2023 Shore Sports Network Baseball Preview: Class B North
From top to bottom, Class B North might have been the deepest division in the Shore Conference in 2023: Class A North deserves its due for producing a state champion from the bottom-half of its standings but that state champion (Middletown North) suffered its last loss of the season to the seventh-place team in Class B North (Red Bank). On top of that, Freehold Boro finished last, but won two divisional games and boasted two starting pitchers that kept them competitive in most of its losses.
Now, the top two teams in last year’s B North standings – Colts Neck and Wall – have moved to different divisions and of the remaining teams, five of them bring back a No. 1 starter on the mound to go with a handful of experienced hitters. Those conditions suggest that there are six teams that just took a step closer to a division championship, but there is one major catch: Ranney.
The Panthers are out of the Class B Central division for the first time after overpowering the Shore’s small schools for the last two seasons and will bring their loaded roster to the B North division looking to finish No. 1 in the Shore Conference and all of New Jersey. The division will test Ranney’s considerable depth and the Panthers are not likely to make it through the 14-game division schedule unscathed, but they are a particularly difficult team to outlast in a six-week division race.
Ocean also comes back to B North with a quality returning group and a track record of contending for division championships, so while the division lost two of the Shore’s better programs, it brought in two worthy replacements that will once again make Class B North both strong at the top with quality all the way to the bottom of the standings.
In predicted order of finish
Before the canceled 2020 season, the Ranney baseball program had never won more than 11 games in a season as a member of the Shore Conference, which it joined for the start of the 2013 season. When baseball returned from the COVID shutdown, Ranney returned a juggernaut. Over the last two Shore Conference seasons, only Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank Catholic and Middletown South have won more games and last year, Ranney led all Shore Conference teams with 26 wins while rumbling to the program’s first ever NJSIAA Non-Public B championship.
Coming off what was, far and away, the best season in program history, Ranney has even loftier expectations for 2023 with eight of the nine starters from the championship lineup and all of its pitching back for this season. While Ranney proved to be a deep team throughout its championship season, A.J. Gracia showed in the championship game (leadoff home run, 5 1/3 innings for the win on the mound) that he is the star on a team loaded with All-Shore talent.
Gracia could hear his name called in the July Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and is signed to play at Duke next season, but before all that, he has some potential history to make to cap his Shore Conference career. Coming off a 12-home-run season that also included more than 40 runs, 40 RBI and 40 stolen bases, Gracia is 14 home runs away from tying the all-time Shore Conference record of 31 and if he breaks it, that will mean he will also tie or break the single-season mark (15) that Joe Stanzione of Middletown South broke last season.
Panthers coach Pat Geroni has been able to use Gracia – who did not pitch as a sophomore in 2021 while recovering from an elbow injury – judiciously thanks to a deep stable of arms, not to mention a B Central schedule that allowed for Ranney to set its pitching. Even with the more challenging division schedule this season, Ranney will have plenty of arms to navigate that schedule, with Northeastern commit Nick Coniglio and Georgetown-bound left-hander Marcello Mastroianni returning off standout seasons.
Beyond the big three in the rotation, Ranney can turn to hard-throwing right-hander Jack Renaud, who was limited by an injury last season, and Wagner commit Diego Tavarez, who will be an infielder at the next level. Christian Brothers Academy transfer and junior right-hander James Hare joins the team and junior left-hander Grayson Testino also returns as a quality option.
Another new player with success on his varsity résumé is Ryan Costello, who was a two-way standout and All-Shore selection as a sophomore at Freehold Township last season. Costello, however, is a Pittsburgh commit as a hitter and will play both first base and in the outfield in his first season at Ranney -- essentially serving as the replacement for All-Shore outfielder Charlie Chropuvka.
Outside of Costello, Ranney brings back an entirely familiar lineup. Gracia will man centerfield when he is not on the mound and a combination of senior Ricky Nagy, senior Glen Cantalupo, Costello and sophomore Curtis Chropuvka will handle the two corner outfield spots, with Costello and Cantalupo possibilities at first base. The odd man out can slide into the DH role, with senior Enrique Beltra and Testino also in the DH competition.
Beltra can also spell returning starting catcher Lou Spadafora, who is exercising his bridge-year option after he started as a freshman in Geroni’s first season in 2019. Shortstop Brett Wehringer – another Georgetown commit – also started as a freshman in 2019 and will lead an infield that also brings back Tavarez at third base and senior Jack Tallent at second.
With enough talent to platoon around the diamond and enough pitching to keep accomplished pitchers like Costello off the mound, Ranney is going to field a high-level lineup every time out. With a significantly tougher schedule this season, the Panthers will need to use all of that pitching if they are to meet exceedingly high expectations in 2023.
Ranney at a Glance
Head Coach: Pat Geroni, fourth season
2022 Record: 26-5 (11-0, first in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Charlie Chropuvka (OF), Logan Semevolos (1B/DH; transferred to Brick)
Ranney Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Lou Spadafora, Fifth-Year Sr. (.410/.518/.591, 15 RBI); Enrique Beltra, Sr.
First Base: Ryan Costello, Jr. – Transfer from Freehold Twp. (.325/.422/.530, 11 2B, 2 HR, 17 R, 20 RBI, 4 SB); Glen Cantalupo, Sr.
Second Base: Jack Tallent, Sr. (.383/.454/.488, 27 R, 25 RBI, 11 SB)
Shortstop: Brett Wehringer, Fifth-Year Sr. (.413/.505/.587, 27 R, 24 RBI, 17 SB)
Third Base: Diego Tavarez, Sr. (.478/.593/.746, 32 R, 27 RBI, 21 SB)
Leftfield: Glen Cantalupo, Sr. (.343/.459/.443, 23 R, 15 RBI, 11 SB); Curtis Chropuvka, So.
Centerfield: A.J. Gracia, Sr. (.527/.688/1.167, 46 R, 43 RBI, 40 SB); Ryan Costello, Jr.
Rightfield: Ricky Nagy, Sr. (.338/.427/.465, 21 R, 20 RBI, 14 SB); Curtis Chropuvka, So.; Ryan Costello, Jr.
DH: Curtis Chropuvka, So. (9-for-21, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 10 RBI); Glen Cantalupo, Sr.; Enrique Beltran, Sr. (9-for-17, 3 2B, 1 HR, 9 R, 8 RBI)
Greyson Testino, Jr., 1B
A.J. Gracia, Sr., LHP (50 IP, 4-3, 2.94 ERA, 36 H, 20 BB, 59 K)
Nick Coniglio, Fifth-Year Sr., RHP (40 IP, 5-0, 2.45 ERA, 24 H, 17 BB, 45 K)
Marcello Mastroianni, Sr., LHP (48.1 IP, 8-1, 2.90 ERA, 25 H, 25 BB, 58 K)
Jack Renaud, Sr., RHP (7.1 IP, 4 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 5 BB, 4 K)
Diego Tavarez, Sr., RHP
Greyson Testino, Jr., LHP (9 IP, 2-0, 0.78 ERA, 3 H, 3 BB, 15 K)
Ryan Costello, Jr., LHP (38.1 IP, 3-3, 2.56 ERA, 32 H, 17 BB, 31 K)
James Hare, Jr., RHP – Transfer from CBA
Noah Hynes, Fr., RHP
A.J. Gracia – Duke University
Brett Wehringer – Georgetown University
Marcello Mastroiano – Georgetown University
Nick Coniglio – Northeastern University
Diego Tavarez – Wagner College
Jack Renaud – Queens University of Charlotte
Lou Spadafora – Kean University
Glen Cantalupo – Dickinson College
Enrique Beltra – New Jersey City University
Ryan Costello – University of Pittsburgh
With some exciting young talent jumping right into the starting lineup last year, Ocean experienced the pitfalls of youth in enduring a rare losing season for the steady Spartans program. The pitching was solid at the top but had trouble when the depth was challenged. Meanwhile, the offense had some standout performers, but not enough for Ocean to overwhelm teams at the plate.
This year’s group will have to address some of those lingering concerns, but there is reason to expect a strong rebound from the Spartans this season. Ocean’s top two pitchers are back and five players return to the starting lineup – including its top two leaders in OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) and two sophomores who started as freshmen. Outfielders George Krenkel and Shane Garrett were Ocean’s top two bats a season ago, with Garrett leading the team in batting average, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and Krenkel blasting a team-high four home runs.
Nick Case is another senior lined up to start again this season, which he will do at both second base and third base, depending on that day’s pitching plans. The other two returning starters are sophomores Ben Robinson and Connor Tongring, who will occupy the two most important positions on the high school field outside the mound. Tongring was a freshman catcher and his year of development should benefit both him and his team. Robinson, meanwhile, moves from third base to shortstop after showing off signs of developing power and already-present speed – tools that landed him an offer and subsequent commitment from NJIT.
Garrett and fellow senior Matt King will head up the pitching rotation after both logged more than 40 innings as juniors in 2022. King emerged as Ocean’s No. 1 starter, striking out 72 in his 48 innings, while Garrett turned in his second straight solid season on the mound as a secondary starting pitching option. The rest of the rotation will be inexperienced, although sophomore right-hander Tommy Kowaliwskyj was impressive in limited duty as a freshman and is ready to assume a starter spot.
King is also one of the new position-player starters and will play either second base or third base while Case occupies the other spot. Classmate Dylan Lazar will also move into the starting nine in rightfield with the possibility of getting innings at first base as well. Sophomore Matt Richter and junior Bohdi Lettieri will nab the last two lineup spots, with Richter playing first base and Lettieri taking the DH spot and an outfield position when Garrett is on the mound.
Growing pains were a part of fielding a young roster with two freshmen starters, but now that coach Cip Apicelli’s group has paid a lot of those dues, it is now positioned to starting banking some more wins. It will not be easy to do so in a division that is now home to a juggernaut team from Ranney, plus quality all the way through the standings, but the lineup and rotation have some real upside.
Ocean at a Glance
Head Coach: Cip Apicelli, 13th season
2022 Record: 12-13 (6-8, tied fourth in Class A Central)
Key Losses: Jack Zabarsky (SS), Will Calderon (RHP), Cord Birzin (1B), Zach Robinson (RHP/DH), Grady Stefankiewicz (2B)
Ocean Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Connor Tongring, So. (.288/.382/.318, 2 2B, 7 RBI)
First Base: Matt Richter, So., 1B; Dylan Lazar, Sr.
Second Base: Matt King, Sr. (1-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI); Nick Case, Sr.
Shortstop: Ben Robinson, So. (.244/.333/.317, 4 2B, 1 3B, 8 R, 11 RBI, 9 SB)
Third Base: Nick Case, Sr. (.205/.392/.282, 2 2B, 8 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB); Matt King, Sr.; Jack Kelly, So., 3B
Leftfield: Shane Garrett, Sr. (.429/.500/.529, 7 2B, 11 R, 23 RBI, 5 SB)
Centerfield: George Krenkel, Sr. (.309/.434/.515, 2 2B, 4 HR, 18 R, 16 RBI, 8 SB)
Rightfield: Dylan Lazar, Sr.; Bohdi Lettieri, Jr.
DH: Bohdi Lettieri, Jr. (C/OF); Matt Richter, So. (1B)
Anthony Flesca, Jr., C
Eddie Boeckman, Sr., 2B
Dillon Schneider, So., 2B
Jake Stewart, So., 2B
Josh Martinez, Sr., SS
Tommy Kowaliwskyj, So., 3B
Gianni Vacchino, So., 3B
T.J. Drumm, Sr., OF
Danny Farina, So., OF
Logan Miffit, Sr., OF
Anthony Torchia, So., OF
Ben Boerck, Sr., OF
Ryan Boeckman, Sr., OF
Matt King, Sr., RHP (48 IP, 4-5, 3.35 ERA, 52 H, 17 BB, 72 K)
Shane Garrett, Sr., RHP (40.1 IP, 4-2, 3.30 ERA, 45 H, 17 BB, 27 K)
Tommy Kowaliwskyj, So., RHP (3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K)
Dylan Lazar, Sr., LHP
Nick Case, Sr., RHP
Eddie Boeckman, Sr., RHP
Ryan Boeckman, Sr., RHP
Evan Dougherty, Jr., RHP
Jack Kelly, So., RHP
Ben Robinson, So., RHP
Matt King – Rutgers University-Newark
Ben Robinson – New Jersey Institute of Technology
Like Ocean, Manasquan is looking to step up its game this season after finishing one game below .500 in 2022, but the teams diverge in similarities from there. Manasquan has only four returning starters between its lineup and rotation, but two of them are Division I commits who were All-Shore selections a year ago.
Senior right-hander Cullen Condon is one of the Shore’s top returning pitchers after posting an All-Shore junior campaign that precluded his commitment to play at Wofford. He started last season with a no-hitter, finished it with a 10-strikeout performance in the NJSIAA Tournament and turned in plenty of highlights in between. Classmate and St. John’s commit Brett Patten, meanwhile, is back at the top of the order and in centerfield after finishing second in the Shore Conference in stolen bases while also smacking nine extra-base hits. Senior Jack O’Shea is the third returning position player for Manasquan and will play at first base while also serving as the Warriors No. 3 option on the mound.
Senior right-hander and Lafayette commit Jack Dawson will follow Condon in the rotation, giving the Warriors a chance to drop the hammer on division opponents for both games of a big series, should coach Brenan Gordon be able to keep them lined up. The staff after the top two will be key in determining how well Manasquan holds up in its run at a public division title and during tournament season, with O’Shea beginning the season in the third slot of the rotation with junior Austin Griffith and sophomores Shane Hageman and Keegan Hartel ready for innings as well.
Griffith will be a new starter to watch for Manasquan as he moves into an open spot on the infield, which will be third base most games and shortstop when Condon pitches. Senior Connor Malysa will man second base alongside Condon at shortstop, with sophomore Connor Voelkson taking over as the new starting catcher. Hertel and fellow sophomore Dylan Vowteras are in the mix for the corner-outfield spots, with senior Jake Heilos and junior Luke Ramire also vying for at-bats. Senior Kevin Prime, meanwhile, leads the competition for DH at-bats and could also get reps at third base.
With inexperience at several spots in the lineup and beyond the No. 2 spot in the rotation, Manasquan is not likely to keep up with Ranney for the outright division title, but the one-two punch of Cullen and Dawson will give the Warriors a chance to beat teams like Ranney head-to-head and be particularly dangerous come tournament time.
Manasquan at a Glance
Head Coach: Brenan Gordon, fifth season
2022 Record: 13-14 (7-7, fourth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Mike Antonucci (OF), James Cosgrove (RHP/DH), Luca Marshall (LHP), Mike Presbrey (3B), Ryan Deegan (2B), Cole Kozlowski (OF), Pat Woodford (OF), Josh Terry (C), Nicolas Galvan (1B/RHP)
Manasquan Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Connor Voelkson, So.
First Base: Jack O’Shea, Sr. (.215/.292/.278, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 R, 16 RBI); Shane Hagerman, So.
Second Base: Connor Malysa, Sr.
Shortstop: Cullen Condon, Sr. (.247/.355/.351, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 12 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB); Austin Griffith, Jr.
Third Base: Austin Griffith, Jr. (2-for-2, 1 R, 1 RBI); Kevin Prime, Sr.; James Michko, Jr.
Leftfield: Keegan Hertel, So.; Luke Ramire, Jr.
Centerfield: Brett Patten, Sr. (.390/.490/.537, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 27 R, 13 RBI, 27 SB)
Rightfield: Dylan Vowteras, So.; Jake Heilos, Sr.
DH: Kevin Prime, Sr.; Matt Koenig, Jr.; Caden Eastmond, So. (INF); James Michko, Jr.
Tommy Martin, Sr.
Cullen Condon, Sr., RHP (49.1 IP, 4-3, 1.42 ERA, 36 H, 16 BB, 71 K)
Jack Dawson, Sr., RHP (20.2 IP, 2-1, 2.31 ERA, 24 H, 28 BB, 49 K)
Jack O’Shea, Sr., LHP (5 IP, 0-1, 7 ER, 6 H, 11 BB, 7 K)
Austin Griffith, Jr., RHP
Shane Hagerman, So., RHP
Keegan Hertel, So., RHP
Jack Maggs, Jr., RHP
C.T. Runge, Sr., RHP
Brett Patten – St. John’s University
Cullen Condon – Wofford College
Jack Dawson – Lafayette College
Connor Malysa – Wells College
Jack O'Shea – The College of New Jersey
St. John Vianney
At the peak of its powers in 2022, St. John Vianney boasted a deep, dangerous batting order with three All-Shore bats and a pitching staff with a future Big 12 arm at the top, followed by a mix of effective hurlers. The highlight of the Lancers' season was an extra-inning win over Ranney in the Monmouth County Tournament and now, St. John Vianney will try to top the Panthers again over the course of the full Class B North division season.
One reason to buy in on the Lancers chances for a big season is the pitching they are bringing back from 2022. West Virginia commit Aiden Cody was the starting pitcher in the win over Ranney and it was just a small part of his All-Shore junior campaign that sets him up for a huge senior season pitching atop the St. John Vianney rotation. After Cody, junior David Hamlin is back after shut-down work pitching mostly in relief, while senior left-hander Andrew Zottar also returns with experience on the mound.
The depth in the rotation should be enough to keep St. John Vianney competitive throughout the year, with sophomore Mike McCormack set to start big games and classmate Nick Mirta ready for an increased role as a sophomore. Cody will get off to a late start as he recovers from an injury, so Vianney’s depth will come into play. Junior Owen Murtha, junior Joe Russo and senior Chris Santoro are all ready for action and senior Mater Dei Prep transfer Sean Hanna could carve out a key role as well.
While the St. John Vianney pitching is ready to take on the Shore’s best, the Lacers will have to rely on a lineup of almost entirely new starters. Zottar will be the most experienced returning hitter after getting starts at first base a year ago, while senior centerfielder Matt Recco moves into a full-time starting role after playing in some key spots as a junior. Senior Mike Pape and juniors Kevin DiPede and Owen Murtha are also primed to move into starting roles after sitting behind last year’s talented group, with Pape taking over at second base, DiPede at shortstop and Murtha at third base.
Senior John Cornacchio is a versatile player who could start at catcher or in the outfield if coach Mike Morgan is ready to hand the pitching staff over to talented freshman backstop Tyler Shpiro. St. John Vianney will also feature Moore Catholic (Staten Island) transfer Jonathan Field once the junior becomes eligible and he will be another quality option at catcher or elsewhere on the diamond. Field, Hannah and Christian Brothers Academy transfer Sal Tantillo are three transfers who could figure into the attack by the end of the season.
Sophomore J.T. Mohlmann, Russo and senior Louis Chiaccheri are also in the competition for corner-outfield at-bats along with Cornacchio and senior Luke Centanni could also make an impact in the lineup as an outfielder or DH. Depth should be a strength for St. John Vianney, particularly in the pitching staff, and if the Lancers can find ways to score runs while getting a new-look lineup acclimated, they could be a dangerous tournament team once Cody is back on the mound.
St. John Vianney at a Glance
Head Coach: Mike Morgan, 16th season
2022 Record: 18-7-1 (10-3-1, third in Class B North)
Key Losses: Matteo Pasculli (3B), Brady Oswick (SS), Kyle Pollack (C), Nick Ferraioli (OF/LHP), A.J. Kurtz (LHP/DH), Dan Afflito (2B/RHP), Dylan Galamb (OF), Danny Flynn (OF)
St. John Vianney Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: John Cornacchio, Sr.; Tyler Shpiro, Fr.
First Base: Andrew Zottar, Sr.; Mike McCormack, So.
Second Base: Mike Pape, Sr.; Salvatore Tantillo, Jr. – Transfer from CBA
Shortstop: Kevin DiPede, Jr.; Nick Mirto, So.
Third Base: Owen Murtha, Jr.;
Leftfield: J.T. Mohlmann, So.; Louis Chiaccheri, Sr.; John Cornacchio, Sr.
Centerfield: Matt Recco, Sr.
Rightfield: Joe Russo, Jr.
DH: Luke Centanni, Sr.; Mike McCormack, So.; Louis Chiaccheri, Sr.
Deon Jackson, Jr., 3B/OF
Jonathan Field, Jr., C/OF/INF – Transfer from Moore Catholic (N.Y.)
Sean Hannah, Sr., INF – Transfer from Mater Dei Prep
Jackson Brooks, Jr., 1B/OF
Mike Intartaglia, Jr., OF
James Colletti, So., INF/OF
Max Defonce, So., INF/OF
John DiGeorge, So., OF
Jake Visone, So., INF/OF
Aiden Cody, Sr., RHP (49.1 IP, 6-2, 2.84 ERA, 41 H, 11 BB, 71 K)
Michael McCormack, So., RHP
David Hamlin, Jr., RHP (13.1 IP, 1-0, 4.20 ERA, 19 H, 5 BB, 18 K)
Andrew Zottar, Sr., LHP
Chris Santoro, Sr., RHP
Nick Mirto, So., RHP
Joe Russo, Jr., RHP
Owen Murtha, Jr., RHP
John DiGeorge, So., LHP
Sean Hannah, Sr., RHP – Transfer from Mater Dei Prep
James Colletti, So., RHP
Max Defonce, So., RHP
Aiden Cody, Sr., RHP (49.1 IP, 6-2, 2.84 ERA, 41 H, 11 BB, 71 K)
David Hamlin, Jr., RHP (13.1 IP, 1-0, 4.20 ERA, 19 H, 5 BB, 18 K)
Andrew Zottar, Sr., LHP
Matt Recco, Sr., RHP
Chris Santoro, Sr., RHP
Owen Murtha, Jr., RHP
A painful 10-game stretch sank Red Bank’s regular season – a period during which the Bucs went 1-9 to fall to 4-13 overall, with five of the nine losses coming by margins of either one or two runs. Red Bank went down swinging, however, going 6-4 in its final 10 games and was the last team to beat Middletown North before the Lions went on to win their last 12 games in capturing the Group III championship.
That strong finish to the season should be something upon which Red Bank can build, especially considering how much production the Bucs will be bringing back. They will miss the hitting prowess of graduates Cole Armond, Jake Cohen and Gus Dal Pra, but return an entire infield and a junior centerfielder in Ryan Robinson who hit .385 with a .520 on-base percentage as a sophomore.
Senior catcher Hank Dal Pra is part of that returning infield and his classmate, Nate Ruth, will be back at first base after posting an on-base percentage better than .500 during his junior campaign. The rest of the infielders are juniors, led by shortstop Jackson Hyman and third baseman Tommy Ruth – who each hit one of Red Bank’s six home runs as a team last year and are the only players back on this year’s team to go yard in 2022. Classmate Hoyt Smith will handle second base, giving Red Bank a speedy double-play tandem that combined for 16 stolen bases last spring.
Robinson transformed the offense late in 2022 with his standout hitting as a sophomore and starting the season off at the top of the order will jumpstart the Red Bank offense. With Robinson in center, juniors Timmy Kelly and P.J. Whitehead figure to round out the outfield, with sophomores Will Marziarz and Gavin Smith also pushing the two juniors for outfield time, as well as junior Nick Gandolfo and sophomore Nick Walker for DH time.
Nate Ruth and Galdolfo are back as the two top-of-the-rotation pitchers, with Ruth taking the ball in most of Red Bank’s toughest games and posting a sub-3.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 37 innings in the process. Gandolfo, meanwhile, made a strong impression as a sophomore and will give Red Bank two left-handers for the top of the rotation. The Bucs lost senior Greyson Sandoz for the season due to injury, according to coach Nick Tucker, so they will turn to Robinson and Kelly to expand their 2022 roles while giving some of the underclassmen a chance.
In a division that has returning aces on just about every roster, Red Bank has its No. 1 arm in Nate Ruth and a capable second starter in Gandolfo to challenge most of the division’s teams in a two-game series. With a few hitters making strides at the plate, Red Bank could find themselves with a shot to win the public title in B North and put a scare in teams come tournament time.
Red Bank at a Glance
Head Coach: Nick Tucker, ninth season
2022 Record: 10-17 (3-11, seventh in Class B North)
Key Losses: Cole Armond (1B/RHP), Gus Dal Pra (3B), Jake Cohen (OF)
Red Bank Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Hank Dal Pra, Sr. (.185/.333/.241, 3 2B, 3 R, 10 RBI)
First Base: Nate Ruth, Sr. (.338/.517/.462, 8 2B, 15 R, 8 RBI); Nick Gandolfo, Jr.
Second Base: Hoyt Smith, Jr. (.213/.362/.277, 3 2B, 9 R, 3 RBI, 7 SB)
Shortstop: Jackson Hyman, Jr. (.250/.368/.400, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 9 R, 12 RBI, 12 SB)
Third Base: Tommy Ruth, Jr. (.270/.375/.351, 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 R 14 RBI, 4 SB)
Leftfield: Timmy Kelly, Jr. (0-for-6); Gavin Smith, So.
Centerfield: Ryan Robinson, Jr. (.385/.520/.436, 2 2B, 9 R, 3 RBI, 7 SB)
Rightfield: P.J. Whitehead, Jr. (0-for-4); Will Marziarz, So.
DH: Nick Gandolfo, Jr. (0-for-2); Nick Walker, So. (C); Will Marziarz, So.; Gavin Smith, So.
Michael Polloway, Sr., 1B
Jacob Pouso, So., 1B
Nate Ruth, Sr., LHP (37 IP, 2-5, 2.84 ERA, 33 H, 27 BB, 57 K)
Nick Gandolfo, Jr. LHP (35 IP, 3-1, 2.40 ERA, 40 H, 11 BB, 34 K)
Ryan Robinson, Jr., RHP (2.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K)
Timmy Kelly, Jr., RHP (1.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K)
P.J. Whitehead, Jr., RHP
Will Marziarz, So., RHP
Jacob Pouso, So., RHP
Gavin Smith, So., RHP
Sean Keatts, Fr., RHP
Matthew Huss, Fr., LHP
Greyson Sandoz, Sr., RHP – Injured (26 IP, 2-2, 5.19 ERA, 30 H, 8 BB, 19 K)
Nate Ruth – Felician University
Jackson Hyman – Franklin & Marshall College
With a sophomore-heavy team that started just one senior and one junior, Matawan ran into major issues in the middle of the season, when it suffered a nine-game losing streak following a wild, 11-11 tie against rival St. John Vianney that ended because of rain. That nine-game skid dropped Matawan to 3-10-1 in early May when, all of a sudden, something seemed to click for the Huskies.
Matawan finished the season going 8-3 in its final 11 games, including a divisional sweep of Neptune and a first-round road win over Allentown in the NJSIAA Central Group III Tournament. A major reason Matawan was able to ride out its struggles and compete so well down the stretch was because of its young pitching staff, which will remain mostly intact as juniors. Brandon Falco produced an All-Shore-caliber season as a sophomore ace who turned in an impressive 61 innings of work as an underclassman – good for the sixth-highest total in the conference.
Classmate Mark Kovach, meanwhile, began the season closing out games and eventually pitched his way into a starting role, which he will retain as a junior. Andrew Gendi is the other returning junior starter and Gendi pitched better as the season went on to give Matawan three dependable sophomore options on the mound. The Huskies will also rely on a sophomore this season, with right-hander Jayce Thoroughman joining the rotation.
Pitching should carry the Huskies this season, but for Matawan to really breakout as a postseason contender, the Huskies will need to break out the bats more often. Jake Brigandi had a big offensive season as a senior, but the rest of the lineup had two hitters that cracked a .300 batting average: senior catcher Joey Bodin hit .311 as a junior and infielder Chris Galasso hit an even .300 and the two Huskies combined for only six RBI with those averages, albeit with a combined nine doubles.
Matawan will have options in the infield, with Galasso, Gendi, Falco and Sal Cassano all back with starting experience at both second base and shortstop. With Falco and Gendi bound to spend a lot of the season on the mound, all four should see their share of at-bats and of the three, Falco was the least productive offensive player but perhaps the best defender. On the corners, Sean Hart will be back at first base after a productive sophomore campaign and Eric Friedman will take over Brigandi at third base.
The all-junior outfield remains intact, with Jack Sassa returning in centerfield, Mike DiPietro in left and a combination of Kovach and Gendi in right field, with Gendi moving to the outfield when Kovach is on the mound. Sophomore Bryan McCartin could also break in for some at-bats and with Matawan building some offensive depth to go with an already-proven pitching staff, there is a chance the Huskies could be the most improved team in the Shore Conference.
Matawan at a Glance
Head Coach: Bobby Carnovsky, 10th season
2022 Record: 11-13-1 (4-9-1, sixth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Jake Brigandi (3B/RHP)
Matawan Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Joey Bodin, Sr. (.311/.483/.444, 6 2B, 4 R, 1 RBI)
First Base: Sean Hart, Jr. (.275/.383/.353, 4 2B, 10 R, 5 RBI, 10 SB); Bryan McCartin, So.
Second Base: Andrew Gendi, Jr. (.254/.346/.313, 4 2B, 7 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB); Sal Cassano, Jr. (.271/.386/.322, 3 2B, 13 R, 10 RBI, 4 SB)
Shortstop: Brandon Falco, Jr. (.178/.321/.178, 3 R, 4 RBI); Chris Galasso, Jr. (.300/.435/.360, 3 2B, 8 R, 5 RBI, 8 SB)
Third Base: Eric Friedman, Jr. (.143)
Leftfield: Mike DiPietro, Jr. (.116, 1 2B, 4 RBI)
Centerfield: Jack Sassa, Jr. (.240/.374/.240, 11 R, 7 RBI, 9 SB)
Rightfield: Mark Kovach, Jr. (.246/.315/.308, 4 2B, 7 R, 12 RBI); Andrew Gendi, Jr.
DH: Chris Galasso, Jr.
Brandon Falco, Jr., RHP (61 IP, 4-6, 1.49 ERA, 44 H, 23 BB, 70 K)
Mark Kovach, Jr., RHP (28 IP, 1-1, 2.00 ERA, 25 H, 11 BB, 41 K)
Andrew Gendi, Jr., RHP (37.2 IP, 4-4, 3.90 ERA, 44 H, 17 BB, 22 K)
Jayce Thoroughman, So., RHP
Brandon Falco – New Jersey Institute of Technology
Unlike the rest of the teams in Class B North this season, Neptune does not return its top pitcher from 2022. Fortunately for the Scarlet Fliers, ace Ryan Cole was one of only three starters to graduate from the 2022 team, so Neptune will take a strength-in-numbers approach to replacing a small number of players who had a major impact last year.
Cole was Neptune’s best pitcher by a wide margin, but left-hander Brennan Moloughney emerged as a dependable second option for the rotation and enters his senior year with a chance to match many of the other aces in Class B North. Two seasons ago, Neptune had another left-hander in Brian Young who entered his senior year looking to make a leap forward in performance and delivered beyond expectations. If Moloughney can be half as good as Young was, he will be on par with at least half of the division’s No. 1 pitchers.
The Neptune pitching staff beyond Cole and Moloughney struggled in 2022 and for the Scarlet Fliers to cover the loss of its best pitcher, as well as its two of its three best hitters in Cole and Tyler Persico, they will have to establish more consistency on the mound. Seniors Joe Juliano, Kevin O’Neill, Quincy Esannason and Jack Tinik, as well as junior Aedan Martin, are all two-way players who will be focused on fortifying the pitching staff beyond Moloughney, who is also a top hitter for Neptune.
Offensively, Neptune has a big bat to build a lineup around in senior catcher Nick Quagliato. With five homers and 13 RBI as a junior, Quagliato is back as a middle-of-the-order power hitter who will also play a key role in guiding the pitching staff. He is also the only returning starter in the lineup who will not be considered for innings on the mound, so Neptune’s defensive alignment will be fluid. O’Neill (shortstop) and Martin (second base) will play up the middle, with Juliano and Moloughney at first and sophomores Jack Gamba-Ellis and Hunter Morgan vying for time at the open infield spot. Depending on which of the two sophomores cracks the lineup, O’Neill could slide to third base as well.
The outfield is more straightforward, with Esannason back in centerfield, Tinik in left and Moloughney a possibility for right field when he is not on the mound. When he is, junior Carl Christie will get the call. It is a very defined core of players and the majority of them are seniors, giving Neptune an intriguing mix that could make noise this year if everyone pulls a little bit more weight than they did a year ago.
Neptune at a Glance
Head Coach: Kevin Frederick, ninth season
2022 Record: 11-12-1 (6-7-1, fifth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Ryan Cole (SS/RHP), Tyler Persico (1B), Dan Moran (3B/RHP), William Foy (LHP)
Neptune Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Nick Quagliato, Sr. (.366/.438/.592, 1 2B, 5 HR, 11 R, 13 RBI)
First Base: Joe Juliano, Sr. (.128/.186/.154, 1 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI); Brennan Moloughney, Sr.
Second Base: Aedan Martin, Jr. (.167/.318/.222, 1 2B, 4 R, 2 RBI)
Shortstop: Kevin O’Neill, Sr. (.152/.243/.167, 1 2B, 8 R, 3 RBI); Hunter Morgan, So.
Third Base: Jack Gamba-Ellis, So.; Kevin O’Neill, Sr.
Leftfield: Jack Tinik, Sr. (.268/.325/.296, 2 2B, 9 R, 3 RBI, 4 SB)
Centerfield: Quincy Esannason, Sr. (.192/.344/.205, 1 2B, 13 R, 5 RBI, 9 SB)
Rightfield: Brennan Moloughney, Sr. (.302/.343/.333, 1 3B, 7 R, 4 RBI); Carl Christie, Jr.
Brennan Moloughney, Sr. LHP (37 IP, 3-4, 4.73 ERA, 48 H, 18 R, 40 K)
Joe Juliano, Sr., RHP (12 IP, 0-1, 7.00 ERA, 14 H, 11 BB, 20 K)
Kevin O’Neill, Sr., RHP (11 IP, 1-0, 6.36 ERA, 12 H, 8 BB, 15 K)
Aedan Martin, Jr., RHP (9.2 IP, 1-0, 7.97 ERA, 22 H, 8 BB, 6 K)
Quincy Esannason, Sr., RHP (2.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K)
Jack Tinik, Sr., RHP (2.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 2 K)
Nick Quagliato – Fairleigh Dickinson University-Teaneck
Quincy Esannason – Alvernia University
Brennan Moloughney – Eastern University
Joe Juliano – Eastern University
Following a 32-year run leading the program, Jon Block stepped down as Freehold Boro head coach following the 2022 season after leading the Colonials to several benchmarks in recent years: an NJSIAA sectional title and the program’s first ever trip to a Group III championship game in 2012; a 2017 season that included an outright Class A North championship, a trip to the Monmouth County Tournament final and an appearance in the Central Jersey Group IV final.
Taking over for the veteran Colonials skipper will be Matt Meleo, who played at Jackson Memorial in the early 2010’s under coach Frank Malta. Meleo played on a Jaguars team that reached the 2010 Group IV final and went on to play his college ball at Kean University. Now a head coach, he is tasked with turning around a Colonials program that is 10-50 over the past three seasons and coming off a three-win season and a last-place finish in Class B North.
This year’s Freehold Boro team will have some returning experience on hand, including its top pitcher from 2022. Right-hander Aiden Denham authored a breakout season for himself, which included winning a 1-0 game vs. St. John Vianney while his team was no-hit. Junior Aiden Rivera also returns with two years of experience on the mound and in the field, while sophomore Noah Ochojski looks to break through in the competition for the third spot in the rotation.
Denham and Rivera are also two of the returning position players in the lineup, with the two pitchers also playing in the infield – Rivera at second base and Denham at third. Senior Adam Greenspan saw at-bats at DH last year and will play catcher full-time this season, while junior Josh Medina returns at first base. Shortstop will have a new starter, with senior Anthony Vingelli and junior Dan Opramalla the candidates to take over up the middle. Whichever ends up on the short side of the shortstop playing time will also be in the mix – along with junior Nick Montello and senior Alex D’Antonio – to fill-in for Denham and Rivera when either is on the mound.
Rivera’s move from the outfield to second base leaves an additional opening at one of the corners. Senior Connor Owens will start in centerfield, while Ochojski and fellow sophomore Nick Russo enter the season as projected starters as well. Junior James Watkins is also part of the outfield picture and will be a candidate to DH, along with senior Josh Berger.
Even in another challenging season in 2022, Freehold Boro showed it can rise to the level of a Top 10 caliber team, which the Colonials did in beating St. John Vianney and playing close, low-scoring games against Class B North champion Colts Neck. With a No. 1 pitcher back, Freehold Boro should again have its moments in 2023.
Freehold Boro at a Glance
Head Coach: Matt Meleo, first season
2022 Record: 3-15 (2-12, eighth in Class B North)
Key Losses: Nick Terefenko (RHP/SS), Giovanni Sive (1B/LHP), Mike Kleschinsky (C)
Freehold Boro Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Adam Greenspan, Sr.
First Base: Josh Medina, Jr.
Second Base: Aiden Rivera, Jr.; Nick Montello, Jr.; Alex D’Antonio, Sr.
Shortstop: Anthony Vingelli, Sr.; Dan Opramolla, Jr.
Third Base: Aiden Denham, Sr.
Leftfield: Noah Ochojski, So.
Centerfield: Connor Owens, Sr.
Rightfield: Nick Russo, So.
DH: James Watkins, Jr. (OF); Josh Berger, Sr. (1B)
Aidan Denham, Sr., RHP (38 IP, 3-4, 2.76 ERA, 34 H, 13 BB, 46 K)
Aiden Rivera, Jr., RHP
Noah Ochojski, So., RHP
Spencer Friedman, Jr., RHP
Daniel Opramolla, Jr., RHP
Josh Berger, Sr., RHP
Connor Owens, Sr., LHP
Anthony Vingelli, Sr., RHP
Aidan Denham – University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Josh Berger – SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Class B North Lineup
Nick Quagliato, Sr., Catcher, Neptune
Ryan Costello, Jr., First Base/Outfield, Ranney
Nate Ruth, Sr., First Base/LHP, Red Bank
Brett Wehringer, Fifth-Year Sr., Shortstop, Ranney
Diego Tavarez, Sr., Third Base/Second Base, Ranney
Shane Garrett, Sr., Outfield/RHP, Ocean
A.J. Gracia, Sr., Centerfield, Ranney
Brett Patten, Sr., Centerfield, Manasquan
George Krenkel, Sr., Centerfield, Ocean
Class B North Rotation
Aiden Cody, Sr., RHP, St. John Vianney
Cullen Condon, Sr., RHP, Manasquan
Nick Coniglio, Fifth-Year Sr., RHP, Ranney
Marcello Mastroianni, Sr., LHP, Ranney
Brandon Falco, Jr., RHP, Matawan
Class B North Breakouts to Watch
Ben Robinson, So., Shortstop, Ocean
Brennen Moloughney, Sr., LHP, Neptune
David Hamlin, Jr., RHP, St. John Vianney
Ryan Robinson, Jr., Centerfield/RHP, Red Bank
Connor Tongring, So., Catcher, Ocean
Austin Griffith, Jr., Shortstop/Third Base, Manasquan
Tommy Kowaliwskyj, So., RHP, Ocean
Jack Sassa, Jr., Centerfield, Matawan
Aiden Rivera, Jr., Second Base/RHP, Freehold Boro