Baseball – SSN Top 10, April 8
After one week of action, a handful of Shore Sports Network Top 10 teams were put to the test in this new Shore Conference schedule. With division opponents now playing home-and-home games within a span of three-to-five days, teams will be facing some weeks that are very tough and others that are a little more forgiving.
That will likely be a theme in the week-by-week rankings because some teams will be scoring impact wins to move up while others will have easier weeks that make it hard to move the needle. In the end, however, it’s still the same schedule and even if there is some volatility along the way, the cream should rise to the top.
In week one of the 2019 season, it appears as though the cream started at the top. No. 1 remains unchanged and outside of a slight shuffle, so does the top six from the preseason rankings.
1. Jackson Memorial (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: 1
The Jaguars verified their No. 1 spot by opening the season outscoring two preseason top-10 teams by a combined 33-4 in three games. The 33 runs, 20 extra-base hits and six home runs overshadow the fact that Jackson Memorial has yet to commit an error in the field. While its pitching has been solid, it only has 13 strikeouts in 17 innings, so the Jackson defense has been getting plenty of working and is cleaning up.
2. Wall (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: 2
In the first week of the season, Wall showed it could win in multiple ways. The Crimson Knights rode ace Trey Dombroski to a 3-0 win over St. John Vianney on opening day despite being held to only two hits, scored 14 runs in a 14-8 win over Vianney on Thursday and outlasted St. Rose in extra innings on Saturday. Wall’s schedule gets harder this week with games against Red Bank ace Jack Povey, Ocean and Jackson Liberty, which will be a welcome challenge for a team that goes as deep in pitching as Wall does.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 5
CBA’s offense has not caught fire yet but the opponents the Colts have played have a lot to do with that. The Colts earned a split against Howell and the Rebels’ impressive one-two pitching punch thanks to a walk-off home run by Tommy DiTullio on opening day. After dropping the second game against Howell on the road, the Colts bounced back behind a dominant outing from right-hander Pat Reilly, who struck out 16 against perennial Group III contender Allentown. With Reilly emerging as another potential No. 1 pitcher alongside Joe Escandon and Braedin Hunt, the Colts are looking serious.
4. Red Bank Catholic (2-1, 2-0) Last Week: 3
It’s tempting to drop Red Bank Catholic a few spots after its loss to Middletown South with Vincent Bianchi on the mound. The Caseys’ only two wins are over Holmdel and losing to Middletown South with their best arm on the mound is cause for a slight drop, but it’s still a little early to bury a team that has four hard-throwing right-handers in its staff and enough hitting to cover for injured center fielder David Glancy (hand) for another three weeks or so.
5. Jackson Liberty (2-1, 2-0) Last Week: 4
Like Red Bank Catholic, Jackson Liberty won two division games during opening week that don’t really move the needle. Unlike Red Bank Catholic, the Lions had to play the best team at the Shore right now to end the week. After handling Donovan Catholic twice, Jackson Liberty got handled by Jackson Memorial while starting its No. 2 pitcher. While the result was disappointing, it shouldn’t change Jackson Liberty’s outlook all that much.
6. Manasquan (2-0, 2-0) Last Week: 6
Although Monmouth Regional is a bit of a wild card in Class A Central this season, Manasquan’s two wins over the Falcons to open the year were a notice to the rest of Monmouth County for two reasons. First, Spencer Bauer was sharp on the mound in his debut and secondly, the Warriors offense – a wild card in its own right heading into the season – smacked 18 hits in a 17-2 win in the second game vs. Monmouth.
7. Manalapan (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 9
Manalapan lost a handful of its biggest hitters from a year ago but is showing early in 2019 that it’s possible to get the job done with a some well-timed hitting as long as the pitching and defense show up every day. The Braves have won four close games to open the season, twice edging Freehold Township and its tough top-of-the-rotation and adding wins over Howell and Manchester. In its last three wins, Manalapan scored the winning run in the sixth inning or later, including an extra-inning win over Freehold Township.
8. Middletown South (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
After a rocky 11-13 2018 season, the Eagles are off to a very encouraging start in 2019 despite dealing with some troubling injuries. What Middletown South has lost in injured All-Shore shortstop and Seton Hall commit Aurelio Licata (shoulder), it has gained in a deeper, more capable pitching staff that was the team’s undoing last season. Two sophomores – Jack Shea and Mike Keenan – picked up wins in a sweep of Marlboro to open the year and seniors Jack Roesch and Jack Lisowski combined to beat Red Bank Catholic on Saturday in a win that announced to the Shore that Middletown South should be back in the top-10 picture.
9. Howell (2-2, 1-2) Last Week: 10
After losing two heartbreakers to CBA and Manalapan to open the year, Howell showed both its talent and its resolve by beating CBA in the second meeting and taking care of business vs. Holmdel over the weekend to even up its record. What is so encouraging about Howell’s seemingly-modest 2-2 start is the Rebels have had great pitching in all four games. While it’s not that surprising co-aces Bryan Bernard and Ryan Bearse performed exceedingly well vs. CBA, Howell’s younger arms also did the job when called upon during the first week.
10. Ocean (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
There is no shortage of candidates for the No. 10 spot at this point in the season and it is Ocean that takes over at the bottom of the top 10 after an impressive first week. The Spartans battled for two wins against a tough Colts Neck team and then beat a Freehold Township squad that should eventually get going in Class A North. Ocean has a solid-enough pitching staff to back a potent lineup and quality defense that should keep the Spartans in this conversation going forward, especially if it can knock off Wall in a series that begins Thursday.
Point Pleasant Boro (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 7 – The Panthers are still right on the edge of the top 10 after bouncing back from a loss to Barnegat by beating Spotswood behind Sam Young’s no-hitter. Junior ace Nick Guzzi was impressive on opening day and looks like he will be a force in the B South race and throughout the season.
Toms River South (1-2, 0-2) Last Week: 8 – This is probably a harsh drop considering Toms River South’s two losses were to Jackson Memorial and it probably comes down to style points more than anything. With a pair of games vs. unbeaten Toms River East to open the week, the Indians have a chance to jump right back into the picture.
Top 10 Watch List
Toms River East (3-0, 2-0) – Toms River East capped an impressive week by taking down a Barnegat squad that is also off to a solid start. Ocean’s first three wins made a little more impact, but the Raiders are not far behind for a spot in the top 10 and can prove it this week vs. Toms River South.
Manchester (3-1, 2-0) – The Hawks came up just short against Manalapan in a game that probably would have pushed them into the top 10. They opened the season with a win over Raritan, took care of Lakewood and competed with a tough Manalapan team – all promising developments for a team with good young talent.
Barnegat (2-2, 2-1) – The Bengals get a hat-tip this week for putting up nine runs and winning a game started by Point Boro’s Sam Collins and then scoring eight more vs. Pinelands on Thursday to throw their name into the hat with the other B South contenders.