Baseball – SSN Top 10, April 24
Heading into the final week of April, Class A North continues to dominate the Shore Sports Network Top 10. The Monmouth County Tournament at the end of the week will give the rest of the county a chance to knock the slew of A North teams off the mantle, but for the next seven days, the division remains the standard in the conference with a season-high six teams in the latest top 10.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (11-3, 7-1) Last Week: 1
New Jersey finally started to figure CBA out this week, with Manalapan and Holy Spirit beating the Colts after they entered the week on a 21-game winning streak against in-state competition. CBA also won two games this week, rolling through Marlboro 11-0 and pulling out an extra-inning win over Freehold Township. As the pace-setter in A North and an 11-win team, CBA is still safe at the top.
2. Middletown South (9-2, 7-2) Last Week: 4
An early-season defeat at the hands of Marlboro knocked Middletown South a spot, but the Eagles have endured the grind of Class A North since then, losing only to Luca Dalatri and CBA in extra innings. Middletown South might have the deepest varsity roster in the conference and that depth figures to suit the Eagles well over the length of the A North schedule.
3. Red Bank Catholic (10-1, 8-0) Last Week: 5
With one slip-up on their resume, the Caseys are still in the mix for the No. 1 spot if they can keep plowing through Class B North as they have done to this point. RBC bounced back from its loss to Barnegat by beating Long Branch, Colts Neck, Matawan and Sayreville this week, with its offense seemingly coming alive in the latter stages of the win over Colts Neck.
4. Point Pleasant Boro (10-0, 8-0) Last Week: 6
The Panthers continue to climb as the Shore’s final official unbeaten team and any questions of legitimacy are answered by the fact that after they walked off with a win over Manalapan, the Braves went ahead and beat CBA and Howell later in the week. While the rest of B South beats one another up, Point Boro has begun to pull away and with one more spotless week, the Panthers can effectively wrap up a division championship.
5. Middletown North (7-4, 6-4) Last Week: Not ranked
Outside of Point Boro, Middletown North can claim the Shore’s longest winning streak. Not only have the Lions won seven straight games, but they have done so after losing their first four games of the season. Those losses were to Freehold Boro, Howell, CBA and Middletown South, and after losing to those four Top 10 teams, the Lions have recovered and become a Top 10 team in their own right.
6. Howell (6-4, 5-4) Last Week: 2
The Rebels have dropped four out of their last five, but that’s life in the rough-and-tumble Class A North. Howell will have a chance to get back on track this week against both Freehold teams and then on Saturday against St. Rose in the Monmouth County Tournament. If the Rebels can survive two MCT games on Saturday, they will likely gain an edge for a top-eight seed come Shore Conference Tournament time, even as they sit just one game above .500 within the division entering play this week.
7. Marlboro (6-4, 4-4) Last Week: 3
Marlboro and Howell have had nearly parallel seasons and for the Mustangs, this year is starting to go in the same direction that last year went. Like last year, Marlboro stormed out of the gate but the going has been tougher for Marlboro in late April. The Mustangs ran into a red-hot Middletown North team on Monday, then Luca Dalatri on Wednesday before dropping a tight game to Freehold Boro. Marlboro has a busy week ahead, with divisional games against Middletown South and Manalapan, non-divisional match-ups against Brick and Holmdel, and the County Tournament on the weekend.
8. Ocean (12-2, 6-2) Last Week: 10
Pitching has not been the strength that it was last year for Ocean, but it wasn’t had to be. After an inconsistent offensive year in 2015, the Spartans have been one of the Shore’s top offenses, with more total runs scored than any other team in the conference. Ocean is also fifth in runs per game (7.7), behind only Toms River North and three B Central teams – St. Rose, Point Beach and Keansburg..
9. Freehold Boro (6-6, 4-5) Last Week: Not ranked
The Colonials climb back into the top 10 on the strength of A North and because of the track record they established with a similar nucleus last year. Dan Chiusano has anchored the pitching staff this season and Steve Rullo is still lurking as the other half of a potential two-headed monster as the tournament season approaches. The Colonials will have a chance to make a last-ditch effort to contend for the A North title and then take a shot at either top-seeded CBA or red-hot Middletown North in the MCT – assuming they can survive Shore Regional in the round of 16 Saturday morning.
10. Jackson Memorial (5-4, 5-2) Last Week: 7
The Jaguars were flying high after a 10-3 win over Brick Memorial improved them to 5-0 on April 15, but have since come crashing to earth with four consecutive losses. No team in Class A South has been able to grab the brass ring so far and with Jason Groome set to become eligible later this week, there is a pretty strong case to be made that the top two seeds in the OCT should be from Class B South. The Jaguars are best situated to change that if they can win the suspended game against Toms River North and then win the second game of that double-header en route to a bounce-back week.
Barnegat (5-6, 3-5) Last Week: 8 – An extra-inning loss to Pinelands puts Barnegat back in the vice to some degree and the Bengals will now have to face the top three teams in the current B South standings (Point Boro, Manchester and Central), followed by the Ocean County Tournament over the weekend.
Colts Neck (6-5, 5-3) Last Week: 9 – After a 4-0 start, the Cougars have gone 2-5 and are probably too far back in the B North race to have any hope of repeating. With some quality pitching, however, the Cougars remain a postseason threat if the offense can spring to life.
On the Bubble
Brick Memorial (9-3, 6-1) – The Mustangs were right back in the Top 10 before a loss to Freehold Township on Saturday push them back to the bubble.
Toms River South (8-3, 6-2) – A big win over Jackson Memorial keeps Toms River South’s A South title hopes alive, but a loss to Central is keeping them out of the Top 10 for the time being.
Toms River North (5-4, 3-3) – A wild loss to Brick Memorial will keep Toms River on the bubble for one more week, but the Mariners offense has become a force to be reckoned with.
Wall (6-4, 4-3) – The Crimson Knights have not been able to hit their usual stride yet, but they are still sitting in an ideal position to make a run at the B North public title.
St. Rose (9-1, 8-0) – The Purple Roses will have a chance to prove themselves this weekend against Howell in the Monmouth County Tournament.