Baseball – Shore Sports Network Top 10, May 29
With less than two weeks left in the 2018 season, there are only a select few opportunities left for teams around the Shore to make their case in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 rankings, as well as the final state rankings. The Shore Conference Tournament is finally up to speed after rain wreaked havoc on the early part of the tournament and by next Monday night – when the SCT champion will be crowned – there could be a number of Shore teams with championships to boast.
Thirteen Shore teams over eight sections entered Tuesday still alive in the NJSIAA Tournament there is a decent change multiple teams from the area will still be eying state titles by this time next week. As for right now, here is how the contenders are positioned for the stretch run.
1. Wall (21-4, 13-1) Last Week: 2
For the first time this season, Wall climbs to the top of the Shore Sports Network Top 10 as the only team still alive in both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments. All year long, the Crimson Knights have had the look of a team that can handle two tournaments at once because of the strength of their top three pitchers and that is beginning to show. The offense has also come up big when it matters, so if the formula carries over into this week, Wall could find itself clearing out some room in the trophy case for at least two new pieces of hardware.
2. Jackson Memorial (23-6, 11-3) Last Week: 5
It’s hard to separate Jackson Memorial and Red Bank Catholic right now: Red Bank Catholic won the Monmouth County Tournament, but Jackson Memorial beat the Ocean County champions three out of four times they played. Red Bank Catholic lost to a Toms River East team that Jackson Memorial beat twice, but Jackson did not have to face Raiders Nick DeGennaro. Both teams have a loss to Monmouth. Both are still playing in the NJSIAA Tournament as well and with the Jaguars a round farther in their state bracket, they get the nod for now.
3. Red Bank Catholic (19-7, 10-4) Last Week: 3
With CBA losing to Point Boro, RBC’s win over the Colts has a little less impact than it did a couple of weeks ago, but the Caseys are still in the running for the No. 1 spot as long as they are still alive in the state’s toughest group tournament (Non-Public A). It’s going to take Wall coming up short of the two championships it is pursuing, but if the Caseys have one more prolonged winning streak in them, it will be hard to keep them out of the top spot.
4. Jackson Liberty (20-4, 13-1) Last Week: 4
Despite a semifinal loss to Toms River East in the Ocean County Tournament and an early exit from the SCT puts Jackson Liberty in some jeopardy of falling out of the top five, but the Lions are still a 20-win division champion that hammered the No. 2 team in the rankings when they met back in mid-April. Throw in Point Boro’s strong postseason showing and there is still plenty to latch onto when it comes to Jackson Liberty’s top-five resume.
5. Christian Brothers Academy (19-4, 13-1) Last Week: 1
Like Jackson Liberty, CBA lost in the semifinals of the county tournament and in its first game of the SCT and also has a win over one of the top two teams in the rankings. Both teams could get another opportunity to play a team ranked ahead of them with one more win, as CBA could play Red Bank Catholic on Friday in the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinals and Jackson Liberty might wind up playing Wall in the Central Group III final – both rematches of games CBA and Jackson Liberty lost earlier in the year.
6. Manalapan (21-6, 10-4) Last Week: 6
The Braves have held firm in the No. 6 or 7 spots on the strength of an easy win over Toms River North in April and a solid 10-4 record in winning the Class A North public division title. Manalapan, however, did not beat CBA in either meeting and lost in the round of 16 in both the MCT and SCT, so the state tournament is Manalapan’s last chance to make noise. Heading into the week, Manalapan was getting the job done in Central Jersey Group IV with wins over Long Branch and Middletown South and will have to go through East Brunswick and, likely, top-seeded Hunterdon Central to win a sectional title. If they get that done, the Braves will make a solid case to finish in the top five.
7. Toms River North (20-8, 11-3) Last Week: 7
Toms River North is the Class A South co-champion, Ocean County Tournament champion and is among the semifinalists in the SCT, so the Mariners are in position to be a lot higher. It might take one more win, however, given that Toms River North has only two wins outside of Ocean County (Gloucester Catholic and Millville), went 1-3 against Ocean County’s top-ranked team (Jackson Memorial) and did not have to beat Nick DeGennaro in any of the three meetings with Toms River East, which RBC, Jackson Liberty and Point Boro had to do.
8. Monmouth (18-9, 9-5) Last Week: Not ranked
The Falcons are back in the top 10 after taking down both Jackson Liberty and Jackson Memorial en route to the program’s first SCT semifinal appearance since 2012. Monmouth also has a win over Red Bank Catholic and will get a shot to jump Toms River North when the Falcons meet the Mariners in the SCT semifinals on Wednesday.
9. Central (17-8, 9-5) Last Week: 8
While they did not have to get through the likes of Jackson Liberty and Jackson Memorial to get to the SCT semifinals, the Golden Eagles are another double-digit seed among the Shore’s final four after beating Toms River East in extra innings. Central will be facing Wall, which is the only team of the four semifinalists still playing in the state tournament, which means the Golden Eagles will be facing a team that is still saving some pitching to win a state title. Although Wall still has enough pitching to handle two tournaments, it gives Central more of an edge than it would have had.
10. Point Pleasant Boro (17-8, 10-4) Last Week: Not ranked
The Panthers make their first appearance in the SSN Top 10 this season after upsetting CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 and nearly doing the same to Toms River North a game later. Point Boro is 3-0 this season against teams from Class A North (Freehold Boro, Marlboro and CBA) and all three were SCT qualifiers, showing the Panthers have been able to step outside of B South. If the Panthers can upset South Jersey Group III favorite and top seed West Deptford on Tuesday, they will likely have solidified a top-10 spot.
Freehold Township (14-11, 7-7) Last Week: 9 – With Point Boro beating a CBA team that beat Freehold Twp. twice, the Patriots fall out of the top 10 despite a strong showing in the SCT and road win in the Central Group IV Tournament.
Toms River East (13-11, 7-7) Last Week: 10 – With Nick DeGennaro on the mound, Toms River East might be one of the five best teams in the Shore Conference. Without him on the mound, they have been a little more ordinary, but still good enough to make a strong top-10 case.
On the Bubble
Raritan (18-5, 10-2) – If Raritan can beat a loaded Governor Livingston team to win Central Jersey Group II, it will be hard to keep the Rockets out of the top 10.
St. Rose (19-6, 13-1) – The Purple Roses made it all the way to the MCT final, but losses to Point Beach and Keansburg keep them out of the top 10 for now. An upset of Gloucester Catholic could shift the tide back in St. Rose’s favor.
Howell (13-12, 6-8) – The Rebels caught fire at the right time but it was not quite enough to survive a nine-inning classic at Vineland in the South Jersey IV quarterfinals.