Baseball – Strike Out Autism Returns to the Shore for 6th Year
The Strike Out Autism Event returns this weekend for the sixth year with another deep lineup of games with a reach that spans the Shore Conference. Forty-four teams from around the state will play in 22 games at 12 locations on Saturday, with proceeds from the event going to the Central Regional Autism Awareness Club.
Jerry Frulio started the event in 2013 and is playing an additional role during the event this season: coach. Frulio is back for his second stint as the head coach at Central Regional and will lead his team onto its home field on Saturday against Shore Conference Class A South rival Southern Regional.
Central Regional’s Al Kunzman Field has served as the home base for the event each year and features a number of attractions in addition to the game, including a raffle.
While Central is the mother-ship site of Strike Out Autism, there are 10 other sites with some noteworthy matchups.
Start Times Subject to Change Due to Rain in Friday Night’s Forcast
Ocean County Sites
At Central Regional High School
Southern at Central, 11 a.m.
Brick Memorial vs. Williamstown, 2 p.m.
Southern and Central are both in different stages of rebuilds, with Southern two years removed from a breakout year behind a strong senior class and Central one year removed from a deep Shore Conference Tournament run. Southern’s bats came alive in a Wednesday 13-5 win over Brick Memorial while Central is still looking for young players to step up and help replace seven senior starters from last year.
Southern’s sophomore class will be a key to its season, with catcher Mike Gallaro, infielder Jack Plesniarski and outfielder Xavier Hendricks making an early impact. Sophomore Trevor Coltenback, meanwhile, is off to a strong start for Central, going 4-for-6 with a double in his first two games.
Brick Memoral is hoping for a breakthrough season with a senior-heavy group led by returning All-Shore shortstop T.J. Rosace. The Mustangs will take on a Williamstown squad four years removed from reaching the Group IV final but with first-round eliminations in the state tournament in each of the past three seasons.
At Toms River South
Lacey at Toms River South, 11 a.m.
Long Branch vs. Donovan Catholic, 2 p.m.
Toms River South will be the site where four teams that started the season 0-2 try to right the ship. The host team has a good excuse for starting 0-2: they had to face the best team in the Shore Conference, according to the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Toms River South was outscored, 23-4, in its two-game set with No. 1 Jackson Memorial and should have a better shot to get in the win column against just about anybody.
The Indians’ opponent has a reasonable explanation for starting 0-2 as well. Lacey ran into Pinelands’ one-two punch of Division I arms, Joey Ventresca (Monmouth) and Noah Dean (Old Dominion). There were some positive signs from the Lions in those losses, including Miles Feaster’s homer off Ventresca and a strong pitching outing by sophomore Jacob Bowles in the loss vs. Dean.
Long Branch and Donovan Catholic are trying to find their respective identities, Long Branch after graduating All-Shore standout Matt Mincieli and Donovan Catholic under new head coach Corey Hamman, who spent six seasons at Lacey.
At Toms River North
Barnegat vs. Toms River East, 11 a.m.
St. Augustine at Toms River North, 2 p.m.
Last year’s Strike Out Autism Event saw St. Augustine take on Delbarton at Toms River South in a battle of the top two team in the state at the time. The Hermits return with another loaded team this year and will play two-time defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Toms River North, which lost three impact starting pitchers who were also three of the Mariners’ best hitters.
Speaking of two-way players, among St. Augustine’s standouts is Cole Vanderslice, a Villanova commit who is off to a 4-for-6 start with a home run. On the other side, Toms River North has scored 27 runs in two games to open the season, so the offense hasn’t missed the accomplished Class of 2018 too much.
Barnegat is off to a strong 2-1 start, which includes a win over No. 7 Point Boro and a one-sided win over Pinelands. Barnegat’s offense appears to be revamped and has had several heroes through three games, which included 19 runs.
Toms River East reached the Ocean County Tournament final behind the pitching of Nick DeGennaro, but it’s easy to forget the Raiders started 5-0 with their ace on the shelf. With DeGennaro graduated, the Raiders are again off to a good start after wiping out Central in the first two games.
At Jackson Memorial
Jackson Liberty at Jackson Memorial, Noon
Manalapan vs. Manchester, 3:30 p.m.
The best matchup of Saturday’s 11-site event is, without question, at Jackson Memorial. The host Jaguars were exceedingly impressive in their dominant, two-game sweep of Toms River South to open the season and will welcome crosstown rival Jackson Liberty for a 10 a.m. first pitch.
Jackson Liberty has scored some big ones over their neighbors over the years and beating the Jaguars this year would rank up there with the best of them. As the No. 4 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, the Lions are no pushover themselves and outscored Donovan Catholic, 31-3, in two wins to open the season.
The two Jackson teams could combine for some serious offensive fireworks on Jackson Memorial’s home-run-friendly Larry D’Zio Field. Through Thursday, there were 23 home runs hit by Shore Conference players and the two Jackson teams combined for eight of them.
The second game of the Jackson double-header pits two unbeaten teams against one another as well. Manalapan has opened the season with three tight wins over pitching-rich opponents while showing off a deep staff of its own.
Manchester rolled to two recent wins over Lakewood after opening the season with a road win over defending Group II runner-up. The Hawks have a dangerous lineup of proven hitters who will put that Manalapan pitching staff to the test.
At Point Pleasant Boro
Spotswood at Point Boro, 10 a.m.
Pinelands vs. Point Beach, 1 p.m.
If one Point Pleasant team was going to open the season with two wins, a no-hitter and a 23-5 run-differential, conventional wisdom would guess it was Point Boro. The Panthers return two All-Shore pitchers, including junior St. John’s commit Nick Guzzi, and a complete lineup from a team that reached the South Jersey Group II final.
Instead, it is Point Beach that is 2-0 after a convincing series sweep against a Keansburg team that entered the season with designs on contending for the Class B Central title. The Garnet Gulls are light on experience and are playing a lot of sophomores, but appear to have the talent to emerge as the B Central favorite. Junior left-hander Will Baranello highlighted the strong start with a five-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts on Wednesday.
Point Beach will be tested against a Pinelands team that also has high expectations and two dominant starting pitchers. Ventresca and Dean are more likely to line up for next week’s Class B South schedule, but the game remains a solid test for both the Wildcats and the Garnet Gulls.
Update: Pinelands will pitch Ventresca on Saturday. The Wildcats do not have B South games scheduled for next week.
Monmouth County Sites
At Count Basie Park, Red Bank
Shore vs. Red Bank, 10 a.m.
Middletown South at Red Bank Catholic, 1 p.m.
Count Basie Park always offers a pair of fun matchups and this season is no different. Host Red Bank Catholic will take on Middletown South in another game that could offer up some offensive fireworks with arguably the two of the best lineups in Monmouth County squaring off.
Red Bank Catholic has the more proven pitching staff heading into the weekend, with freshman Shane Panzini, junior John Nimeth and senior Ryan O’Hara already taking the mound. Senior shortstop and St. John’s commit Vincent Bianchi still has yet to pitch for the Caseys, who are playing the first several weeks of the season without star center fielder David Glancy due to a broken hamate bone in his hand.
Middletown South’s pitching will get a test after it got the job done vs. Marlboro to open the season. Two sophomores are responsible for the Eagles’ first two wins, with Jack Shea winning the opener in relief and Mike Keenan winning as a starter on Thursday. Senior James Madison commit Robby Zega is off to a hot start, with a triple in game one and a grand slam in game two.
The first game at Red Bank Catholic pits two teams with standout aces who are unlikely, but available, to pitch. Shore’s Mike Deusch fired a one-hitter in Shore’s opening-day win over Rumson-Fair Haven, while Povey got hit in a 14-5 Red Bank loss vs. Matawan. Red Bank bounced back with a 9-8 win over Matawan on Thursday while Shore dropped its second game vs. Rumson.
At Middletown North
Marlboro at Middletown North, 10 a.m.
Matawan vs. Raritan, 1 p.m.
Two teams under first-year head coaches square off in the first game at Middletown North, including the host club. Ryan McCabe picked up his first career win as a head coach thanks to senior Sean Gardiner’s four-hitter and has gotten good results from his pitchers so far.
Marlboro could not contain Middletown South’s deep, potent lineup and will face a much more forgiving, less experienced lineup. Junior outfielder Ramon Fontanes has swung a hot bat out of the gate with a double, a triple and seven RBI in two games.
Game two at Middletown North will mark a good test for both teams – Raritan as a test of its pitching depth and Matawan against the defending Group II runner-up. The Rockets have played three close games so far and have used four pitchers so far, while Matawan put up 22 runs in a two-game split vs. Red Bank, including an impressive offensive showing against Povey.
Freehold Boro vs. Neptune, 10 a.m.
Freehold Twp. at Ocean, 1:30 p.m.
The Freeholds head to Ocean to face two old B North rivals in a double-header that features some quality pitching on both rosters. Freehold Boro’s Dominic Nonnenmacher got off to the strongest start among them with 10 strikeouts in six innings in a win over Long Branch to jump start a Freehold Boro team with some inexperience but plenty of seniors and juniors to lead the way.
Freehold Boro will host Neptune, which like Freehold Boro, is two years removed from reaching a sectional final. Senior right-hander and Kentucky commit Rob Cole is Neptune’s headline and will be eligible to appear on the mound Saturday after throwing 88 pitches over five scoreless innings in Tuesday’s opener vs. Middletown North.
Ocean got a complete-game outing from Max Winters, who catches when he is not pitching, to open the season and then got six impressive innings from sophomore Nick Callano. Winters cracked a homer in the second game vs. Colts Neck to lead an effective Spartans lineup.
Freehold Township lost two tight games against No. 9 Manalapan and have gotten pitching that mostly lives up to its expectations. Notre Dame commit Liam Simon is also eligible after throwing 74 pitches in Tuesday’s opener and with the Patriots still looking for their first win, they might be willing to pull out all the stops to get past Ocean if there is a win to be had.
At St. Rose Athletic Complex
Wall at St. Rose, 11 a.m.
CBA vs. Allentown, 2 p.m.
Delbarton vs. St. Augustine was last year’s Strike Out Autism headliner but CBA vs. Wall was the marquee match-up among Shore teams, with No. 1 squaring off against No. 2. CBA won the game, 6-5, for Marty Kenney’s 800th career win and rode that win to the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament.
The two Shore Conference powers will play on opposite ends of the double-header on Saturday, with Wall leading things off against local rival St. Rose. The Crimson Knights enter the season with the Shore’s best returning pitching staff, led by seniors Trey Dombroski, Grant Shulman and Ryan Napolitano. Junior outfielder and Florida State commit Teddy Sharkey will likely take the ball vs. St. Rose after serving primarily in a relief role in each of his first two varsity seasons.
St. Rose graduated three major position players from last year but has been competitive during a 0-2 start, which include losses to Raritan of 4-1 and 8-7.
CBA is the Shore’s last No. 1 team in the state and will play one of N.J.’s best public-school teams of the last two years – one that beat Wall in the Central Jersey Group III final. Allentown was the top public school in N.J. after winning Group III in 2017 and despite losing a chuck of senior talent from that team, the Redbirds got back to the Group III final, where they lost a heartbreaker to Somerville.
At St. John Vianney
Howell vs. Holmdel, 11 a.m.
Rumson-Fair Haven at St. John Vianney, 2 p.m.
The combined records of the four teams at St. John Vianney Saturday are just 2-7 and the fact that three of the teams opened vs. top-five teams in the SSN Top 10. Howell opened up the season at No. 10 and lost games to CBA and Manalapan in which the Rebels gave up leads in the sixth inning or later. After getting beat on a walk-off home run by CBA on opening day, the Rebels bounced back with a win over the Colts on Thursday.
The Rebels have shown a lot of pitching depth so far and will test it out further against a Holmdel group that showed it can hit in a 10-5 loss to Red Bank Catholic on Thursday. The Hornets got rocked, 17-0, on opening day vs. the No. 3 Caseys but put forth a better showing on Thursday.
St. John Vianney drew the toughest opening-day matchup of anybody in the Shore, squaring off against reining SSN Pitcher of the Year Trey Dombroski and No. 2 Wall. Dombroski struck out a career-high 14 over six shutout innings, allowing only one hit. The Lancers bounced back nicely on Thursday, scoring eight runs in a 14-8 loss to Wall.
Rumson did not face a ranked team but had to deal with one of the top left-handers in the Shore Conference in Shore-Regional ace Mike Deusch, who spun a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts. The Bulldogs opened the season with five freshman starters in the lineup and got a lift on Thursday from sophomore Andrew Schmid, who hit a grand slam in an 8-6 win over the Blue Devils.
At Monmouth Regional
Mater Dei Prep at Monmouth, 1 p.m.
Colts Neck vs. Manasquan, 1 p.m. (Moved to Manasquan High School)
The Monmouth Regional double-header will now be two separate stand-alone games in two different locations. The host Falcons will still play Mater Dei Prep, with that game now starting at 1 p.m. to give the field time to dry out. Monmouth had no answer for Manasquan ace Spencer Bauer in the opener and had no answer for Manasquan’s offense in a 17-2 loss on Thursday.
Mater Dei is off to a 2-0 start after an extra-inning win over Keyport on Thursday – the second strong pitching performance to open the season. The Seraphs are positioned to make a run at the program’s second Class B Central title in five seasons.
Manasquan is an impressive 2-0 after shutting out Monmouth in its opener and collecting 18 hits vs. the Falcons in Thursday’s win. The Warriors have a pitching-rich roster and if the first two games are any indication, they can hit some too.
Colts Neck lost two tough games vs. Ocean to open the season – one 6-4 and the other 6-5. The Cougars rallied to close a 6-2 deficit to 6-5 with three runs in the seventh on Thursday but came up short of the comeback win.