Baseball – SSN Top 10, April 29
Baseball is notoriously billed as a “game of failure” by those who know it well and just about every team in the Shore Conference has experienced that first hand.
There is one, however, that has not and after beginning the season as the No. 9 ranked team in the Shore Sports Network, the Shore’s final remaining unbeaten squad finally gets its chance to hold down the No. 1 spot.
The rest of the week was eventful enough to open the door for a new No. 1 to step through and it also helped to overhaul the top-five by giving it two new members.
1. Manalapan (14-0, 8-0) Last Week: 2
Manalapan’s only win vs. a team in this week’s Top 10 is an extra-inning win over Middletown South a more than a week ago. Other teams have bigger wins on their resumes, but nobody has more wins and, more importantly, nobody else has no losses. Every other team in the Top 10 has slipped up at least once and because the Braves have not, they are the team most deserving of the top spot heading into the final days of April.
2. Jackson Memorial (11-2, 8-2) Last Week: 1
It was surprising enough when Jackson Memorial’s scorching-hot lineup was shutout by Toms River North in the fifth game of their season but at least that was a two-time defending county and conference championship program that has been in the Top 10 for most of the year. Jackson Memorial’s loss to a young Central team that was currently 3-9 is nothing short of shocking. It is enough to knock the Jaguars – who have been the Shore’s most dominant team by run differential (126-20) – off the No. 1 perch for the first time this season.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (8-3, 4-3) Last Week: 9
When CBA began the season 2-3 with a loss at Howell and two straight losses to Middletown South, the Colts did not yet have junior Pat Reilly situated as the team’s No. 1 pitcher. Now that they do, they look like a serious threat to win another Monmouth County Tournament championship just three years after winning their third in a row when current North Carolina Tar Heels Luca Dalatri and Brandon Martorano were seniors. Reilly, senior Joe Escandon, junior Braedin Hunt and junior Evan Mahns make up an imposing pitching staff to carry the Colts through the end of the year.
4. Red Bank Catholic (11-3, 10-0) Last Week: 4
Despite bowing out of the Monmouth County Tournament, the Caseys hold onto the No. 4 spot this week. They still have a pair of wins over Manasquan and are in position to run away with the Class A Central title as a result. A loss to Middletown South could still hurt the Caseys when it comes to Shore Conference Tournament seeding down the road but the entire body of work is still top-five worthy, even if RBC will have limited chances to improve the resume before the SCT seeding.
5. Manasquan (9-2, 8-2) Last Week: 7
The Warriors jumped on the back of ace Spencer Bauer and back into the top five by beating Red Bank Catholic on Sunday on their third try against the Caseys. Making just his second start of the season because of a hamstring injury, Bauer pitched a one-hit shutout against the Caseys to propel the Warriors into the MCT semifinals. With Bauer, Mike Anthony, James Harmstead, Ryan O’Keefe and Alex Galvan all dealing on the mound right now and 6-foot-7 left-hander Tim McEneny on the verge of making his season debut this week, the Warriors have all the makings of a team that can win in the postseason, even if the A Central title is just about out of reach.
6. Jackson Liberty (12-1, 10-0) Last Week: 6
Jackson Liberty began a critical stretch of games Saturday when the Lions traveled to play St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City. They began that stretch on the right foot, putting up 12 runs against the Marauders, followed by nine Sunday against Washington Township at a Coaches-vs.-Cancer event at Mainland High School. The stretch of games picks up even more to start this week with two games against 11-1 Point Pleasant Boro and its loaded pitching staff that will likely decide the winner of the Class B South championship.
7. Wall (10-3, 8-2) Last Week: 3
The Crimson Knights opened the season with a strong case to be the Shore’s No. 1 team but some key losses have knocked them down several notches. After beating Ocean twice, Wall seemed poised to win the Class B North title but that is now in jeopardy after dropping one-run, walk-off losses to both Colts Neck and Neptune. Wall then ran into a hot pitcher in CBA’s Pat Reilly on Sunday but the Knights lost with their own hot pitcher on the mound when they failed to stop the Colts from scoring on a first-and-third double-steal. There is still a lot of season left, but Wall has already missed a chance to go far in the Monmouth County Tournament and might have to settle for a B North co-championship even if they win their final four division games
8. Toms River North (9-4, 8-2) Last Week: 5
The Mariners lost a pair of games this week and with CBA, Manasquan and Jackson Liberty all picking up big wins, Toms River North suffers a three-spot drop. Despite that, the Mariners still have one of the better wins on the board in beating Jackson Memorial on the road and will have a chance to add Toms River South to their list later this week. The debate between Toms River North and Jackson Liberty for the No. 2 seed in the Ocean County Tournament is still an interesting one and if Point Boro can beat Jackson Liberty at least once this week, Toms River North would probably benefit.
9. Middletown South (7-4, 6-2) Last Week: 8
Like Toms River North, Middletown South has some very good wins on its resume and has an argument to be a top-five team based on beating Red Bank Catholic and sweeping CBA, not to mention scoring four runs off Manalapan ace Ben Levine before losing in extra-innings. The Eagles also have losses to Freehold Township and Monmouth Regional, the latter of which knocked them out of the Monmouth County Tournament in the round of 16. Middletown South will get its second shot at Manalapan on Friday and with the Braves facing CBA twice before that game, the Eagles can get back into the race for the A North title, as well as the top five, with a strong showing this week.
10. Ocean (13-2, 8-2) Last Week: Not ranked
The Spartans are back into the top 10 after reaching the Monmouth County semifinals for the second time in four years. Ocean dropped two divisional showdowns with Wall and is a perfect 13-0 in its other games this season. It remains to be seen if Manalapan can survive its tough week and make it to Saturday with a perfect record but either way, Ocean can significantly boost its profile by knocking off the red-hot Braves.
Colts Neck (7-4, 6-3) Last Week: 10 – Losses to Wall and Manasquan this week drop Colts Neck from the Top 10 but not the conversation.
Top 10 Watch List
Point Pleasant Boro (11-1, 9-1) – This week will be a proving ground for the Panthers, who are gearing up for a big series vs. Jackson Liberty to essentially determine the B South winner.
Freehold Township (7-7, 5-5) – With a win over Middletown South and two vs. Howell, the Patriots have put themselves back in the top 10 conversation.
Howell (7-5, 6-3) – Eliminated from the MCT and three games behind first-place Manalapan in the A North standings, the Rebels will try to get healthy and take its one-two pitching punch into the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments.
Monmouth (9-6, 5-5) – The Falcons showed with their win over Middletown South on Saturday that with ace Dante Ciaramella on the mound, they can be a serious problem for any opponent.
Toms River South (7-4, 6-4) – Losses to Southern and Brick put the Indians in danger of falling off the radar but with Gabe Driscoll and Matt Hartshorn both pitching well, Toms River South is still dangerous heading into tournament season.
Brick Memorial (6-6, 5-5) – It looks like the Mustangs are getting things going after beating Toms River North, Brick and Point Beach this week.
Neptune (6-5, 5-5) – Something about playing Wall brings out the best in Neptune. Two years after upsetting the Crimson Knights in the Central Group III first round, the Scarlet Fliers beat Wall again last week with two seventh-inning home runs and nearly did it again before losing, 2-1, in the second meeting.