulig
Barnegat coach Dan McCoy and his team were optimistic they could give Point Boro a run for the Shore Conference Class B South title this past spring and now, they will have a chance to put that optimism to the test playing as the B Baseball squad on their home field. First, however, they will have to get past Southern and to do so, they will rely on a promising group of pitchers. Seniors Lukas Torres and Matt Vernieri will be keys and junior Nick Danbrowney could be particularly valuable as a right-hander with a knuckleball.
Lost: Dustin Howarth, Liam Nelson
Add: Josh Camburn (So.), Stephen Stafford (So.), Brennan Book (So.)
The loss of the 2020 season was particularly painful for Southern seniors Aiden Hosszu and Ricky Glascock – both of whom lost most of their 2019 seasons to injury. Hosszu was one of the team’s top hitters as a sophomore and Glascock entered 2019 as a potential No. 1 starter before injury derailed him. Those two and classmate Derek Serino will be the senior representation on a team loaded with juniors looking to prepare themselves for a big showing as seniors in 2021.
Point Beach Gulls (Point Pleasant Beach)
Lost: Cliff Smith
Point Beach is one of the younger teams in the field but still has a couple of key seniors in Will Baranello and Aiden Conway. Baranello was set to be the team’s ace heading into the season and the left-hander and native of England is also a key bat in the lineup. Conway, meanwhile, played as a freshman and has since battled injury in order to get back in a position to play, which he will certainly do this week in Barnegat.
Sam Young, RHP, Point Boro
Nick Danbrowney, RHP, B Baseball
Ricky Glascock, RHP, Southern
Will Baranello, LHP, Point Beach Gulls
Matt Vernieri, RHP, Barnegat
Sam Young, RF, Point Boro
Oscar Scott, CF, Point Boro
Ryan Jasaitis, C, Point Boro
Nick Zbikowski, 2B, Point Boro
Frankie Dominici, 3B, Point Boro
Andrew Fisher, SS, Point Boro
Lukas Torres, CF, B Baseball
Aiden Hosszu, 3B, Southern
Mike Gallaro, C, Southern
Alec Glenn, 1B/OF, Point Beach Gulls
Dave TerraNova, C, Point Beach Gulls
X-Factors on the Mound
Oscar Scott and Cole Young, Point Boro
Lukas Torres and Colin Zarenkiewicz, B Baseball
Dustin Howarth and Taylor Munt, Southern
Matt Van Brunt and Phil Trebour, Point Beach Gulls
Bayville Regional (At Leiter Field)
TR East Raiders (Toms River East)
Lost: Mark Roma (Jr. INF/OF)
Toms River East’s pitching staff was built for late May and the NJSIAA Tournament, which the Raiders showed last year by reaching the South Jersey Group III semifinal and losing in extra innings. Matt Santos and Reece Miller carried the Raiders through the 2019 postseason on the mound and classmate Dan Facchiano will join in leading the staff this coming week. They will need some help to make it through the week and with a pair of up-the-middle bats in Ryan Goodall and Ryan Cicardo to add to the senior core, the Raiders just might have enough.
Tuckerton-Little Egg Harbor Baseball (Pinelands)
Lost: Patrick Apgar (Sr., RHP), Cassey Bunting
Add: Connor Harris (Jr.), Tyler Ross (So.), Ethan Edwards, (So.), Robert Gordon (Fr.)
The chances Tuckerton-Little Egg Harbor had of making a run took a hit with 6-7 senior Patrick Apgar unavailable to play. Again, however, this tournament is not set up for a team to rely on one pitcher to carry it through and Pinelands’ Last Dance entrant was going to need other pitchers to step up anyway. Senior Bryce O’Rourke is a leading candidate, with coach Justin Loomis singing his praises as a leader and an improved player at shortstop, on the mound and at the plate. His brother, sophomore Rian, is the top hitter returning from 2019.
Lost: Anthony Mursko (So., 3B), Damian Johnson (Sr., OF), Jack Renaud (Fr., RHP/1B)
Add: Andrew Bonik, Gavin Degnan, Ryan Dever, Nick Dowling, Stephen Gaffney, Steven Morro, Shaun O’Keefe, Joe Ruggerio, Nate Watson, Matt Weeden
Donovan Catholic enters the Last Dance with an encouraging amount of pitching depth and the vast majority of it will be on the high-school roster in 2021. Juniors Bob Nosti and Matt Colucci are two of the top performers from last year’s staff, while the senior influence this week will be in the lineup. Top returning hitter Liam Leonard and classmates Christian McElroy and Mike Faranaccio will try to lead their team through a balanced pool and into an elimination game on Thursday in Bayville.
Central Baseball (Central Regional)
Last year was a struggle for Central but the Golden Eagles showed they had plenty to work with when they scored a regular-season win over Jackson Memorial. This year, they were set to return some key pieces, particularly seniors Dan Greene and Mike Masino and juniors Evan Agrapides and Trevor Coltenback, to help with a turnaround. All four will be on this month’s roster, as will sophomore right-hander Cam Leiter, who is getting his first taste of N.J. baseball after moving from British Columbia, Canada.
Matt Santos, RHP, TR East
Reece Miller, RHP, TR East
Matt Colucci, RHP, Donovan Catholic
Dan Greene, RHP, Central
Ryan Goodall, C, TR East
Matt Santos, 1B, TR East
Ryan Cicardo, SS, TR East
Rian O’Rourke, 3B, Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor
Bryce O’Rourke, SS, Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor
Liam Leonard, OF, Donovan Catholic
Dan Greene, 1B, Central
Mike Masino, 2B/SS, Central
Evan Agrapides, CF, Central
X-Factors on the Mound
Dan Facchiano, TR East
Bryce O’Rourke and Rian O’Rourke, Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor
Bob Nosti and Andrew Castro, Donovan Catholic
Cam Leiter and Mike Masino, Central