2023 Shore Sports Network Baseball Preview: Class B South
Over the last two seasons, the Class B South division has been as even as any in the Shore Conference at the top and last year, the division was, essentially, seven teams competing at a similar level with one (Lakewood) lagging behind. This year could see an inverse effect: one dominant team well above the rest of the field, followed by six evenly-matched teams that beat up on each other throughout the year.
That one superior team appears to be Donovan Catholic, which returns most of its roster from a two-time defending co-champion and 2022 Shore Conference semifinalist. Between Manchester winning a sectional title in 2021 and Donovan Catholic making going deep into the 2022 SCT, Class B South continues to experience success outside the division in recent years and the Griffins hold the key to another decorated postseason for the division.
The public schools, meanwhile, should remain even. Barnegat is a two-time defending co-champion, Jackson Liberty came up a win short of four consecutive titles, Lacey was one of the Shore’s best run-prevention outfits, Manchester is two years removed from the aforementioned sectional championship, Pinelands was the Shore’s most improved team a year ago and Point Pleasant Boro took some measured steps toward getting back to its state-championship-contender status of 2020.
Now that Lakewood is no longer in the division, there will be a real battle to stay out of the basement and it is not abundantly clear that there is a team in real danger of finishing last heading into the season. There is, however, a team that looks like a virtual lock to finish first.
In predicted order of finish
Corey Hamman left Lacey for the Donovan Catholic head coaching job with visions of turning the Griffins into a Non-Public power to rival teams like Red Bank Catholic, Christian Brothers Academy and St. John Vianney within the Shore Conference, as well as statewide powers like Bishop Eustace, St. Augustine, Gloucester Catholic and the North Jersey versions of those programs. Last year, that vision started to come into focus, as Donovan Catholic made it to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals with a roster of players that were mostly eligible and planning to return in 2023.
Donovan Catholic is much closer to that elite status than it is to the level the program was at when Hamman took over, but the Griffins are not quite there yet. They are still looking to win an outright Class B South championship after tying for the title in each of the past two seasons and this experienced group will start this season hoping to get over the disappointment of getting bounced by Union Catholic in the first round of the 2022 NJSIAA Tournament.
All but one starter from 2022 returns this spring for Donovan Catholic, including two graduates who opted to exercise their option of bridge year while attending classes at junior college. One of them is George Mason commit and left-handed ace Shaun O’Keefe, who has been Donovan Catholic’s top pitcher in each of the past two seasons and pitched the Griffins past Jackson Liberty and CBA in back-to-back rounds of last year’s Shore Conference Tournament. The other is left-hand-swinging Anthony Mursko, who will hit in the middle of a deep, dangerous lineup that was the most improved part of last year’s team.
Donovan Catholic stepped up its run-scoring attack in 2022, led by All-Shore-First-Team Gavin Degnan – a four-year starter (including 2020) who is all about speed: in centerfield, on the bases and with his bat, which he showed can catch up to the best fastballs Donovan Catholic faced. Fellow seniors Rocco Scarpitti, Ryan Butchko and Matt Mason are all coming off strong showings at the plate in 2022, while juniors Joe Maier (shortstop) and Hunter Johnson (catcher) will reprise their roles at key positions for the third year in a row.
Sophomores Nick Lovacco and Joe Busco are the challengers for the lone open spot in the lineup, which is at second base, while junior Dave Yorke’s bat is likely to find its way into the lineup in some capacity – either at DH or first base.
Since Hamman took over, Donovan Catholic has leaned on deep pitching staffs that don’t rely too much on any one player for volume – evidenced by O’Keefe throwing a reasonable 42 1/3 innings last year despite being the clear No. 1 pitcher on the roster. O’Keefe is one of seven returning pitchers – six of whom threw at least 15 innings.
That group includes injured junior Hunter Lefkus, but even without him, Donovan Catholic still has a wealth of options, starting with junior Jake Marciano and Jason Basilicata. While Basilicata got off to a late start in 2022 due to injury, Marciano picked up the slack and emerged as the Griffins’ No. 2 starter. With both now ready to go, Donovan Catholic has two capable big-game options beyond its ace. Junior Kade Kulpinski also flashed promise in 15 innings of work, while seniors John Grano and Brian Padilla provide two more experienced arms for the staff.
With a starter back at almost every position and plenty of depth in the pitching rotation, Donovan Catholic enters 2023 the heavy favorite to win Class B South all for itself in 2023. That would be a big step for the program in its emergence this season, but with so much returning talent and a taste of the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals still fresh, that is not the only step the Griffins want to take this spring.
Donovan Catholic at a Glance
Head Coach: Corey Hamman, fourth season
2022 Record: 16-12 (10-4, tied first in Class B South)
Key Losses: Andrew Bonick (2B)
Barnegat Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Hunter Johnson, Jr. (.242/.356/.364, 5 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 12 RBI)
First Base: Rocco Scarpitti, Sr. (.303/.505/.424, 2 2B, 2 HR, 25 R, 16 RBI, 9 SB); David Yorke, Jr.
Second Base: Nick Lovacco, So. (0-for-5, 1 R); Joe Busco, So. (0-for-3)
Shortstop: Joe Maier, Jr. (.318/.423/.409, 4 2B, 2 3B, 22 R, 15 RBI, 20 SB)
Third Base: Anthony Mursko, Fifth-Year Sr. (.322/.427/.402, 4 2B, 1 HR, 25 R, 18 RBI, 5 SB)
Leftfield: Ryan Butchko, Sr. (.262/.510/.410, 3 2B, 2 HR, 16 R, 18 RBI)
Centerfield: Gavin Degnan, Sr. (.407/.495/.714, 7 2B, 7 HR, 31 R, 25 RBI, 20 SB)
Rightfield: Matt Mason, Sr. (.318/.434/.500, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB); Rocco Scarpitti, Sr.
DH: David Yorke, Jr. (.235/.402/.324, 3 2B, 1 HR, 11 R, 15 RBI); Matt Mason, Sr.
Tyler Levine, So., C
Ryder Simpson, So., C
Shaun O’Keefe, Fifth-Year Sr., LHP (42.1 IP, 6-2, 1.98 ERA, 37 H, 18 BB, 47 K)
Jake Marciano, Jr., LHP (35 IP, 3-1, 2.60 ERA, 35 H, 15 BB, 35 K)
Jason Basilicata, Sr., RHP (16.2 IP, 1-0, 4.20 ERA, 13 H, 6 BB, 22 K)
Brian Padilla, Sr., RHP (19.1 IP, 1-3, 9.41 ERA, 33 H, 13 BB, 16 K)
Kade Kulpinski, Jr., RHP (15.1 IP, 2-2, 2.74 ERA, 13 H, 6 BB, 16 K)
John Grano, Sr., RHP (6.1 IP, 0-1, 16.58 ERA, 5 H, 23 BB, 12 K)
Hunter Lefkus, Jr., RHP – Injured (25.2 IP, 1-3, 5.45 ERA, 28 H, 18 BB, 31 K)
Shaun O’Keefe – George Mason University
Hunter Lefkus – St. Peter’s University
Jason Basilicata – St. Thomas Aquinas University
Brian Padilla – Rutgers University-Newark
Matt Mason – Neumann University
Point Pleasant Boro
After the last out of the 2019 Group II championship game, the players on the Point Boro baseball team processed their disappointment, said goodbye to the handful of seniors who were graduating and resolved to get the Panthers back to the final and finish the job in 2020. They never got that chance, and since the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Point Boro has been fighting just to get back to .500, let alone a state final.
With the graduation of a special group in 2020 came a youth movement and with the youth movement came anticipated, but still-difficult, growing pains. With two years to learn the ropes, this year’s team – now loaded with varsity experience – is ready to transition from scrappy young team still finding its way to an exciting, junior-heavy group ready for a good two-year run.
Although the junior class makes up the core of this year’s Panthers squad, there is a major senior presence in the lineup up the middle, led by shortstop Connor Cilento. As a freshman, Cilento was lined up to start for the state-championship-hopeful team, then played to mixed results as a sophomore in 2021. Last year, however, he put it all together, making a serious bid for an All-Shore spot by adding more power to his offensive game and still showing off the game-changing speed with the fourth-highest stolen base total in the conference.
Second baseman Tommy Laspina is the other half of Point Boro’s senior double-play combo and rightfielder Shane Ryan will be the third senior in the starting lineup. Ryan has not played baseball in the program since his freshman season, but is a standout athlete who just put together an All-Shore season for Point Boro’s basketball team. Junior Matt Oliphant is a similar case: a football standout who came back to baseball after a year away and could find himself a regular role upon his return.
For Point Boro to thrive this year and into 2024, it will be all about this group of juniors. Bryson Kirby broke out as one of the Shore’s top two-way talents a year ago after giving pretty clear indication such a season was coming during his freshman debut a year earlier. Kirby will play centerfield when he is not on the mound, with Ryan Aquisto and Wyatt DeWysockie following him in the rotation. Both Acquisto and DeWysockie are two of coach Dave Drew’s three options at catcher and with fellow junior Jayson Bennett also in the mix, Acquisto will play mostly first base this season.
John Ward and Bennett will handle the hot corner and fellow junior Brian Simoes rounds out the starting lineup as the returning starter in rightfield. Two more juniors – Calvin Kedves and Eric Greeley – will factor into the rotation pitching behind Kirby, Acquisto, DeWysockie and senior left-hander Eric Anilonis. Andrew Lockwood, meanwhile, is another senior who can impact the game with his speed, while left-hander Nick Kowaleski is a potential difference-maker as a sophomore.
Donovan Catholic enters the season with a decided edge on paper over the rest of the division, but if there is a public-school favorite and a potential challenger to the Griffins for the B South title, it looks likely to be a resurgent Point Boro squad.
Point Boro at a Glance
Head Coach: Dave Drew, 12th season
2022 Record: 9-17-1 (5-8-1, seventh in Class B South)
Key Losses: Trey Harpootlian (LHP/1B), Charlie Vitale (OF), Nick Sclefo (OF), Matt DeWitte (RHP/INF)
Point Boro Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Wyatt DeWysockie, Jr. (.200/.304/.250, 1 2B, 1 R, 4 RBI); Jayson Bennett, Jr.
First Base: Ryan Acquisto, Jr. (.375/.381/.475, 4 2B, 2 R, 9 RBI, 3 SB)
Second Base: Tommy Laspina, Sr. (.213/.292/.225, 1 2B, 11 R, 2 RBI, 5 SB)
Shortstop: Connor Cilento, Sr. (.382/.484/.553, 7 2B, 2 HR, 16 R, 9 RBI, 23 SB)
Third Base: John Ward, Jr. (.304/.304/.391, 1 3B, 4 R, 1 RBI); Jayson Bennett, Jr.
Leftfield: Shane Ryan, Sr.; Jayson Bennett, Jr.
Centerfield: Bryson Kirby, Jr. (.293/.372/.440, 2 2B, 3 HR, 16 R, 13 RBI, 5 SB)
Rightfield: Brian Simoes, Jr. (.250/.365/.288, 1 3B, 8 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB);
DH: Jayson Bennett, Jr. (.196/.317/.294, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 4 RBI); Bryson Kirby, Jr.
Andrew Lockwood, Sr., OF
Matt Oliphant, Jr., OF
Jack Macaluso, Jr., OF
Nick Kowalewski, So., 1B
Thomas Turner, So., 1B/OF
Chris Metcalfe, So., UTIL
Hudson Griffin, So., SS
James Lockwood, So., 2B
Bryson Kirby, Jr., RHP (58 IP, 2-4, 2.78 ERA, 44 H, 22 BB, 76 K)
Ryan Acquisto, Jr., RHP (6.1 IP, 2-0, 1.10 ERA, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K)
Wyatt DeWysockie, Jr., RHP (14.1 IP, 1-2, 6.84 ERA, 23 H, 14 BB, 15 K)
Eric Anilonis, Sr., LHP (23 IP, 1-4, 5.78 ERA, 23 H, 26 BB, 22 K)
Calvin Kedves, Jr., RHP (2.1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 4 K)
Connor Cilento, Sr., RHP
Nick Kowalewski, So., LHP
Eric Greeley, Jr., RHP (4.1 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 6 BB, 5 K)
Declan Pratt, Sr., RHP
Connor Cilento – United States Coast Guard Academy
Jackson Liberty took its challenge for a fourth straight Class B South championship to the final game of the divisional schedule and came up short, settling for a third place tie – the program’s lowest finish in the B South standings since 2016. With a mix of experienced senior and underclass talent back in the fold for 2023, the Lions will be a hungry team hoping to reclaim its perch at the top of the division.
Two of Jackson Liberty’s top four pitchers from last year are back, led by all-division senior left-hander Ethan Bloomfield. Sophomore Mike Kisseberth will follow Bloomfield in the rotation after he posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 18 innings as a freshman, while sophomores Josh Rebelo and Nick Nanni return with experience from their freshman seasons as well.
Kisseberth will also be a staple in the lineup as the starting shortstop after hitting comfortably over .400 a year ago. Junior catcher Brett Benecke heads into his third season as a starter behind the plate and classmate Jack Kanis returns as a starter in leftfield. Centerfielder Christian Garced is the lone returning senior starter, but classmates Connor Yurgel (first base) and Gavin Degregorio (second base) were both part-time players who will move into the lineup this season.
With Kisseberth already entrenched, a wave of impact underclassmen is likely to join him as key players on the Lions team. Freshman Carney O’Donnell will start in the infield and contribute on the mound, with the rookie projected to start at third base on most days and at shortstop when Kisseberth pitches. Sophomore Colin Menafra, meanwhile, is slated to start in the outfield Nannini and Rebelo could have offensive roles as well to go with their spots on the pitching staff. Junior Matt O’Brien, meanwhile, will be an important player filling in around the diamond when the pitching plans open up spots in the field.
With Jackson Liberty’s division title streak coming to an end last season, this year’s group is intent on starting a new run and even if Donovan Catholic indeed runs away with the outright regular-season title, the Lions will still be in play for the public division championship.
Jackson Liberty at a Glance
Head Coach: Dave Murawski, second season
2022 Record: 12-10 (9-5, tied third in Class B South)
Key Losses: Chris Sasso (LHP/1B), Garrett Drew (UTIL/RHP), Nick Conti (2B), R.J. Vashey (3B), Anthony Nannini (Sr., LHP; transferred to Red Bank Catholic)
Jackson Liberty Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Brett Benecke, Jr. (.241/.379/.426, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 R, 11 RBI)
First Base: Connor Yurgel, Sr. (.160/.192/.280, 1 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI); Matt O’Brien, Jr.
Second Base: Gavin Degregorio, Sr. (.273/.433/.273, 6 R, 5 RBI)
Shortstop: Mike Kisseberth, So. (.422/.506/.484, 4 2B, 16 R, 8 RBI, 4 SB); Carney O’Donnell, Fr.; Anthony Woods, Fr.
Third Base: Carney O’Donnell, Fr.; Jack Kanis, Jr.
Leftfield: Jack Kanis, Jr. (.224/.243/.358, 6 2B, 1 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI); Connor Yurgel, Sr.; Matt O’Brien, Jr.
Centerfield: Christian Garced, Sr. (.304/.381/.339, 2 2B, 7 R, 9 RBI, 3 SB)
Rightfield: Colin Menafra, So. (.160/.323/.200, 1 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI)
DH: Nick Nannini, So., OF (1-for-3, 1 3B, 1 R, 2 SB)
Vincent Grande, Jr., 2B
Josh Rebelo, So., 2B (0-for-1)
Ethan Bloomfield, Sr., OF
Christian Walton, Sr., OF
Ethan Bloomfield, Sr., LHP (32 IP, 3-4, 2.62 ERA, 19 H, 22 BB, 51 K)
Michael Kisseberth, So., RHP (18 IP, 1-2, 2.72 ERA, 15 H, 12 BB, 13 K)
Josh Rebelo, So., RHP (5 IP, 1-0, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 11 K)
Gavin Degregorio, Sr., RHP
Carney O’Donnell, Fr., RHP
Anthony Woods, Fr., RHP
Vincent Grande, Jr., RHP
Jack Kanis, Jr., RHP
Nick Nannini, So., RHP (5 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 2 K)
If the road to a championship is paved with good pitching, then Lacey has a direct route to a successful 2023 season. The Lions return two of their three top performers on the mound from a year ago, with senior right-hander Noah Quinn leading the way and classmate Jack Sramaty following as the team’s No. 2 starter.
By the numbers, Quinn can make a case that he is the best pitcher returning in B South after he posted an ERA a half-a-run better than O’Keefe at Donovan Catholic and almost a run-and-a-half better than what Kirby turned in at Point Boro. With 47 innings as a junior under his belt, he has also proved to be a workhorse. Sramaty, meanwhile, specializes in throwing strikes, which he showed by walking just eight batters in 30 1/3 innings for an average of 1.85 per seven innings.
Seniors Zack Mohr and Rylan Messina are two more seasoned varsity veterans who will round out the top of the Lacey pitching staff while helping Quinn and Sramaty handle the bulk of the innings workload for the season. Mohr and Messina will both play keys spots on the infield as well, with Mohr occupying shortstop and Messina manning the hot corner at third base. Quinn will also figure more prominently into the offense this season as the team’s starting rightfielder on days when he does not pitch.
Mohr and Messina are two of four returning starters out in the field for Lacey, which also includes all-division selection and senior catcher Carson Gudzak. His offense is still coming along, but Gudzak is a standout defender and his return to the lineup coupled with the experience on the mound should make Lacey even tougher to score upon than it was in 2022, when the Lions allowed an impressive 3.6 runs per game.
Junior Anthony Eckerson is the other returning starter and will play first base, with junior Ethan Anderson set to complete the right side of the infield as the new starting second baseman. Junior David Golini will move into the starting centerfield role, while sophomores Dylan Zech and Landon Raabe vie for rightfield at-bats. Freshman Brayden Messina and junior Shane Trangone are also competing for at-bats, which could come at the DH spot in the order.
Lacey’s offense struggled at times last season and this year’s lack of experience at the plate could lead to more low-scoring games, but the Lions showed last year they could pitch to anyone in Ocean County and with all of their experience, they can do it again in 2023.
Lacey at a Glance
Head Coach: Adam Taha, fourth season
2022 Record: Lacey 12-12 (9-5, tied third in Class B South)
Key Losses: Mike Todaro (RHP/2B), Matt McClung (CF), Andrew Tobia (OF), Colin Space (1B/RHP), Ryan Preston (RHP), Zack Barrett (RHP)
Lacey Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Carson Gudzak, Sr. (.271/.307/.286, 1 2B, 3 R, 8 RBI)
First Base: Anthony Eckerson, Jr. (.254/.324/.270, 1 2B, 5 R, 4 RBI)
Second Base: Ethan Anderson, Jr.
Shortstop: Zack Mohr, Sr. (.189/.312/.245, 1 2B, 1 3B, 11 R, 8 RBI, 3 SB)
Third Base: Rylan Messina, Sr. (.286/.338/.317, 2 2B, 10 R, 4 RBI, 4 SB)
Leftfield: Noah Quinn, Sr. (2-for-12, 1 2B, 1 R, 2 RBI)
Centerfield: David Golini, Jr.
Rightfield: Dylan Zech, So.; Landon Raabe, So.
DH: Brayden Messina, Fr.; Shane Trangone, Jr.
Noah Quinn, Sr., RHP (47 IP, 5-4, 1.49 ERA, 31 H, 29 BB, 66 K)
Jack Sramaty, Sr., RHP (30.1 IP, 3-1, 2.31 ERA, 29 H, 8 BB, 29 K)
Zack Mohr, Sr., RHP
Rylan Messina, Sr., RHP
Fresh off collecting its second straight Class B South co-championship, Barnegat will be in more of a rebuild mode than the other public-school programs that have been battling it out with the Bengals for the top spot in the division over the past decade. Junior left-hander Tyler Carll and his seven innings pitched represent the lone returning contributions from 2022 on the mound and while the experience in the field and at the plate is better, it is not a whole lot more extensive.
Carll will also start in centerfield after taking over that job last season, while senior Bryce Davenport is back as the shortstop and junior Dylan DeGrazio too as the third basemen. None of those three players posted a batting average better than .235 nor a slugging percentage north of .275, so while all three players have been through the battles, they have not been centerpieces in the lineup – something coach Dan McCoy will be looking for from somebody on this year’s roster.
The heavier contributions are going to have to come from the newcomers and McCoy is optimistic that group will find its footing by the latter part of the season to make Barnegat a dangerous matchup in the postseason and an up-and-coming team in 2024. Jack Haviland, Nick Bruno, Patrick Mackie and Liam Cooper are likely contributors as freshmen and Dylan Appice and Jaihan Dominguez will both be two-way sophomores, but there are also some upper-classmen on the radar for the Bengals.
Senior Matt Hwang is in line for first-base at-bats, classmate Griffen Soccadatto at DH, and juniors Carmine Albrozzese (catcher), Quentin Torres (second base) and Anthony Costello (rightfield) will all play key positions for Barnegat. The pitching staff is the greatest mystery for Barnegat with so little experience coming back, but pitching has been Barnegat’s specialty under Dan McCoy and when good arms pass through the program, they usually excel and there is sure to be a gem or two in this year’s group.
Barnegat was the rare sub-.500 division champion a year ago, when it finished 12-14 overall while going 10-4 inside the division. That is the result of challenging scheduling and those battles with quality competition should prepare the Bengals for what is ahead during the 2023 season.
Barnegat at a Glance
Head Coach: Dan McCoy, 11th season
2022 Record: 12-14 (10-4, tied first in Class B South)
Key Losses: P.J. Craig (RHP/1B), Ryan Kulpa (RHP/1B/2B), Jared Schworn (1B/OF/LHP), Patrick Quinn (2B/OF/RHP), Rafael Dominguez (2B/3B), Anthony Molfino (C), Joe Fiorentino (CF), Justin Bye (OF)
Barnegat Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Carmine Albrozzese, Jr.; Jack Haviland, Fr.
First Base: Matt Hwang, Sr. (.185/.421/.185, 6 R, 1 RBI)
Second Base: Quentin Torres, Jr.; Jordan Cook, Jr.
Shortstop: Bryce Davenport, Sr. (.195/.298/.220, 1 2B, 5 R, 4 RBI); Nick Bruno, Fr.
Third Base: Dylan DeGrazio, Jr. (.235/.391/.275, 2 2B, 7 R, 4 RBI)
Leftfield: Dylan Appice, So.
Centerfield: Tyler Carll, Jr. (.200/.333/.200, 4 R, 3 RBI); Julian Marfino, Jr.
Rightfield: Anthony Costello, Jr.; Patrick Mackie, Fr.
DH: Griffen Soccadatto, Sr.
Liam Cooper, Fr., 3B
Jaihan Dominguez, So., 1B
Tyler Carll, Jr., LHP (7 IP, 8.00 ERA, 10 H, 14 BB, 7 K)
Bryce Davenport, Sr., RHP
Dylan Appice, So., RHP
Anthony Costello, Jr., RHP
Quentin Torres, Jr., RHP
Jaihan Dominguez, So., LHP
Pinelands was the best turnaround story in the Shore Conference in 2022, going from 1-18 in 2021 to 10-13 a year ago with a Shore Conference Tournament berth, as well as a first-round win over Toms River North in the Ocean County Tournament. A significant amount of that success can be traced back to two standout graduates in All-Shore two-way standout Stephen DeMilio and four-year starter and shortstop Rian O’Rourke.
With those two now in college, Pinelands will try to advance the program with its next wave of leaders, one of which could very well be its sophomore catcher. Nathan Sofield enters his sophomore season already committed to play at George Mason and after a solid showing during his freshman year, he and the rest of the Wildcats are hoping he really takes off.
Sofield is one of only three starters back from 2022, leaving the Wildcats to replace much more than just DeMilio and O’Rourke. Juniors Logan Russo and Kaden Inman will both play on the right side of the infield while also comprising the top of the pitching rotation. Inman is the starting second baseman, with Russo starting at first and both are coming off respectable seasons on the mound – both in performance and innings.
Junior shortstop Dan Maher and senior leftfielder Hunter Theuret each played part-time roles last year, with Maher contributing a double and six RBI and Theuret adding three doubles and six RBI. Senior Jacob Fowler will play third base in his first season getting varsity at-bats, junior Frank Gargione will start in rightfield and seniors Mike Howlett and Cole Corliss are versatile players who could nab DH at-bats and, along with sophomore T.J. Nugent, fill in around the diamond depending on the vacancies that starting pitching responsibilities create.
Freshman Tyler Dean will be one of the Shore’s rookies to watch -- a fitting last name for a freshman at Pinelands after Boston Red Sox draft pick Noah Dean starred at Pinelands for four years, although there is no relation*. With juniors and sophomores all over the roster and another exciting freshman joining the mix right away, Pinelands has a lot to look forward to over the next several years and could even sneak up on the rest of B South this season.
*Edit: This post originally claimed Tyler Dean was the younger brother of Noah Dean, but there is no relation and the post has been corrected.
Pinelands at a Glance
Head Coach: Dan Mulligan, third season
2022 Record: 10-13 (6-8, sixth in Class B South)
Key Losses: Stephen DeMilio (RHP/2B/OF), Rian O’Rourke (SS), Chris Mitchell (RHP), Casey Baglivo (OF), T.J. Ross (OF), Ethan Edwards (1B)
Pinelands Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Nathan Sofield, So. (.214/.304/.286, 5 2B, 12 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB)
First Base: Logan Russo, Jr. (.271/.397/.271, 8 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB)
Second Base: Kaden Inman, Jr. (.271/.397/.271, 1 2B, 9 R, 4 RBI, 3 SB); T.J. Nugent, So.
Shortstop: Dan Maher, Jr. (.135/.319/.162, 1 2B, 6 R, 6 RBI, 2 SB)
Third Base: Jacob Fowler, Sr.
Leftfield: Hunter Theuret, Sr. (.167/.306/.267, 3 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB)
Centerfield: Tyler Dean, Fr.
Rightfield: Frank Gargione, Jr.
DH: Mike Howlett, Sr. (UTIL), Cole Corliss, Sr. (INF)
Kaden Inman, Jr., RHP (19.2 IP, 2-1, 3.91 ERA, 12 H, 22 BB, 17 K)
Logan Russo, Jr., RHP (26.2 IP, 1-3, 4.20 ERA, 23 H, 23 BB, 28 K)
Dan Maher, Jr., RHP (3.2 IP, 0-1, 9 ER, 9 H, 4 BB, 3 K)
Hunter Theuret, Sr., RHP (5.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 4 K)
Jacob Fowler, Sr., RHP
T.J. Nugent, So., RHP
Tyler Dean, Fr., RHP
Nathan Sofield – George Mason University
In the 2021 postseason, Manchester transformed from a struggling team during the Class B South season into a world-beater. The Hawks upset Freehold Township in the Shore Conference Tournament, which was a harbinger for a run to the South Jersey Group II championship – Manchester’s first sectional title in 18 years. The sudden turnaround at the end of 2021, plus the return of so many of the players from that team had the Hawks hoping for another late-season surge in 2022, but it never materialized.
With that accomplished class of 2022 now out of the program, Manchester coach Dave Beauchemin will rely on a few holdovers from its championship squad while trying to prime the new group of varsity contributors for success in a B South division that should remain competitive. Seniors Joe Sclama and Frank Kern were pitching heroes for Manchester during their 2021 championship run, but couldn’t quite follow up those performances last year. Bounceback years from those two, plus another solid season from classmate and right-hander Joe Inkrote would give Manchester a rotation foundation that might actually improve its standing in the division.
At the plate, the lost production figures to be more of an issue. Mike Damato was a two-time All-Shore selection as Manchester’s top pitcher and hitter, while Sean McAllister was a clutch hitter throughout 2021 and 2023. All-Shore outfielder Logan Duffy missed most of 2022, which gave other players a chance to play, but the Hawks still come back with only three positions occupied by returning starters – none of whom hit better than .233. Joe Bentivenga should stabilize shortstop, A.J. Ramirez will make it a solid double-play defense at second base and Sclama will play first when he is not pitching.
Sophomore catcher Colton Sitarik got a taste of varsity action as a freshman and is a candidate to break out for the Hawks offense, while classmates Brenden Spaziano and Anthony Carino could do the same at third base and leftfield, respectively. Seniors Luke Walters, Matt Maccanico and Inkrote are in the outfield and DH mix, with Walters starting in centerfield and Inkrote likely to get first-base action when Sclama pitches. Juniors Patrick McKay and Evan Palmer will also play at the corner outfield spots.
Although the majority of Manchester’s championship core has graduated, there are a pair of links back to the 2021 title run still on the roster and with inspired seasons for both Sclama and Kern, Manchester will have the pitching to stay competitive with the other public schools in Class B South.
Manchester at a Glance
Head Coach: Dave Beauchemin, seventh season
2022 Record: 10-15-1 (6-7-1, fifth in Class B South)
Key Losses: Mike Damato (RHP/1B), Logan Duffy (OF), Sean McAllister (2B), Nick Johnson (C/DH), Brandon Sogness (CF), Justin Renzi (3B), Blake Warren (SS)
Manchester Around the Diamond (With 2022 Stats)
Returning Starters in Bold
Catcher: Colton Sitarik, So. (2-for-17, 1 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI)
First Base: Joe Sclama, Sr. (.179/.450/.256, 3 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI); Joe Inkrote, Sr.
Second Base: A.J. Ramirez, Sr. (.167/.297/.185, 1 2B, 11 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB)
Shortstop: Joe Bentivenga, Jr. (.233/.382/.279, 2 2B, 5 R, 4 RBI, 4 SB)
Third Base: Brenden Spaziano, So.; Joe Inkrote, Sr.
Leftfield: Patrick McKay, Jr.; Anthony Carino, So.
Centerfield: Luke Walters, Sr.
Rightfield: Evan Palmer, Jr.; Matt Maccanico, Sr.
DH: Joe Inkrote, Sr.
Joe Sclama, Sr., LHP (31.2 IP, 3-4, 6.19 ERA, 32 H, 31 BB, 24 K)
Joe Inkrote, Sr., RHP (18.2 IP, 1-0, 3.37 ERA, 19 H, 9 BB, 22 K)
Frank Kern, Sr., RHP (35.1 IP, 1-6, 5.55 ERA, 46 H, 13 BB, 26 K)
Anthony Carino, So., RHP
Chris Censoplano, Sr., RHP
Sean Reardon, Jr., RHP
Riley Wescott, Jr., LHP
Joe Sclama – Stockton University
Frank Kern – Muhlenberg College
A.J. Ramirez – Elmira College
Class B South Lineup
Brett Benecke, Jr., Catcher, Jackson Liberty
Rocco Scarpitti, Sr., First Base, Donovan Catholic
Connor Cilento, Sr., Shortstop, Point Boro
Joe Maier, Jr., Shortstop, Donovan Catholic
Mike Kisseberth, So., Shortstop, Jackson Liberty
Anthony Mursko, Fifth-Year Sr., Third Base, Donovan Catholic
Gavin Degnan, Sr., Centerfield, Donovan Catholic
Matt Mason, Sr., Rightfield, Donovan Catholic
Ryan Acquisto, Jr., First Base/UTIL, Point Boro
Class B South Rotation
Shaun O’Keefe, Fifth-Year Sr., LHP, Donovan Catholic
Noah Quinn, Sr., RHP, Lacey
Bryson Kirby, Jr., RHP, Point Boro
Ethan Bloomfield, Sr., LHP, Jackson Liberty
Jack Sramaty, Sr., RHP, Lacey
Class B South Breakouts to Watch
Nathan Sofield, So., Catcher, Pinelands
Jake Marciano, Jr., LHP, Donovan Catholic
Joe Bentivenga, Sr., Shortstop, Manchester
Christian Garced, Sr., Centerfield, Jackson Liberty
Carney O’Donnell, Fr., Catcher/Third Base/RHP, Jackson Liberty
Wyatt DeWysockie, Jr., Catcher/RHP, Point Boro
Rylan Messina, Sr., Third Base, Lacey
Kaden Inman, Jr., Shortstop/RHP, Pinelands
Joe Inkrote, Sr., First Base/RHP, Manchester
Tyler Carll, Jr., Outfield/LHP, Barnegat