The first in-season top 10 during baseball is always tricky because there are always rankings-related upsets to consider. This year is no different, with only three of the preseason top 10 making it through a relatively light week of games without losing. The question then becomes whether or not the top 10 should be reflective of what has happened or to stay with what is likely to happen and because of the pitching matchups, that’s always a tough balance to strike.

With all that being said, this week’s top 10 looks rather reactionary. Four teams have already fallen out and there are two teams in the new top five that were not even ranked to open the season. Of the four teams to fall out, only one did not lose to an unranked team and that team is probably right on the cusp of jumping back into the top 10 with a good week. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate more over the next several weeks and there will be a little more definition to the overall landscape.

Toms River North junior right-hander Brendan Mullins. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Toms River North junior right-hander Brendan Mullins. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

1. Toms River North (2-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 1

There might not be a clear No. 1, but there is a clear top two. Toms River North looked awfully impressive in pounding Middletown North, 13-1, on Saturday, when they knocked out Alabama recruit Tyler Ras before he could get through the fifth inning. The offense is not as dynamic as last year, but the Mariners should still put up plenty of runs for a pitching staff that appears to be the most balanced at the Shore.

2. Toms River South (2-0, 1-0) Preseason: 3

The Indians followed a similar script to their rivals in the No. 1 spot over the first two games: win a close Class A South game and blow out a team on Saturday. Toms River South squeaked by Jackson Memorial on Wednesday and handled Barnegat, 15-4, on Saturday to keep pace with Toms River North for the moment.

3. Christian Brothers Academy (3-0, 2-0) Preseason: Not ranked

With so many new players, the Colts began the season on the watch list and promptly proved they belonged. Nick Hohenstein outdueled Freehold Boro’s Dan Chiusano in a 1-0 game in the opener and the bats came to play in a 9-1 win over Manalapan and 9-2 win over Point Boro and ace Josiah Gliddon. CBA is sure to hit its bumps along the way, but the start is extremely encouraging.

4. Freehold Boro (3-1, 2-1) Preseason: 6

The offense has been somewhat two-faced, but the Colonials have been as advertised on the mound, having allowed no more than a run in any of their four games. Left-hander Dan Chiusano has picked up where he left off last year and has allowed one run on six hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts over 11 innings – which he pitched in a span of five calendar days.

5. Monmouth (4-0, 3-0) Preseason: Not ranked

Not only is Monmouth the Shore’s only 4-0 team but the Falcons also have what is probably the most noteworthy win of the early season – a decisive 13-7 win over Red Bank Catholic. That performance was an offensive awakening for the Falcons after they scored a total of four runs on six hits in wins over Wall and Long Branch. Monmouth rallied to beat Neptune, 8-6, on Saturday thanks to a big, tie-breaking solo blast by Josh Jackson in the top of the sixth.

6. Red Bank Catholic (3-1, 2-1) Preseason: 2

With the group of hitters returning to RBC this year, offense was supposed to be a given for the Caseys and it has been. RBC has scored at least seven runs in all four games, has scored at least 10 in three of them and is averaging 9.75 per game. The pitching has not been as good, but that’s only because it had one ugly outing in a 13-7 loss to Monmouth. In the three other wins, RBC did not allow an earned run, run so while the wins and losses drop RBC to No. 6, the underlying performance suggests the Caseys are still in the running for the No. 1 spot.

7. Lacey (3-0, 1-0) Preseason: Not ranked

Few teams boast the pitching that Lacey does and those arms are the reason the Lions are off to a 3-0 start. Don Zellman, Anthony Elefante and Tom Coraggio were all excellent in their starts and Elefante and Coraggio both nailed down saves as well. For Lacey to jump up to the next level, the Lions needed some offense and that appears to still be a work in progress (nine runs in three games) but the pitching is going to give them a chance to win every game.

8. St. Rose (2-0, 1-0) Preseason: 10

The Purple Roses only get a few chances during the course of their schedule to make an impression and they did just that last week. Sam Sestito no-hit Point Beach in a 9-1 win on Wednesday and the bats were on fire again in a 14-0 win over Manasquan. Strength of schedule is going to hamper St. Rose’s potential to climb throughout the year, but the Roses should get some respect in the Monmouth County seeding and could be dangerous in a postseason setting.

9. Brick (1-1, 1-0) Preseason: 8

While the bats have not exactly been on fire out of the box, Brick’s pitching has been impressive in each of the first two games and the Green Dragons came up with clutch at-bat after clutch at-bat during a four-run sixth that propelled them to a 4-1 win over Toms River East on Wednesday.

10. Ocean (2-1, 1-1) Preseason: Not ranked

If Monmouth’s win over Red Bank Catholic was the most impressive win by a preseason unranked team, Ocean’s 8-1 win over Manasquan and Tommy Sheehan is right there. The Spartans waited out the Notre-Dame-bound lefty and pounced for eight runs when Sheehan exited in the bottom of the fifth with runners on the corners. After an ugly loss to RBC, Ocean bounced back by beating an improved Long Branch team, 13-3.


Dropped Out

Middletown South (1-1, 0-1) Preseason: 4 – The Eagles lost Middletown North in walk-off fashion in a game started by Tyler Ras and got by Raritan 12-10. While Middletown South is still sorting some things out in their lineup and rotation, they are still right on the doorstep of the top 10.

Marlboro (2-2, 1-2) Preseason: 5 – The Mustangs are 2-0 with Jeremy Bello on the mound and finally got the bats going in Florida on Sunday.

Middletown North (1-3, 1-2) Preseason: 7 – If not for a seventh-inning rally vs. Middletown South on opening day, Middletown North would be sitting at 0-4 while scoring less than two runs per game. Instead, the Lions are 1-3 while averaging just over two runs per game.

Manasquan (2-2, 2-1) Preseason: 9 – Manasquan’s two ugly losses were the product of two bad innings – an eight-run fifth inning by Ocean and a nine-run first by St. Rose. On the bright side, right-hander Connor Muly was sharp in his first start, giving the Warriors a one-two punch the rest of the way.


On the Bubble

Wall (2-1, 1-1) – Wall’s mix of seniors and sophomores have blended well so far, losing a close game to Monmouth and picking up a pair of wins over Middletown North and Pinelands.

Raritan (3-1, 2-0) – While a 3-0 start should open some eyes, Raritan’s most impressive showing was a 12-10 loss against Middletown South in which the Rockets scored six runs against Monmouth-bound right-hander John Martin.


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