Baseball – Shore Sports Network Top 10: Ranney, Middletown South, CBA Inch Closer to No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven
The next two weeks are set to decide the remaining Shore Conference division races and, to this point, it appears as though at least four are wildly up-for-grabs (Class A North, A South, B North and B South), one is not going to be settled until the two powerhouse teams meet (Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic in Class A Central), and another is all but over (Class B Central).
As for the Top 10, there were some noteworthy results this week: Howell lost its first game to a surging CBA squad, Jackson Memorial moved into poll position for the Class A South title and Freehold Township saw its six-game winning streak come to an end.
With the Monmouth County Tournament getting underway this coming weekend, there is major potential for a shakeup next week. For now, though, the changes are subtle.
1. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-0, 7-0) Last Week: 1
Rumson had a light week, with games vs. Ocean moved because the Spartans were in South Carolina for Spring Break. After a few days to enjoy themselves after beating Ranney, the Bulldogs picked back up with a convincing win over Monmouth – just the second loss of the season for the Falcons. With a win over Ranney on the resume, it is going to take several dominos falling for the Bulldogs to drop out of the top spot, but there is still enough baseball left for those dominos to tumble.
2. Ranney (11-1, 7-0) Last Week: 3
The Panthers picked up another solid non-divisional win this week by taking down Brick Memorial, giving Ranney a 4-1 mark outside of B Central to go with their expected dominance of the division. This weekend will likely be Ranney’s greatest test to date this season, with St. John Vianney potentially lining up ace Aiden Cody to face the Panthers in the Monmouth County Tournament round of 16 and, if the Panthers can escape that game, potentially Colts Neck with ace Anthony Gubitosi possibly on the mound in that one the following day. Whatever the matchups, Ranney could find itself taking on two quality opponents on back-to-back days, which will test the depth of the pitching staff.
3. Middletown South (9-4, 7-2) Last Week: 4
The Eagles opted not to pitch ace Ben Schild this week and still came out of it with a 3-1 record thanks to some big offensive numbers. Middletown South scored at least 10 runs in their three wins over CBA, Middletown North and Jackson Memorial and put five in a 7-5 loss to CBA, which started senior Jack Frankovic on the mound. Schild is expected to return to the mound this week to continue what has been a dominant start to the season for the junior right-hander.
4. Christian Brothers Academy (8-3, 5-2) Last Week: 5
After dropping a lopsided loss to Middletown South to start the week, CBA got its bats going and finished strong. Eight different Colts hitters hit a home run during a three-game winning streak against Middletown South, Howell and Manalapan, with CBA slugging six homers as a team in a 12-2 win over previously-unbeaten Howell. The Colts will try to inch up toward the top spot in the Class A North standings while also preparing for a Monmouth County Tournament showdown against Red Bank Catholic on Saturday.
5. Howell (9-2, 8-1) Last Week: 2
After winning nine in a row to open the season, Howell dropped losses on back-to-back days to CBA and Caldwell. The conditions were ripe for Howell to lose its first game on Friday: CBA ace Colin Reilly on the mound, the wind blowing out to left for a red-hot CBA lineup and the Rebels deeper in their pitching staff than the Colts were. This week, Howell will have ace Dan Furlong ready to go against CBA and, perhaps, again in a potential Monmouth County Tournament quarterfinal game on Sunday.
6. Red Bank Catholic (9-2, 7-2) Last Week: 6
Despite two noteworthy losses to Shore and Monmouth, Red Bank Catholic has played the role of a dominant team so far this season, including an 11-1 bludgeoning of Holy Spirit on Saturday. The Caseys are third in the conference in runs scored with 121, which trails only Class B Central teams Ranney and Point Pleasant Beach. The pitching is also starting to round into form, with Alex Stantek stretching out, Steve Svenson finding his groove, Dom Mallamachi getting healthy and sophomore Declan Leary enjoying a breakout season.
7. Jackson Memorial (7-5, 7-2) Last Week: 7
The Jaguars took over the top spot in the Class A South standings with an inspired win over Central on Monday night. Jackson Memorial’s losses have either been to elite competition (Malvern Prep, Bishop Eustace, Middletown South) or tough, late-inning losses to tough Class A South teams (Toms River North and Southern) so if the Jaguars can figure out a way to start closing out games – like they did vs. Toms River South and Jackson Memorial in consecutive division wins – they could be in for a big May.
8. Colts Neck (7-2, 7-2) Last Week: 8
The Cougars remain in first place in Class B North after escaping with wins this week over Matawan and Red Bank. Anthony Gubitosi has been among the best pitchers in the Shore Conference so far this season and No. 2 starter Tyler Spencer is starting to settle in the same way he did at the tail-end of last season. Christian Rice also made his first appearance on the mound and if Colts Neck can get all three working at close to 100 percent, watch out.
9. Monmouth (7-2, 7-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Monmouth’s only two losses this season are to Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven and the Falcons also have an extra-inning win over RBC in a game pitched by Alex Stanyek and Declan Leary – one of the best wins of the season for any team in the Shore Conference. It may take some more quality wins, either in Class A Central play or in the Monmouth County Tournament this weekend, but the Falcons have a pretty iron-clad, top-10 resume at the moment.
10. Freehold Township (6-5, 3-5) Last Week: 9
The Patriots have lost four in a row after winning six straight, but hold onto the No. 10 spot because they have a win over No. 3 Middletown South and one of the best non-conference wins of any Shore team this year: a walk-of win over 11-2 Millburn. Freehold Township will have to turn things around this week against Manalapan, Middletown North and a Monmouth County Tournament opponent in order to stay in the Top 10 and with no ace likely to pitch against Freehold Township in those three games, the Patriots should have a good opportunity to hold on for another week.
Toms River North (6-5, 5-4) Last Week: 10 – The Mariners might have hung on to a Top 10 spot if not for Monday’s loss to Toms River South, which puts a big dent in their hopes of winning a Class A South championship, but does not completely sink them.
Top 10 Watchlist
St. John Vianney (7-2-1, 6-2-1) – St. John Vianney finds itself in position to win the Class B North title thanks to wins over Colts Neck and Wall, but the tie against Matawan and loss to Freehold Boro are going to be a lot to overcome down the stretch run of the division race.
Wall (7-3, 6-3) – Wall will need to salvage a split with St. John Vianney and run the table to have a chance at a Class B North title, as well as some help from Colts Neck’s opponents (Matawan, Neptune and Freehold Boro) the rest of the way.
Central (7-4, 6-3) – The Golden Eagles can still salvage a split with Jackson Memorial after a tough, 4-3 loss to the Jaguars on Monday and they may have to in order to keep their Class A South championship hopes alive.
Brick Memorial (8-4, 6-3) – The Mustangs now find themselves in the Class A South race and still have four games remaining against Jackson Memorial and Central that will, essentially, determine their fate when it comes to the division title.