Baseball – Shore Sports Network Top 10, April 8
It took all of one cold, rain-soaked, postponement-filled week for the field to supplant the preseason No. 1 team from its perch. Toms River North came in the defending Shore Conference Tournament and Ocean County Tournament champions with an entire pitching staff back, but not even the pitching-rich Mariners could avoid the pitfalls of early April baseball.
Losses happen in high school baseball, so no team is getting buried on April 8. With that being said, there are a few teams that might be feeling a tad anxious after suffering a couple of losses and some teams that have surprised their way into the picture. Although there is plenty of change to this week’s top 10, it’s bound to change even more between now and the second weekend in June.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: 2
Two wins were enough to push CBA into the No. 1 ranking this week given that one was against a top-10 opponent in Colts Neck and the Colts needed to jump just one team to get to No. 1. The pitching staff is not quite complete yet, but Nick Hohenstein and Joe Escandon have done the job so far and the offense – also led by Hohenstein – has gotten the job done.
2. Wall (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 4
CBA is No. 1 based on where the Colts started in the rankings, but it’s hard to argue against Wall as the most impressive team at the Shore so far. The Crimson Knights handled Holmdel, shutout Monmouth, knocked Middletown North right-hander and Rutgers commit Garrett French around and beat a powerful Middletown South lineup, 1-0. The next two years already looks promising with so many juniors on the roster, but they are now starting to look downright scary.
3. Manalapan (5-0, 1-0) Last Week: 5
To become the Shore’s only 5-0 team, Manalapan had to get away from the Shore – and New Jersey altogether. After surviving extra innings against Colts Neck on opening day, the Braves took a very timely trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and won three games, including one against a quality Lenape club. Manalapan has a huge welcome-home week coming up, with games against CBA, Freehold Township, Marlboro and Toms River North.
4. Jackson Liberty (2-0, 2-0) Last Week: 6
With 27 runs in two games so far, the Lions are picking up where they left off at the end of last year, when they racked up runs against good competition with a sophomore-laden lineup. Scott Wierciszewski is off to a scorching start – 6-for-8 with a home run and 11 RBI in those two games – which has been the best of many good individual starts in the Liberty lineup. The Lions will get a chance to prove they belong on Saturday against Jackson Memorial.
5. Jackson Memorial (4-0, 2-0)
It appears as though the Jaguars are back and ready to contend for Class A South. Jackson Memorial has had great pitching from top to bottom so far, with seniors Nick Sefick and Matt D’Amore combining for 16 starter innings with no earned runs and seniors Ryder Tallent and Mike Dimino combining on six scoreless relief innings. With a lineup that has five sophomores and two juniors, the hits are coming and they will be here to stay for the next several years.
6. Central Regional (3-0, 2-0)
Not all undefeated starts are created equal and in Central’s case, its 3-0 start packs a punch. The Golden Eagles beat Pinelands ace Joey Ventresca on opening day and followed that up with an 8-4 win over preseason No. 1 Toms River North. Another close win for ace A.J. Smith and the Eagles over Southern made it three in a row and positions Central in the top 10 for the first time since the Golden Eagles were the Ocean County champions in 2014.
7. Toms River North (2-2, 1-2) Last Week: 1
The loss to Central is the basis for the six-spot drop, but Toms River North is still positioned to play for the top spot by getting straightened out in A South and continuing to perform outside the division. The Mariners lost a one-run, extra-inning game to Washington Township in the season-opener and won their next Saturday game by beating Gloucester Catholic – a top-five team in the NJ.com preseason top 10. Toms River North’s next Saturday game will be against No. 3 Manalapan, which comes a day after a showdown with No. 5 Jackson Memorial.
8. Freehold Boro (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: 9
The weather knocked out all but one game for the Colonials, but what a game it was. Freehold Boro beat Marlboro in dramatic fashion, with catcher Phil Marcantonio belting a go-ahead two-run home run to dead center field in the top of the seventh inning. Freehold will have a couple of matchups this week with top 10 implications, with Freehold Township and Colts Neck on the upcoming schedule.
9. Colts Neck (1-2, 0-2) Last Week: 10
Although Colts Neck is below .500, the Cougars lost one-run games to No. 1 CBA and No. 3 Manalapan, plus routed Hamilton West, 13-0. Colts Neck has a deep lineup, a solid defense and a pitching staff that is coming along, but the wins will have to start coming for the Cougars to stay in the top 10 going forward. This week includes two games against Middletown South bookending divisional matchups against Howell and Freehold Boro.
10. Monmouth Regional (3-1, 1-1)
The Falcons slide into the top 10 after beating Red Bank Catholic and getting past Neptune to end the week. The Falcons’ top two pitchers – Charlie Kelly and Dante Ciaramella – pitched well in their starts and the bats came to play in every game except against Wall left-handed ace Trey Dombroski. B North is a grind, but Monmouth made the trek to the top of the standings last year and has to be considered a threat again this season.
Middletown North (0-3, 0-2) Last Week: 3 – Three straight losses is one thing, but it’s hard to fathom a pitching staff this talented has been knocked around for 24 runs in eight games. On the other hand, Tyler Ras had great stuff in his first start and will have a chance to stop the bleeding to start week two.
Red Bank Catholic (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: 7 – RBC was only a .500 team in division play last year, so a loss to Monmouth is not the end of the world. He Casesy get a crack at Wall on Tuesday.
Freehold Township (2-2, 2-1) Last Week: 8 – After a pair of close losses to open the season, the Patriots bounced back against Neptune and Marlboro to stay in the Top 10 discusion.
Top 10 Watchlist
Middletown South (2-1, 2-1) – The Eagles are right there with Monmouth for the No. 10 spot at this point and a win over Tyler Ras and Middletown North is a good piece of evidence that favors their candidacy over that of Monmouth.
Lacey (3-0, 2-0) – A win over T.J. Scuderi and Toms River South on opening day was an eye-opener for a Lacey team that appears to boast a revamped lineup (30 runs in three games) to make up for a lot innings on the mound lost to graduation.
Marlboro (2-2, 1-2) – The season started on a high note for the Mustangs, but they will have to bounce back after very tough losses to both Freehold Boro and Freehold Township – both of which Marlboro led going to the seventh inning.
Raritan (2-1, 2-0) – The Rockets showed they can compete with A North in a loss to Marlboro, but the Rockets still have to prove they can put runs on the board against top teams from outside A Central. With the lineup Raritan has back and the deep pitching staff, it wouldn’t take much for the Rockets to figure it out.