Baseball – Ranney Holds at No. 1 as Five Teams Emerge as Contenders in the Thrive Top 10
Two weeks into the 2023 season, the Shore Conference has developed a crystal-clear top five in the rankings, while the back-half of the Top 10 looks like it will be a revolving door throughout the season. With that being said, the division schedules will just be hitting the halfway mark in the next eight-to-10 days, so there is plenty of baseball left to be played. In the meantime, the Shore’s top tier looks a lot like it has since the preseason rankings.
1. Ranney (6-1, 5-0) Last Week: 1
The Panthers will not go undefeated in 2023, with Delbarton beating the Shore’s No. 1 team in an entertaining, back-and-forth, 7-6 battle. Although Ranney suffered a loss on Saturday, it won’t knock the Panthers from the top spot; Delbarton is one of the state’s best baseball outfits and it will take more than one competitive loss to a program of that caliber to pull the Panthers back to the pack.
2. Red Bank Catholic (5-1, 4-1) Last Week: 2
Since losing to Rumson in the bottom of the seventh inning on opening day, Red Bank Catholic has quickly righted the ship by rolling through Rumson in the rematch, followed by Wall, Raritan and Donovan Catholic. The Caseys have six proven hitters atop the rotation, a bottom-of-the-lineup that is contributing, outstanding defense and the deepest pitching staff at the Shore. With Ranney suffering its first loss, RBC is right back in the running.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-1, 4-1) Last Week: 3
With a split vs. Red Bank Catholic, followed by four consecutive wins, Rumson has played up to its preseason top-five ranking and, at the moment, looks like the clear-cut top team among the Shore Conference’s public-school programs. The pitching is still top-notch, Reece Moroney continues to rake and on a team that needed new starters to step up, sophomore Parker Shenman has delivered and then some.
4. Christian Brothers Academy (6-0, 3-0) Last Week: 5
Through six games, CBA’s loaded lineup is averaging 11 runs per game and is heading back to New Jersey from North Carolina with three more wins on their record and two locked-in hitters in Zaine Toneske and Hunter DelGuercio. In addition to the offense, Chris Levonas looks like one of the Shore’s top pitchers and the rest of the staff has been solid through the first six games. CBA is one of two unbeaten teams left in the Shore Conference and will be tested this week vs. Middletown South and Manalapan.
5. Donovan Catholic (5-1, 5-0) Last Week: 4
A rough first inning Saturday at Red Bank Catholic was too much for the Griffins to overcome in a 7-2 loss to the defending Shore Conference Tournament champions. Prior to suffering that first loss of the season, Donovan Catholic had scored 56 runs in its prior four games and all signs point to the Griffins steamrolling over the Class B South competition after settling for co-championships each of the last two years.
6. Howell (4-2, 4-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Rebels make their first appearance in the Top 10 this season after finishing 2022 as the No. 1 team in the conference. There remain some questions about the pitching staff, but it has been solid so far and, up until a 5-1 loss to 6-1 Bridgewater-Raritan on Saturday, Howell sported an offense that looks to be a continuation of last year’s state-championship group, even with six new starters.
7. Southern (4-1, 4-1) Last Week: 10
Even after swallowing its first loss of the season to close the week, Southern moves up three spots after a thoroughly-impressive sweep of a Toms River South team that has won all of its other games this season. The Rams are still well-positioned in the Class A South race, but it is still early and this week’s games vs. Brick Memorial – the team that beat them – and Toms River East will go a long way in setting up the second-half of what could be a very crowded division race.
8. Marlboro (4-3, 3-2) Last Week: 6
Following a dominant 3-0 start, Marlboro came back to earth with three straight losses – one to Old Bridge, one to Colts Neck and another to Middletown North. The Mustangs got back on track with an extra-inning win over Lacey to end the week and will look to get back into the A North championship race with a rematch vs. Middletown North, followed by a two-game series vs. Freehold Township to cap the week.
9. Middletown South (2-4, 2-2) Last Week: 7
At some point, sporting a sub-.500 record will be a disqualifier for prospective Top 10 teams, but Middletown South is still worth a spot given the quality of its pitching staff and three one-run losses. Things won’t be easy this week, but if Middletown South can get some positive results against CBA and Howell this, the Eagles will be back in the conversation for a top-five spot, not to mention the Class A South race.
10. Shore (4-1, 2-1) Last Week: Not ranked
On their own, the Blue Devils earned their Top 10 ranking with a 4-1 start that includes a win over Monmouth and Wall. Last week, Shore made its case by scoring 30 runs in two games – one a 12-4 win over Wall and another an 18-4 drubbing of Red Bank. The Blue Devils will try to complete the sweep against Wall before taking on an improved Holmdel squad.
Wall (3-3, 2-3) Last Week: 8 – The Crimson Knights snapped a three-game skid with a win over Brick to end the week, with returning sluggers Jake Howlett and Gabe Cavazzoni leading the offense.
Jackson Memorial (4-2, 4-1) Last Week: 9 – A wild win over Brick tested Jackson Memorial’s resilience and while it wasn’t enough to keep them in the Top 10 this week, it kept them in the A South race.
Top 10 Watchlist
Central (3-2, 3-2)
Manasquan (3-3, 2-3)
Brick Memorial (4-3, 2-3)
Ocean (5-2, 2-1)
Lacey (4-2, 4-1)