Baseball – SSN Top 10, April 17
Although the season is only two cold, rain-soaked weeks old, there have been a lot of head-to-head games between top teams – both within and outside division play. That has given teams a chance to establish a definitive edge in the rankings, but it has also created some conflicts with top 10 contenders beating one another. Because pitching varies from game-to-game, baseball is more about the body of work than other sports and that will be a theme going forward in the top 10 from week-to-week.
With that being said, a head-to-head result at the end of the wee was indeed the determining factor in who the latest No. 1 team is.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: 1
With a walk-off win over Wall Saturday at the Strike Out Autism Challenge, CBA reclaimed its No. 1 spot for at least another week despite also losing its first game this week – also in walk-off fashion. The Colts have plenty of balance in their rotation and the bottom of the order has stepped up at the plate as well, including two clutch hits by Tom Rodgers on Saturday.
2. Wall (6-1, 5-0) Last Week: 2
It took a walk-off knock for CBA to hand Wall its first loss, which was the first time the Crimson Knights had to go to its fifth pitcher of the season. The six runs were the most Wall has allowed over the first seven games of the season.
3. Jackson Liberty (6-0, 5-0) Last Week: 4
After beating up on B South over the first five games, Jackson Liberty made a resounding statement by beating Jackson Memorial, 14-4, at Saturday’s Strike Out Autism Challenge. Shane Hickey broke out in a big way with two homers and six RBI and Scott Wierciszewski hit his third home run – a grand slam that landed him on 24 RBI already this season.
4. Marlboro (5-3, 3-3)
The Mustangs debut in the top 10 after knocking off both CBA and Manalapan last week and putting up a 20-spot against St. John Vianney on Saturday. Justin Levito came up big for Marlboro with the winning hit against CBA and a two-homer, eight-RBI game vs. Vianney.
5. Manalapan (7-2, 2-2) Last Week: 3
Although Manalapan swallowed its first two losses of the season last week, the Braves closed it with an impressive 11-1 win over Toms River North and also beat a good Freehold Township team. A 2-2 week against that competition is a solid showing and even though the Braves dropped a couple spots, they are still in the mix for A North and the top spot.
6. Toms River East (5-0, 5-0)
The Raiders look as good as they have in the last decade and are off to a perfect start despite missing ace Nick DeGennaro. The offense has been as consistently good as any in the Shore so far, with at least eight runs in all five wins so far. After rolling through Toms River South and Central last week, Toms River East will try its hand Tuesday against preseason favorite Toms River North.
7. Jackson Memorial (6-2, 4-1) Last Week: 5
Although Jackson Memorial’s pitching got tagged for 14 runs in a loss to Jackson Liberty, the Jaguars had to dig into their staff a little bit and the principle contributors to the Jaguars’ great start on the mound were not among those tagged vs. the Lions. While a loss to an in-town rival stings, beating A North rival Toms River North was more important.
8. Toms River North (4-4, 3-2) Last Week: 7
After a brief absence, Brendan Mullins came back on Saturday in an 11-1 loss to Manalapan and while he was not at his sharpest in the lopsided loss, he still kept the Mariners in it and his defense let him down some as well. Toms River North has proven to be a team that turns it on in May, so the Mariners get a little leeway here. At the same time, Toms River North is going to need a good week against Toms River East and Brick to stay with the Raiders and Jackson Memorial in the A South race.
9. Red Bank Catholic (4-2, 3-2)
After a few quiet offensive games, the Caseys’ bats woke up in time to beat Middletown South in walk-off fashion on Thursday and to put up 10 runs against Pinelands on Saturday. With plenty of solid pitching, RBC has the foundation to be dangerous tournament team if the end of week was a sign that the offense is starting to catch fire.
10. Middletown South (6-2, 4-2)
On top of an impressive collection of wins, the Eagles’ two losses are both by one run and came against No. 2 Wall and No. 9 Red Bank Catholic. Other than Jackson Liberty, no team in the conference has put up more runs this year than Middletown South and that is despite getting shut out by Wall.
Central (4-2, 3-2) Last Week: 6 – The Golden Eagles are gone, but not forgotten. They are still very much in the top 10 picture thanks to its senior roster.
Freehold Boro (3-2, 2-2) Last Week: 8 – Both of Freehold Boro’s losses came in the last inning, so while the Colonials are still sorting out their pitching, they are still among the teams with a chance to make noise over the course of the season.
Colts Neck (2-5, 1-3) Last Week: 9 – Four close losses to start the season was just some bad luck, but the 19-2 loss to Middletown South on Saturday is a little more troubling, especially now that the Cougars are 2-5.
Monmouth (5-3, 3-2) Last Week: 10 – This week was all-in-all underwhelming for Monmouth, but the Falcons are well-positioned in the Monmouth County Tournament and still have a shot in B North.
Top 10 Watchlist
Freehold Twp. (5-3, 4-2) – The Patriots are second in A North and their losses are to No. 4 Marlboro, No. 5 Manalapan and No. 7 Jackson Memorial.
Howell (4-2, 2-2) – Wins over Marlboro and Colts Neck and a 16-0 win over a hot Manchester team have put the Rebels on the radar, especially with chances to make statements this week against CBA, Freehold Boro and Manalapan.
Manasquan (5-2, 3-2) – After a 3-1 week, the Warriors are looking more an more like a contender again despite losing some big-time arms from last year. The offense has clicked early and in addition to getting good enough pitching so far, junior CBA transfer Spencer Bauer will be eligible at the end of the month.
Raritan (5-1, 4-0) - The opening-day loss to Marlboro looks a lot better now than it did at the time and since then, the Rockets have not lost.