Baseball – SSN Top 10, May 21
With so little baseball actually being played over the last week, one wouldn’t expect the top 10 to change much, but two significant upsets in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament have thrown the bottom of the top 10 back into chaos. With so many teams with varying bodies of work in the mix, the final few spots in the rankings are going to come down to what happens in the next two weeks.
As for the top of the rankings, Red Bank Catholic has legitimately inserted itself into the competition for the No. 1 ranking and it’s fair to say that the Caseys, Christian Brothers Academy and Wall are all essentially neck-and-neck at this point. Because they don’t have to play in a state tournament game until next Tuesday, May 29, CBA and RBC have a distinct advantage over Wall when it comes to getting through the Shore Conference Tournament, which means the No. 1 spot is likely to come down to one of the non-public powers. Wall does have plenty of pitching, however, and if the staff gets back on track after the long layoff due to inclement weather, there is no team the Crimson Knights can’t beat.
It appears as though the weather will be more cooperative over the next two weeks (how could it not be?) and as long as that’s the case, we should be in for a wild finish to the 2018 baseball season in Jersey.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (19-2, 13-1) Last Week: 1
CBA has played just once in the last 10 days and it has been more than two weeks since the Colts lost to Red Bank Catholic – the last real meaningful game they played. CBA is in a position to line up its pitching for a jumbled Shore Conference Tournament schedule this week because the Colts don’t play in the South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs until May 29. With plenty of options on the mound, CBA remains a threat to win more championships, even in a top-heavy NJSIAA section.
2. Wall (17-4, 13-1) Last Week: 2
For the first time since the preseason, Wall’s status as a top-two team is on shaky ground. The Crimson Knights lost early in the Monmouth County Tournament and also lost to Howell with their ace on the mound, which takes away the air of invincibility heading into tournament time. Similar to CBA, Wall has played just once in the last 12 days and that was the Howell loss, so the Crimson Knights are eager to get going as the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III field on Monday.
3. Red Bank Catholic (19-5, 10-4) Last Week: 3
The Caseys continue to build a strong case to be the No. 1 team, winning the Monmouth County Tournament championship while picking up a nice non-divisional win over Ocean County champ Toms River North. Since a 4-0 loss to Trey Dombroski and Wall on April 30, RBC has rattled off nine straight wins, does not have to play an NJSIAA Tournament game until May 29 and is unlikely to see a top-two pitcher from either Toms River East or Pinelands in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16.
4. Jackson Liberty (18-3, 13-1) Last Week: 4
For the first time this season, Jackson Liberty’s bats are going through a bit of a cold spell. The Lions scored just two runs in each of their last two games, including a loss to Nick DeGennaro and Toms River East in the OCT semifinals. Despite that, Jackson Liberty is still putting up nearly 10 runs per game and has a win over Jackson Memorial that legitimizes the Lions as a top-five team.
5. Jackson Memorial (19-5, 11-3) Last Week: 5
Although Jackson Memorial lost to Toms River North, 3-2, in the OCT semifinals, the Jaguars and Mariners still have the same record against common opponents (including against each other) and Jackson has a 2-1 edge in the head-to-head. The two A South co-champions could meet at least one more time: it would take just one first-round win by each to meet in the South Jersey Group IV section and a fifth meeting could be in order if both can make it to the SCT semifinal round.
6. Manalapan (19-5, 10-4) Last Week: 7
Manalapan has a chance to be the first Shore Conference team to 20 wins and yet the Braves have flown under the radar due to two ugly losses to CBA and an early exit in the Monmouth County Tournament. A one-sided win over Toms River North on the second weekend of April keeps them just outside the top five and a strong showing in either the SCT or state tournament could push them over the hump.
7. Toms River North (16-7, 11-3) Last Week: 8
The Mariners move up a spot after winning a third straight Ocean County Tournament title and now turn their attention to a South Jersey Group IV bracket that has caused them fits in recent years. If Toms River North can make a run in the SCT – a road that will likely have to go through top-seeded CBA and one of the Jacksons in order to reach the final – the Mariners deserve to jump several spots more, but this accomplished senior group is desperate for a deep state tournament run before they graduate.
8. Central (13-7, 9-5) Last Week: 10
It has already been a great season for the senior-heavy Golden Eagles. They have beaten both Toms River North and Jackson Memorial and also earned the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group III section. The first round game against Pinelands will not be an easy one, but the Golden Eagles already beat the Wildcats once with ace Joey Ventresca on the mound. Central also has a great shot to reach the SCT quarterfinals after Keansburg upset No. 6 St. Rose. If Central can beat Rumson on Tuesday, the Golden Eagles get a home game against the Titans.
9. Freehold Township (11-9, 7-7) Last Week: Not ranked
The top 10 gets very messy starting at the No. 9 spot. Freehold Township lost to Raritan 13-3 and that wasn’t even against any of the Rockets’ top three pitchers. The Patriots also did not come up with a win over either of the top two teams in A North – CBA and Manalapan. Ultimately, however, Freehold Township has played a strong schedule inside and out of its division and a record above .500 is an accomplishment. Wins over Toms River North and St. Rose get the Patriots in, but there is plenty of work to be done to keep the spot with so many teams in the mix.
10. Toms River East (11-9, 7-7) Last Week: Not ranked
Fresh off a run to the OCT championship game, Toms River East is back in the top 10 and the Raiders enter the next round of the postseason with a full staff of rested pitching. The rain during the early rounds of the SCT took away an opportunity to pitch Nick DeGennaro in a potential matchup against Red Bank Catholic in the SCT, but with a South Jersey Group III first-round game and an SCT first-round game against Pinelands on back-to-back days, that scenario is now unlikely.
St. Rose (17-6, 12-1) Last Week: 6 – Losses to Keansburg and Point Beach muddy the resume, although Point Beach’s win over Raritan provides some relief. St. Rose’s Monmouth County Tournament run keeps it in the picture, but the Roses could use a strong finish to the year.
Raritan (16-5, 10-2) Last Week: 9 – Raritan’s losses are all against teams outside the top 10, but the Rockets do have a convincing win over Freehold Township and won that game without throwing one of their top three pitchers.
On the Bubble
Howell (12-10, 6-8) – Two losses to Freehold Township just barely keep the surging Rebels out, but Howell will certainly have a chance to make an even better case next week, with tournament games against Clearview and Wall on tap early in the week.
Point Pleasant Boro (14-7, 10-4) – The Panthers are as close as they have been to a top 10 spot all year after rolling through Marlboro in the SCT opening round. A round-of-16 date at CBA is a chance to make a statement, but their main focus will be on the South Jersey Group III bracket.
Freehold Boro (12-8, 8-6) – The Colonials appear to be peaking at the right time and after nearly winning the Central Jersey Group IV championship last year, they will try their luck in Central Group III this year.
Monmouth (15-8, 9-5) – A loss to Red Bank doesn’t damage Monmouth’s top-10 pursuit because it came between rounds of the SCT with the state tournament opener at Spotswood in Central Jersey II looming as well. The Falcons have otherwise been sharp and could be a sleeper in both their section and in the SCT this week thanks to a dangerous offense.