Baseball – Projecting the SCT Field
The regular season is just about complete and the coming week marks the beginning of the tournament portion of the high-school baseball season in N.J. at the Shore. The first step in the second season will be seeding the Shore Conference Tournament, which the seeding committee will do Monday night.
And, oh, what a job the seeding committee will have.
There are as many as six teams with a serious claim to be No. 1 in the field and with six members on the seeding committee, each of those teams could get a first-place vote. A lot goes into seeding the tournament: Which teams are playing the best? Which have shown they have the pitching to handle two tournaments at once? Which have played the strongest schedules? Which have the most impressive wins? Who are the county champions in Monmouth and Ocean?
Those are just some of the baseline measures for determining the seeds and one could get even deeper into the weeds from Nos. 1 through 25 in the field.
Before the committee gets to work on Monday night, let’s take a look at the field and try to figure out how to rank it. With so much parity at the top, this could (and probably will) look very wrong 24 hours from now, but here goes nothing.
1. Middletown South (14-4, 12-2)
Division Wins: CBA (2), Freehold Boro (2), Howell (2), Long Branch (2), Marlboro (2), Freehold Twp., Manalapan
Division Losses: At Freehold Twp., at Manalapan
Non-Division Wins: At Red Bank Catholic, Middletown North
Non-Division Losses: Hun, Monmouth (MCT)
Why They’re Here: With two wins over CBA and one each over Red Bank Catholic and Manalapan, Middletown South has the most impressive collection of results on the board within the Shore Conference. If there is a concern, it is that the pitching is not as imposing as the staffs that CBA, Red Bank Catholic, Wall and Jackson Memorial have, but Chris Lotito has emerged as a real weapon and this resume – 14-4 with a division title and a 4-1 record against teams that will be in the top eight – is worthy of No. 1 in this field.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (15-4, 9-4)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Freehold Twp. (2), Long Branch (2), Howell, Manalapan, Marlboro
Division Losses: Middletown South (2), at Howell, at Manalapan
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Allentown, vs. St. Peter’s Prep, Marlboro (MCT), at Wall (MCT), at Manasquan (MCT), vs. Ocean (MCT)
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: If the No. 1 seed should go to the team that is currently playing like the best team in the field, CBA should be the pick. After starting 2-3 against a tough schedule (Howell’s two aces, Allentown and Middletown South twice), CBA has since gone 13-1 with the only loss coming in the 15-inning marathon against Manalapan. The Colts are the Monmouth County champions and feature a deep, diverse pitching staff that has power right-handers and control left-handers. Few teams are more equipped to play deep into any given tournament.
3. Red Bank Catholic (17-3, 14-0)
Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Manasquan (2), Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Red Bank (MCT), Toms River North, at Red Bank
Non-Division Losses: Middletown South, vs. Delbarton, Manasquan (MCT)
Why They’re Here: RBC’s case for No. 1 centers around the quality of its losses. The two division wins over Manasquan and the recent win of Toms River North give the Caseys a decent trio of quality wins to lean on as well, but when a team’s only losses are Middletown South, Manasquan with Spencer Bauer on the mound and Delbarton with Jack Leiter on the mound, it has to be taken seriously.
4. Jackson Memorial (17-3, 12-2)
Division Wins: Brick (2), Brick Memorial (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River South (2), Central, at Toms River North
Division Losses: Toms River North, at Central
Non-Division Wins: Jackson Liberty, vs. Somerville, Barnegat, Manchester (OCT), Bayonne
Non-Division Losses: Toms River East (OCT)
Why They’re Here: Jackson Memorial is the opposite of RBC. It doesn’t take long to find the big wins – the Jaguars scored 10 runs or more in wins over Jackson Liberty, Somerville and Bayonne – but the losses are troubling. Neither Central nor Toms River East will be in the Shore Conference Tournament and in losses to Toms River East and Toms River North, the Jaguars were shut out. On top of that, errors have been a problem for the defense. If the Jaguars can clean up the errors, they still have a strong staff and a dangerous lineup that hits the ball hard and doesn’t swing and miss. They have shown a propensity to let down against certain opponents, but they have generally shown up against good competition.
5. Jackson Liberty (20-1, 14-0)
Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Donovan Catholic (2), Lacey (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Point Boro (2), Pinelands (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: At St. Peter’s Prep, vs. Washington Twp., Central (OCT), at Toms River South, Brick Memorial (OCT), Southern (OCT)
Non-Division Losses: At Jackson Memorial
Why They’re Here: This might be the simplest case for No. 1. Jackson Liberty is a 20-win, one-loss division champion that is about to play for a county championship this week. No other team in the field can claim all of those things and the suitable reward could very well be the No. 1 seed. The counter-argument, though, is the Lions are the only team in this conversation for No. 1 that has lost a game by 10 runs and that was also the only game it played a team in the running for a top-eight spot. The win at St. Peter’s Prep and a win over Nick Guzzi and Point Boro stamped the Jaguars as a top-five team, but the head-to-head loss in five innings to Jackson Memorial and the softer schedule compared to Middletown South, CBA and RBC will be hurdles to overcome in grabbing the top seed.
6. Wall (16-3, 12-2)
Division Wins: Matawan (2), Middletown North (2), Ocean (2), Red Bank (2), St. John Vianney (2), Colts Neck, Neptune
Division Losses: At Colts Neck, at Neptune
Non-Division Wins: At St. Rose, Freehold Boro (MCT), Freehold Boro, at Toms River North
Non-Division Losses: CBA (MCT)
Why They’re Here: Wall’s early elimination from the Monmouth County Tournament and a strength of schedule that is more good than great have made them an under-the-radar team for the past few weeks, but the Crimson Knights also have a compelling case for the top seed. Their pitching is as good as anybody’s in the field and they just put up 14 runs against Toms River North on the road. In all three of its losses, Wall gave up the winning run in the seventh inning – walk-off losses to Colts Neck and Neptune and a 1-0 loss to CBA in which the winning run scored on a two-out double-steal. Ace Trey Dombroski is more likely to line up for the NJSIAA Tournament, but Wall’s mid-rotation talent is enough to give them a shot in the SCT.
7. Manalapan (17-5, 11-3)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Freehold Twp. (2), Howell (2), Long Branch (2), CBA, at Marlboro, Middletown South
Division Losses: At CBA, Marlboro, at Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: vs. Manchester, vs. Arendell Parrott (N.C.), vs. Louisburg (N.C.), vs. Southwest Edgecombe (N.C.), Middletown North (MCT), Freehold Twp. (MCT)
Non-Division Losses: Ocean (MCT), at Bayonne
Why They’re Here: Less than two weeks ago, Manalapan was undefeated and primed to be the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. Since then, the Braves are 2-5, conceded the A North division race to Middletown South, lost in the MCT semifinals to Ocean and lost to a Marlboro team that will not be in the field. All that drops the Braves from the No. 1 debate, but they are still looked suited for the top eight. The head-to-head loss to Ocean could prove costly but a win over CBA and some blemishes on the competition should get Manalapan to No. 7.
8. Manasquan (13-4, 11-3)
Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Monmouth (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), Raritan
Division Losses: Red Bank Catholic (2), at Raritan
Non-Division Wins: Colts Neck (MCT), at Red Bank Catholic (MCT)
Non-Division Losses: CBA (MCT)
Why They’re Here: A loss to Raritan could keep Manasquan relegated to No. 8 instead of climbing as high as No. 6, but the Warriors still have a lot going for them. Manasquan beat Red Bank Catholic in a tournament setting on the road, beat Colts Neck convincingly and have close losses to RBC (twice) and CBA on its resume. With a quality pitching staff, the Warriors could function during tournament time if they are able to advance deep into both the SCT and the NJSIAA Group II bracket.
9. Ocean (18-5, 10-4)
Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Matawan (2), Middletown North (2), St. John Vianney (2), Neptune, Red Bank
Division Losses: Wall (2), at Neptune, at Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: Freehold Twp., Shore, at Freehold Boro, Mater Dei, Matawan (MCT), Monmouth (MCT), at Manalapan (MCT), Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Losses: vs. CBA (MCT)
Why They’re Here: Ocean will have a case to be ranked No. 7 on the strength of its win over Manalapan, which got the Spartans to the Monmouth County Tournament championship game. They are also an 18-win team, which is the second-most in the field. The drawbacks for Ocean are a loss to Red Bank and that they faced a favorable draw in the MCT. Monmouth Regional used ace Dante Ciaramella to take out Middletown South and Ocean then faced a more ordinary Falcons team the next day. Manalapan burned through its pitching staff trying to win A North, then had little left to face Max Winters and Ocean in the semis. That is the cold-water argument against Ocean, but a case for a top-eight seed is still a compelling one for the MCT runner-up.
10. Freehold Township (11-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Long Branch (2), at Howell, at Marlboro, Middletown South
Division Losses: CBA (2), Manalapan (2), Howell, Marlboro, at Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: St. Rose (MCT), at Howell (MCT), New Egypt, at Toms River North
Non-Division Losses: At Ocean, at Manalapan (MCT)
Why They’re Here: The Patriots went .500 in a difficult Class A North and picked up a win over Middletown South in the process. Outside of teams in their division, the Patriots are 3-1 with a win over Toms River North and a loss to Ocean. Although Howell finished ahead of Freehold Township in the standings by a game, Freehold Township beat Howell in the MCT round-of-16, which is enough to bump the Patriots in front in the SCT seeding.
11. Toms River North (13-9, 11-3)
Division Wins: Brick (2), Central (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), Brick Memorial, at Jackson Memorial, at Toms River South
Division Losses: At Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: At Kings Christian, Howell
Non-Division Losses: St. Augustine, at Bayonne, Southern (OCT), at Red Bank Catholic, Wall, Freehold Twp.
Why They’re Here: Despite losing as much impact talent from last year as any team in this year’s field, Toms River North has not shied away from competition this season. On top of playing two games against Jackson Memorial – one of which Toms River North won – the Mariners have beaten Kings Christian and Howell outside of A South and suffered losses to St. Augustine, Bayonne, Red Bank Catholic and Wall – all of which have been ranked in the state top 10 at one point or another this season. An early exit in the OCT and a recent loss to Freehold Township probably bumps Toms River North from the top 10, but the Mariners deserve a lot of respect for playing a tough schedule with an inexperienced team.
12. Howell (10-8, 8-6)
Division Wins: Long Branch (2), Freehold Boro (2), Marlboro (2), CBA, at Freehold Twp.
Division Losses: Manalapan (2), Middletown South (2), at CBA, Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Wins: vs. Holmdel, at Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Freehold Twp. (MCT), at Toms River North
Why They’re Here: The season started off in promising fashion for the Rebels, who split a series with CBA and seemingly had one of the Shore’s better one-two punches on the mound in Bryan Bernard and Ryan Bearse. Bearse, however, has not been available to pitch since the second week of the season, which has put more pressure on Bernard, the rest of the staff and the offense to carry the load. The win over CBA remains Howell’s best and a third-place finish in A North is enough to land the Rebels a home game.
13. Point Pleasant Boro (15-5, 9-5)
Division Wins: Donovan Catholic (2), Lacey (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Barnegat
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), at Barnegat
Non-Division Wins: Spotswood, at Central, Barnegat (OCT), Toms River South (OCT), at Raritan, Toms River East (OCT)
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: With Point Boro getting set to play in the Ocean County Tournament final Tuesday, the Panthers have some momentum to sail up into the top 10. They have two proven big-game pitchers in Nick Guzzi and Sam Collins and some capable depth behind them. There are some losses on the resume that could hurt. An early loss to Barnegat might sting, but it happened long enough ago that the Panthers can get over it – especially with Barnegat in the field. A sweep at the hands of Pinelands is a little more troubling, but to credit Point Boro, the Panthers have bounced back nicely with their OCT run. There is no huge win on the board for Point Boro, but beating Lacey twice and two Toms River schools (South and East) in the OCT is enough to discuss Point Boro as the No. 10 seed.
14. Colts Neck (10-7, 8-6)
Division Wins: Middletown North (2), Neptune (2), Red Bank (2), at Matawan, Wall
Division Losses: Ocean (2), St. John Vianney (2), Matawan, at Wall
Non-Division Wins: Holmdel (MCT), Holmdel
Non-Division Losses: At Manasquan (MCT)
Why They’re Here: For the second straight year, Colts Neck picked up a big win over Wall and for the second straight season, the Cougars have had trouble building on it. While it’s not as bad as last year’s 1-10 finish after beating Wall in the Monmouth County Tournament, Colts Neck has gone 5-5 since improving to 5-2 with the win over the Crimson Knights. A recent sweep at the hands of St. John Vianney and a loss to Matawan might put Colts Neck in position to play a first-round road game, but the win over Wall should get the Cougars a home game.
15. Neptune (11-7, 7-7)
Division Wins: Red Bank (2), at Matawan, Middletown North, Ocean, at St. John Vianney, Wall
Division Losses: Colts Neck (2), Matawan, at Middletown North, at Ocean, St. John Vianney, at Wall
Non-Division Wins: vs. Freehold Boro, at Point Beach, Shore, Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: A pair of losses to non-tournament teams Matawan and Middletown North could put Neptune in a little bit of jeopardy as it pertains to a first-round home game but ultimately, the Scarlet Fliers should end up in the top 15. They have two wins over teams that are sure to be in the top 10, with dramatic wins over both Wall and Ocean. It’s also worth remembering that a lot of the seniors on this team playing pivotal roles on 2017’s Central Jersey Group III finalist, so there is some winning pedigree on this Neptune roster.
16. Toms River South (11-8, 8-6)
Division Wins: Central (2), Toms River East (2), Brick, Brick Memorial, at Southern, at Toms River North
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), at Brick, at Brick Memorial, Southern, Toms River North
Non-Division Wins: Lacey, Donovan Catholic (OCT), Livingston
Non-Division Losses: At Point Boro (OCT), Jackson Liberty
Why They’re Here: The Indians have run hot and cold but still have the potential to take down a top seed with a one-two-punch of Gabe Driscoll and Matt Hartshorn on the mound. They will probably have to see a top seed early in the tournament because their resume is light on wins over tournament teams and is unlikely to include a win over a team seeded in the top 10.
17. Pinelands (9-7, 8-5)
Division Wins: Lacey (2), Lakewood (2), Point Boro (2), Donovan Catholic, at Manchester
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), at Barnegat, at Donovan Catholic, Manchester
Non-Division Wins: vs. Point Beach
Non-Division Losses: Toms River East (OCT), Brick Memorial
Why They’re Here: Like Toms River South, Pinelands has a pitching staff that could pose problems for any opponent. The Wildcats not only have Division I arms Joey Ventresca and Noah Dean, but have also gotten strong seasons from Pete Hammond and Pat Apgar. The offense has been more temperamental, which has led to losses vs. Manchester, Donovan Catholic, Barnegat and Toms River East. Two wins over Lacey and two over Point Boro, however, could be key in getting Pinelands a home game.
18. Monmouth (11-10, 6-8)
Division Wins: St. Rose (2), Holmdel, Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven, Shore
Division Losses: Manasquan (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), Holmdel, at Raritan, at Rumson-Fair Haven, at Shore
Non-Division Wins: Mater Dei, Long Branch, Ranney (MCT), at Middletown South (MCT), Lakewood
Non-Division Losses: At Ocean (MCT), at Middletown North
Why They’re Here: Monmouth could not hang with Red Bank Catholic and Manasquan in the division and split with every other team except St. Rose. The non-divisional schedule is also light outside of two games and one of those games was Monmouth’s biggest win of the year. Ace Dante Ciaramella spun a gem to beat Middletown South in the Monmouth County Tournament and a win like that might be enough to overcome some inconsistencies throughout the rest of the schedule.
19. St. John Vianney (9-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North (2), at Matawan, at Neptune, at Red Bank
Division Losses: Ocean (2), Wall (2), Matawan, Neptune, Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: Manchester, Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven, at Marlboro (MCT)
Why They’re Here: With a six-game winning streak heading into the seeding meeting, St. John Vianney will head into the tournament a dangerous team, even if the Lancers are likely to get stuck with a road game as a .500 team. Freshman Rocko Brzezniak and his six home runs have been the lead story at Vianney, but the Lancers have gotten contributions up-and-down the lineup, as well as a up-and-coming pitching staff led by sophomore Ryan Sekman.
20. Lacey (12-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Donovan Catholic
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), Point Boro (2), at Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Wins: At Brick, at Central, at Brick Memorial, Point Beach (OCT), at Toms River East
Non-Division Losses: At Toms River South, Southern (OCT)
Why They’re Here: Lacey seems to be cooling off with two straight losses after getting to 12-7, which the Lions did by going 10-2 over 12 games. The wins over tournament teams include Barnegat twice, Brick Memorial and Point Beach, all of which are likely to be seeded behind Lacey. Without the noteworthy wins, Lacey is looking at a road game, but with enough wins over teams in this area of the seeding, the Lions have an edge over a chunk of the field.
21. Brick Memorial (11-11, 6-8)
Division Wins: At Brick, at Central, Southern, at Toms River East, Toms River North, Toms River South
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Brick, Central, at Southern, Toms River East, at Toms River North, at Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: At Point Beach, Brick (OCT), at Pinelands, at St. Rose, Matawan
Non-Division Losses: vs. Williamstown, Lacey, at Jackson Liberty (OCT)
Why They’re Here: The Mustangs qualified for the SCT with a Saturday double-header sweep vs. St. Rose and Matawan. They also nearly knocked off Jackson Liberty Friday in a classic, 11-10, slugfest in which sophomore Max Cala hit two of the team’s three homers. Brick Memorial has defeated Toms River North and Toms River South and also played Jackson Memorial very tough in the first of two meetings, so this will be a double-digit seed to watch, even if they get stuck with a seed in the twenties.
22. Barnegat (9-9, 7-6)
Division Wins: Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), at Donovan Catholic, Pinelands, Point Boro
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), Lacey (2), Donovan Catholic, at Point Boro
Non-Division Wins: vs. Edison, Central
Non-Division Losses: vs. Toms River East, at Jackson Memorial, at Point Boro (OCT)
Why They’re Here: After hitting a midseason rough patch, Barnegat scrambled into the tournament and has some solid wins to boast. The Bengals beat Pinelands and Point Boro once each and had they been able to beat Lacey once, they could have climbed a few more spots.
23. Mater Dei Prep (13-5, 12-0)
Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keyport (2), Keansburg (2), Point Beach (2), Ranney (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: South River
Non-Division Losses: At Monmouth, at Ocean, Freehold Boro (MCT), Brick, Rumson-Fair Haven
Why They’re Here: As the B Central champion, Mater Dei will be the first team from its division seeded, but that is the ceiling heading into Monday. Mater Dei’s only win outside the division was vs. South River, while the division’s best win in the Shore Conference outside of B Central is Point Beach over Brick.
24. Point Pleasant Beach (10-7, 9-2)
Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), Keyport (2), Keansburg (2), Ranney (2), Asbury Park
Division Losses: Mater Dei (2)
Non-Division Wins: At Brick
Non-Division Losses: vs. Pinelands, Brick Memorial, Neptune, at Lacey (OCT), Donovan Catholic
Why They’re Here: The Garnet Gulls have been more competitive than Mater Dei has outside the division, but got shut down by Mater Dei ace Brandon Sansone. Based on its body of work, Point Beach could provide the No. 9 seed with a pesky game in the first round.
25. Ranney (10-6, 7-5)
Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keyport (2), Keansburg
Division Losses: Mater Dei (2), Point Beach (2), at Keansburg
Non-Division Wins: Academy for Urban Leadership, Wardlaw-Hartridge, at Gill St. Bernard
Non-Division Losses: At Monmouth (MCT)
Why They’re Here: The Panthers did enough in the division to qualify for the SCT and with some youth on the roster, a first-round game against a team like Ocean or Manasquan could be a good opportunity for those young players to grow and rise to the occasion.
Projected Early-Round Pairings
(25) Ranney at (8) Manasquan
(24) Point Beach at (9) Ocean
(23) Mater Dei Prep at (10) Freehold Twp.
(22) Barnegat at (11) Toms River North
(21) Brick Memorial at (12) Howell
(20) Lacey at (13) Point Boro
(19) St. John Vianney at (14) Colts Neck
(18) Monmouth at (15) Neptune
(17) Pinelands at (16) Toms River South
Round of 16
(24) Point Beach/(9) Ocean vs. (25) Ranney/(8) Manasquan
(23) Mater Dei/(10) Freehold Twp. at (7) Manalapan
(22) Barnegat/(11) Toms River North at (6) Wall
(21) Brick Memorial/(12) Howell at (5) Jackson Liberty
(20) Lacey/(13) Colts Neck at (4) Jackson Memorial
(19) St. John Vianney/(14) Point Boro at (3) Red Bank Catholic
(18) Monmouth/(15) Neptune at (2) CBA
(17) Pinelands/(16) Toms River South at (1) Middletown South