Baseball – Shore Sports Network Holds Steady as May Comes to a Close
I will spare you the suspense: There are no changes to the Top 10 this week. The gap is closing between some of the teams on the outside and the clubs hanging on for dear life, but the early-round wins by the teams closest to cracking the Top 10 last week weren’t quite impactful enough to break the seal.
The race for No. 1 is still very much active, with Ranney and Red Bank Catholic both trying to close their seasons with state championships and possible No. 1 rankings in both the state and at the Shore. Nos. 3 through 5 are all but settled, a flip of No. 6 and 7 is almost imminent, No. 8 is a wild card and Nos. 9 and 10 are almost guaranteed to change by next week.
With sectional championships on the line over the next five days, the stakes will be high, with banners and Top 10 spots still to be won.
1. Ranney (26-2, 14-0)
Nothing has changed much from a week ago, when Ranney held on to the No. 1 ranking over Red Bank Catholic on the strength of its split with Red Bank Catholic, two wins in two tries over Rumson-Fair Haven and just one other loss all season long – a one-run loss in April to Delbarton. Red Bank Catholic is still in position to pass Ranney should the Panthers slip up, so there is a No. 1 ranking every time the Panthers take the field, not to mention a second straight Non-Public B group championship.
2. Red Bank Catholic (22-5, 10-2)
While the Caseys are attempting to make a case for No. 1 over the last two weeks, there is first the matter of redemption against St. Augustine. Two years ago, the Hermits denied RBC a South Non-Public A championship in a come-from-behind, extra-inning win on the way to winning the fifth of their sixth consecutive sectional championships. RBC has four seniors who started that game, so there will be no shortage of motivation in the RBC dugout on Wednesday in the sectional semifinals at Count Basie Park.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (19-5, 9-3)
With CBA and Donovan Catholic out of the state tournament and Ranney and RBC far out in front of the rest of the field, Rumson is pretty much locked into the No. 3 spot to end the year. That, in and of itself would mean a great season for the Bulldogs, but they want much more than just a high ranking. The Bulldogs are the favorite to reach the Group II championship game and after coming up a game short of a state-championship appearance last year, they are a hungry bunch.
4. Christian Brothers Academy (19-6-1, 10-3-1)
The Colts were one strike away from dethroning six-time South Jersey Non-Public A champion St. Augustine, but the Hermits worked their late-game magic again, dealing CBA a crushing loss to end a 19-win season. With a Class A North title and appearances in both the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, it was a solid showing by the Colts, who will bring back ace Chris Levonas next season.
5. Donovan Catholic (22-5, 12-0)
The home-run ball did in Donovan Catholic in a sectional quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame, who went deep three times in a 9-6 victory in Toms River. With a 9-0 loss to Brick Memorial in a tune-up game and a loss at Delbarton on Saturday, the Griffins lost the final three games of their historic season. With a win over Southern in the Ocean County Tournament final, it is hard to see any team left passing Donovan Catholic for the No. 5 spot.
6. Jackson Memorial (17-8, 10-4)
Even after losing to Monroe to close out the week, Jackson Memorial’s résumé is still a hair better than that of Southern, but now, the Jaguars won’t have a say in whether or not it stays that way. Jackson Memorial has a nearly identical body of work compared to Southern and gets the edge with wins over Kingsway and St. Joseph of Metuchen.
7. Southern (16-8, 10-4)
While Southern remains behind Jackson Memorial for the moment, the Rams are not far from making the leap ahead of the Jaguars. With a trip to the Ocean County Tournament final already in hand, a second championship appearance would likely seal a jump to No. 6, which Southern can do by beating Eastern at home on Tuesday in the South Jersey Group IV semifinals.
8. Middletown North (15-8, 9-5)
The postseason mojo is back in Middletown, with the Lions winning two nailbiters last week over Hamilton West and Allentown to get back to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Middletown North has already won the A North public division title and made it to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, so the Lions’ hold on No. 8 is fairly strong. With Middletown South and Matawan still playing in Central Jersey Group III, however, there are two teams that could jump them with head-to-head wins.
9. Manasquan (12-12, 7-7)
Wins over Governor Livingston, Brick Memorial and Marlboro keep Manasquan in the picture for now, but there will be several teams coming for the Warriors’ spot in the Top 10. Matawan and Ocean, in particular, could be the spoiler for Manasquan, with Matawan having beaten the Warriors twice during the regular season and Ocean finishing ahead of them in the division standings.
10. Marlboro (12-11, 8-6)
Marlboro is still coasting off a sweep of CBA and a head-to-head win over Brick Memorial, but Middletown South is on the doorstep with a chance to beat Middletown North – another Class A North team – to earn a shot at a sectional championship. Matawan and Ocean are also gaining ground and will face the caliber of opponents Tuesday required to make the leap into the Top 10.
Still in the Running
Middletown South (13-12, 7-7) – There are two teams that are one win from breaking into the Top 10 and Middletown South is first on the list with its opportunity at Middletown North on Tuesday.
Ocean (19-7, 10-4) – Ocean is behind Middletown South on overall strength of wins heading into the week, but a win over Rumson on Tuesday would give the Spartans 20 wins and a win over a top-three team. That would be an undeniable Top 10 résumé.
Matawan (15-11, 6-8) – With two losses to Ocean, Matawan is not first in the pecking order, but the Huskies have a chance to reach the sectional final round, where they would play another team that is in line for a spot in the back-end of the Top 10 (either Middletown North or Middletown South).
Point Pleasant Beach (21-5, 13-1) – Point Beach could have a case to crack the Top 10 just by winning a sectional title, but that might require some other teams to lose. If, however, the Garnet Gulls can get to the state final and win it, it’s hard to see keeping them out under those circumstances.
Shore (13-12, 4-8) – With a win over Red Bank Catholic already in its pocket, Shore could move into the Top 10 if it can win the Group I title, but anything short of a Group I final appearance would probably not match what some of the other teams still playing right now have already done.