Baseball – SCT Watch: Ocean Surges Toward Top 10; Jackson Nails Down No. 1; Who is No. 2?
With the late start to the 2021 season and a general commitment by the Shore Conference coaches to play a full platter of tournaments this season, the Shore Conference Tournament is about to be seeded in the middle of the regular season and begin this coming weekend.
This, of course, presents some problems - both for the six coaches seeding the tournament and the teams trying to qualify. No team has played a full division schedule and the maximum number of games a team will have on a resume will be 13, so there is not the normal collection of games, nor are there any division champions (although Class B Central is already pretty much in the bag for Ranney) to help guide the process.
For some teams, the downside is worse. Teams that play the tougher games within their division during the early part of the year, plus schedule quality non-division opponents have put themselves in danger of missing the tournament. The common refrain is "just win your games," which is fair, to a point, but there are teams that will have no bad losses, a few good wins and still won't qualify.
Those problems aside, this weekend will be the start of an exciting stretch of the season. Starting Saturday, there will be a Shore Conference Tournament decided in the middle of a bunch of division title races and as soon as those two pursuits end, the season transitions to the NJSIAA and County Tournaments - both of which will also run concurrently. For the teams that get in, it is going to be a fun week and eight of them will get a chance to advance past this weekend.
With a limited body of work and still some spots to be decided before Wednesday night's seeding meeting, here is a look at how the field shakes out heading into the games on cutoff day. There are now 23 that have locked up spots and six more that can still make it by winning on Wednesday. Here is how things look going into the final day before the tournament is seeded.
Must have at least a .500 winning percentage to qualify
Updated up until the brackets are released Wednesday night.
1. Jackson Memorial (10-2, 7-0)
Division Wins: Southern (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River North (2), Brick Memorial
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: At Freehold Boro, vs. Randolph, at Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Losses: At St. Augustine, vs. Kingsway
Why They’re Here: The Preseason No. 1 team has done nothing to relinquish their spot, going unbeaten against Shore Conference competition with two one-run losses to high-caliber, out-of-area opponents.
2. Red Bank Catholic (11-2, 7-1)
Division Wins: Monmouth (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), at Holmdel
Division Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Wins: At Toms River North, Manasquan, vs. Delbarton, Wall
Non-Division Losses: At Middletown South
Why They’re Here: The No. 2 spot is likely to go to either Red Bank Catholic or Manalapan and which team you side with for that spot depends on what you prefer. Red Bank Catholic has two close losses against teams ranked in the Top 10 and has an ace in Shane Panzini pitching at the top of his game.
3. Manalapan (10-2, 6-1)
Division Wins: CBA (2), Middletown North (2), at Howell, at Long Branch
Division Losses: Howell
Non-Division Wins: At North Brunswick, at Monroe, at Memorial West New York, at Bayonne
Non-Division Losses: At Colts Neck
Why They’re Here: With a sweep of Middletown North and its two aces, Manalapan has made a strong case for the No. 2 spot. Manalapan has an ugly loss at Colts Neck and its two losses are to teams outside the Top 10, but the Braves have a deeper collection of wins, as well as a deeper, more experienced roster. When it comes to the No. 2 seed, there is no obvious choice but it should be one of these two.
4. Middletown North (8-2, 5-2)
Division Wins: Howell (2), Long Branch (2), at Marlboro
Division Losses: Manalapan (2)
Non-Division Wins: At Holmdel, at Red Bank, Mater Dei Prep
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: With their only two losses coming by 1-0 margins against Manalapan aces Joe Mazza and Tyler Kane, the Lions have a fairly clean resume. The only knocks is there isn’t much of a non-divisional slate to brag about, but the quality of pitching is real with Danny Frontera and Colin Dowlen leading the way.
5. Freehold Township (8-3, 7-2)
Division Wins: Long Branch (2), Marlboro (2), Middletown South (2), CBA
Division Losses: at CBA, at Howell
Non-Division Wins: At Freehold Boro
Non-Division Losses: At St. John Vianney
Why They’re Here: The Patriots snapped out of a brief two-game funk with a win over CBA to open this week and should be forgiven for dropping a road game at St. John Vianney 24 hours after going 14 innings at CBA, only to lose on a two-out, walk-off hit. The Patriots have the pitching to be dangerous and a senior-heavy core leading them.
6. Middletown South (10-3, 4-3)
Division Wins: Long Branch (2), CBA, Marlboro
Division Losses: Freehold Twp. (2), at Marlboro
Non-Division Wins: Manchester, Red Bank Catholic, at Bloomfield, vs. Ramapo, vs. Toms River North, Manasquan
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: Middletown South has had three quiet offensive outings in its three losses – all three to two teams seeded in the top 12. Factor in an impressive win over Red Bank Catholic and the Eagles look like a solid top 10 candidate, with a pretty good case to nail down a coveted top-eight spot with a strong finish heading into the cutoff.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-4, 4-4)
Division Wins: St. Rose (2), Raritan, at Red Bank Catholic
Division Losses: Holmdel (2), at Ocean, at Raritan
Non-Division Wins: Red Bank, at Wall, at Central, Howell
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: Rumson is an example of what it is like being the hunter vs. being the hunted. The Bulldogs played an inspired game at Red Bank Catholic and took out the Caseys, 3-1, in extra innings in a game started by Panzini. Two days later, they were shutout by Raritan junior Ben Hutchins in a 1-0 loss. With three wins over teams ranked in the Top 10, Rumson shouldn't take too much of a hit from the one-run loss to Raritan.
8. Wall (10-3, 7-1)
Division Wins: Manasquan (2), Neptune (2), at Colts Neck, Matawan, at Red Bank
Division Losses: Colts Neck
Non-Division Wins: At St. Rose, Brick, at Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven, at Red Bank Catholic
Why They’re Here: The Crimson Knights have swung the bats against just about every opponent, with the exception of a 2-1 extra-inning loss to Colts Neck. They also scored only three runs in a loss to Red Bank Catholic, but that was the most any team has put up against Panzini this season. The pitching is an unknown, but Wall’s bats should play against anybody.
9. Central (9-2, 7-1)
Division Wins: Brick (2), Southern (2), Toms River South (2), at Toms River North
Division Losses: Toms River North
Non-Division Wins: Point Boro, at Barnegat
Non-Division Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven
Why They’re Here: The Golden Eagles have been one of the more potent offenses in the Shore Conference in the early going and the pitching is starting to settle in as well after an uneven start. There is not a top-10 win on the schedule, but a split with Toms River North plus no bad losses get Central in the running for the Top 10.
10. Donovan Catholic (7-4, 4-2)
Division Wins: Point Boro (2), Barnegat, Jackson Liberty
Division Losses: At Barnegat, at Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Wins: At Marlboro, at Ranney, Ocean
Non-Division Losses: At Brick Memorial, at Gloucester Catholic
Why They’re Here: Despite two straight losses, Donovan Catholic has done some quality work outside the division with wins over a solid A North team in Marlboro and eight-win teams in Ranney and Ocean.
11. Marlboro (6-6, 4-5)
Division Wins: Howell (2), CBA, Middletown South
Division Losses: Freehold Twp. (2), at CBA, Middletown North, at Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: At Toms River South, Colts Neck
Non-Division Losses: Donovan Catholic
Why They’re Here: After a rough start to the season, the Mustangs have surged back to the right side of .500 with wins over CBA, Middletown South, Colts Neck and two over Howell – all teams that have been ranked at one point or another this season. With a game against Middletown North coming up on Wednesday, Marlboro could possibly break into the Top 10, although a head-to-head loss vs. Donovan Catholic could hold up the Mustangs.
12. Ocean (9-3, 6-1)
Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Shore (2), Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Losses: At Raritan
Non-Division Wins: Manasquan, Red Bank, at Toms River South
Non-Division Losses: At Neptune, at Donovan Catholic
Why They’re Here: Winners of seven straight, Ocean has gotten straightened out after a 1-3 start thanks to a schedule that the Spartans have taken advantage of. The Spartans don't currently have a win over a team with a winning record, although that could change if Raritan beats Monmouth. In Ocean’s only game against a team with a winning record, Donovan Catholic beat the Spartans, 15-3, so Wednesday’s trip to Rumson will be an opportunity for a major resume-builder.
13. Howell (6-6, 2-5)
Division Wins: Freehold Twp., at Manalapan
Division Losses: Marlboro (2), Middletown North (2), Manalapan
Non-Division Wins: At Toms River South, at Colts Neck, St. Rose, vs. Brick
Non-Division Losses: At Rumson-Fair Haven
Why They’re Here: Howell looked poised to challenge for a top-five seed, but a has gone into a slump leading into the tournament and will now have to beat Freehold Township just to get a spot in the tournament. With a win over Manalapan, the Rebels still carry some weight in the seeding if they can find their way in.
14. Toms River North (5-5, 4-3)
Division Wins: Brick Memorial (2), at Central, at Southern
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Central
Non-Division Wins: At Ranney
Non-Division Losses: Red Bank Catholic, vs. Middletown South
Why They’re Here: Toms River North can still qualify now that its game at Southern has been bumped from Thursday to Wednesday, but the Mariners still have to come through with a win over a competent Rams team. If Toms River North can get in, it has a resume that does not include any bad losses, with all five coming against teams ranked in the Top 10. That should get the Mariners a home game.
15. Colts Neck (8-4, 5-2)
Division Wins: St. John Vianney (2), Manasquan, at Red Bank, at Wall
Division Losses: At Manasquan, Wall
Non-Division Wins: At Manalapan, at Ferris, at Manchester
Non-Division Losses: Howell, at Marlboro
Why They’re Here: Colts Neck has been one of the Shore’s more unpredictable teams, with wins over Manalapan and Wall and a loss to Manasquan last week, as well as lopsided losses to Howell, Marlboro and Wall. There are days when the pitching looks lights-out and others where the opponent puts runs on the board and the same volatility applies to the offense.
16. Ranney (8-2, 6-0)
Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), Point Beach (2), Keansburg, at Keyport
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Brick Memorial, Lacey
Non-Division Losses: Donovan Catholic, Toms River North
Why They’re Here: Ranney needed another win outside of B Central to boost its profile and the Panthers got it on Tuesday against a good Lacey team. Brick Memorial falling out of the tournament weakens the resume a little and the two losses were both blowouts, but with a healthier team than it had in that first week of the season, Ranney has become a team to watch going into the tournament.
17. Lacey (7-3, 5-1)
Division Wins: Pinelands (2), Point Boro (2), Barnegat
Division Losses: At Barnegat
Non-Division Wins: Southern, at Raritan
Non-Division Losses: Brick Memorial, at Ranney
Why They’re Here: Lacey is tied for first place in Class B South, although the Lions have benefitted from their division slate opening with four games against the bottom two teams in the division, Pinelands and Point Boro. The win at Raritan looks good heading into Wednesday and it might be just enough to get Lacey a home game.
18. Jackson Liberty (6-5, 5-3)
Division Wins: Pinelands (2), Barnegat, Donovan Catholic, Manchester
Division Losses: At Barnegat, at Donovan Catholic, at Manchester
Non-Division Wins: At Raritan
Non-Division Losses: Jackson Memorial, Wall
Why They’re Here: Jackson Liberty's results within the division are a demonstration of how even the top five teams in Class B South are. The Lions have split with Donovan Catholic, Manchester and Barnegat and on top of that, they have challenged themselves against good competition outside the division.
19. St. John Vianney (4-3, 3-3)
Division Wins: At Freehold Boro, Matawan, Neptune
Division Losses: Colts Neck (2), at Neptune
Non-Division Wins: Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: Because of a COVID-related shutdown, St. John Vianney got off to a late start and doesn’t have much in the way on non-divisional games on the schedule. The Lancers, however, did get a big win by beating Freehold Township to cap last week, which followed a win over Matawan left-hander Tim Egan. It’s going to take a win over Freehold Boro for St. John Vianney to get in but the Lancers seem settled in enough to get it and look to get hot starting this weekend.
20. Barnegat (7-5, 5-3)
Division Wins: Point Boro (2), Donovan Catholic, Jackson Liberty, Lacey
Division Losses: At Donovan Catholic, at Jackson Liberty, at Lacey
Non-Division Wins: Raritan, at Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: At Edison, Central
Why They’re Here: Coming off two ugly losses to Donovan Catholic and Central, Barnegat needed to reverse its fortune and did just that Tuesday by rallying for a 6-5 win over Donovan Catholic. Throw in a win over Raritan and the Bengals have a deeper collection of quality wins than Ocean does.
21. Manchester (6-3, 5-1)
Division Wins: Pinelands (2), Point Boro (2), Jackson Liberty
Division Losses: At Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Wins: Toms River East
Non-Division Losses: At Middletown South, Colts Neck
Why They’re Here: With no bad losses and a pretty solid win over Jackson Liberty, Manchester should be discussed in the 17-25 range. When you get down to it, there is not a huge difference between Manchester and Lacey, with Lacey's win over Raritan the difference at this point.
22. Matawan (6-3, 4-2)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Red Bank (2)
Division Losses: At St. John Vianney, at Wall
Non-Division Wins: At Mater Dei Prep, at Holmdel
Non-Division Losses: Raritan
Why They’re Here: Matawan’s pitching has been dominant and the Huskies have scored a bunch of runs during a 6-2 start that included a five-game winning streak. The hold-up for Matawan is the strength of schedule, which does not include a team with a winning record heading into Wednesday and the six wins coming over teams that are on the outside looking in heading into the cutoff. In this case, it is hard to tell if Matawan’s schedule has helped them by giving the Huskies a chance to easily qualify or hurt them because there have not been many chances to prove themselves. With St. John Vianney a showdown with Wall on Wednesday, that chance is coming.
23. Neptune (5-5, 3-4)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro, Manasquan, St. John Vianney
Division Losses: Wall (2), at Freehold Boro, at St. John Vianney
Non-Division Wins: Ocean, at Holmdel
Non-Division Losses: At Monmouth
Why They’re Here: Neptune has two impressive wins to its credit and both can be attributed to senior ace Brian Young. The Scarlet Fliers have proven to be dangerous with Young on the mound that might be grounds enough to give them a bump in the standings so as to not punish a higher-seeded team that would have to draw Young in an early-round game. With Young already having pitched Monday in a loss to Wall, Neptune will have to get by Manasquan on Wednesday to get into the tournament.
24. Monmouth (7-4, 3-4)
Division Wins: St. Rose, at Holmdel, Raritan
Division Losses: Red Bank Catholic (2), Holmdel, at St. Rose
Non-Division Wins: Henry Hudson, Manasquan, Neptune, Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: None
Why They’re Here: Like Matawan, Monmouth has benefited from beating up on teams with losing records. The Falcons also have a loss to a team with a losing record in St. Rose, so there will be some obstacles between Monmouth and a high seed.
25. Brick (5-5, 2-3)
Division Wins: Toms River East, at Toms River South
Division Losses: Central (2), at Toms River East
Non-Division Wins: St. Rose, at Keansburg, at Pinelands
Non-Division Losses: At Wall, vs. Howell
Why They’re Here: All of Brick’s wins are over teams that won’t be in the SCT and the Green Dragons also have a loss to one of those teams (Toms River East). Brick has been more competitive against good teams than the three teams listed below it on this list, thus the ranking at No. 26.
26. Point Pleasant Beach (4-4, 3-2)
Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), at Keansburg
Division Losses: Ranney (2)
Non-Division Wins: At St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: At Shore, at Point Boro
Why They’re Here: After losing a road game to Shore and two convincing losses to Ranney, Point Beach does not have a whole lot on the resume thanks to a late start to the season stemming from a COVID-related shutdown.
27. Keyport (3-2, 2-1)
Division Wins: Keansburg (2)
Division Losses: Ranney (1)
Non-Division Wins: Lakewood
Non-Division Losses: At Long Branch
Why They’re Here: The Red Raiders will play Wednesday against a Ranney team that overmatched them the first time around, but with a 3-2 record going in, it won't be necessary for Keyport to win the game, other than to improve on its seed.
Raritan (5-6, 4-3)
Division Wins: Shore (2), Ocean, Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Losses: At Monmouth, at Ocean, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Wins: At Matawan
Non-Division Losses: Jackson Liberty, at Barnegat, Lacey
Red Bank (6-8, 3-5)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), at Manasquan
Division Losses: Matawan (2), Colts Neck, Manasquan, Wall
Non-Division Wins: Holmdel, Mater Dei Prep, at Shore
Non-Division Losses: At Rumson-Fair Haven, Middletown North, at Ocean
Brick Memorial (5-7, 2-5)
Division Wins: At Southern, Toms River South
Division Losses: Toms River North (2), at Jackson Memorial, Southern, at Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: Donovan Catholic, CBA, at Lacey
Non-Division Losses: At Ranney, vs. Egg Harbor
Christian Brothers Academy (4-6, 2-4)
Division Wins: Freehold Twp., Marlboro
Division Losses: Manalapan (2), at Freehold Twp., at Marlboro
Non-Division Wins: Seton Hall Prep, at Ferris
Non-Division Losses: At Brick Memorial, at Pope John
Shore (4-7, 0-6)
Division Wins: None
Division Losses: Ocean (2), Raritan (2), Red Bank Catholic (2)
Non-Division Wins: Long Branch, at Manville, Point Beach, Freehold Boro
Non-Division Losses: Red Bank
Projected First-Round Match-ups
(27) Keyport at (6) Middletown South
(26) Point Beach at (7) Rumson-Fair Haven
(25) Brick at (8) Wall
(24) Monmouth at (9) Central
(23) Neptune at (10) Donovan Catholic
(22) Matawan at (11) Marlboro
(21) Manchester at (12) Ocean
(20) Barnegat at (13) Howell
(19) St. John Vianney at (14) Toms River North
(18) Jackson Liberty at (15) Colts Neck
(17) Lacey at (16) Ranney
Byes: No. 1 Jackson Memorial, No. 2 Red Bank Catholic, No. 3 Manalapan, No. 4 Middletown North, No. 5 Freehold Twp.