Baseball: Preseason Top 20 with analysis


By Phil Anastasia

Here's the preseason Top 20 in baseball. I suspect it will look a little different come the final ranking in the middle of June.

1. Gloucester Catholic (28-4 last season): The Rams might have the state's deepest pitching staff, led by Maryland recruit Mike Shawaryn (7-0, 1.56 ERA as a sophomore in 2011) and sophomore John Murphy (7-2, 1.39 ERA). Juniors Steve Mondile (4-0, 143 ERA) and Mike Mercer (3-0, 1.25 ERA) are top guns as well. New coach Mike Rucci will look to Rider recruit Giovanni Gussen (.444, 28 RBIs) and University of the Sciences recruit Derek DeMaria to spark a rebuilt offense.

2. Washington Township (24-3): The Minutemen return eight starters from last year's Olympic American champions led by first baseman and Monmouth recruit Shaine Hughes (.412, 26 RBIs), who has been dealing with an ilness this spring. Other top retutrners include senior catcher Ryan Long (.341, 18 steals) and his twin, shortstop Matt Long (.280, 17 steals). Senior Billy Grubb (7-1, 2.16 ERA, 53 Ks), who has battled a preseason arm ailment, and junior Mark Scarpa (6-2, 1.21 ERA, 49 Ks) head a deep pitching staff. Senior third baseman Tom Hildebrand (.325, 26 RBIs) is another key veteran.

3. St. Augustine Prep (19-10): The Hermits have a veteran squad led by senior catcher Barry Buchowski (.361, 10 doubles), a Tulane recruit, and senior shortstop Christian Adorno (.396, 23 steals), a Wilmington recruit. Senior outfielder/pitcher Mike Elfreth (.376, 2-0 on the mound) is another top veteran. The pitching staff features two North Carolina recruits in senior right-hander Chris Oakley (2-3) and junior right-hander Joey Gatto (2-2), who also is a top hitter (.381, 31 RBIs). Junior lefty Zach Warren (2-0) is another top pitcher.

4. Bishop Eustace (19-7): The Crusaders will be led by senior right-hander Zac Gallen, a North Carolina recruit. Junior lefty Devin Smeltzer (2-0, 21 Ks in 14 innings) will be a top recruit in the class of 2014 and hard-throwing sophomore right-hander Justin Hagenman is another top arm. Senior catcher Sam Steele (six doubles, 20 RBIs) is a top defender. Junior outfielder Mike Krusinski (.324, three homers) and sophomore infielder Chris Jones (.404, 10 doubles) should lead the offense.

5. Cherokee (23-6): The Chiefs are rebuilding a bit but have an ace in senior righthander Sean Kelly (6-0, 42 Ks in 31 2/3 innings), a Rutgers recruit. Senior centerfielder Zach Elfin (30 runs, 14 steals) is a top lead-off hitter and senior infielder Ryan Krupa (.371) and junior first baseman Jake Powell (.286, 18 RBIs) are returning veterans. Junior right-hander Matt Curry was 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

6. Lenape (16-10): The Indians have an experienced team led by senior lefty Kevin Milley (2.08 ERA) a Delaware recruit. Seniors Sam Nocito and Aaron Olsen and junior Scott Wilheim are top arms. Senior infielders Jason Clapper (.302, 22 RBIs) and Tyler Mixon (,324, 33 hits) should spark the offense.

7. Williamstown (16-10): The Braves return 12 letterwinners, including senior power hitter Jordan Rizzo (.430, eight HRs, 33 RBis), a first-team All-South Jersey selection. Senior outfielder Mike Pollastrelli (.388, 28 runs) is a University of the Sciences recruit. Senior outfielder/pitcher John Brady (.324, 18 steals) will be a preferred walk-on at George Washington.

8. Burlington Township (16-8): The Falcons will be led by senior pitcher/catcher Ryan Bell (5-3, 3.60 ERA) and junior pitcher/catcher David Viselli (5-1, 1.23 ERA; .358, 25 RBIs). Junior outfielder Aaron Crichlow (.389, two homers), senior outfielder Ronnie Grant (.320, 17 RBIs) and junior infielder Isaiah Hall (.294, eight extra-base hits) lead the offense.

9. Moorestown (16-7): The Quakers will be led by senior third baseman/pitcher Tyler Kaiser, a Rider recruit. Seniors Drew Pederson and Jesse Fante are returning starters along with sophomore Dallas Clark. Junior pitcher Scott Zimmer is a hard-thrower who has an offer from Delaware.

10. GCIT (20-6): The Cheetahs return seven starters and six of the top seven pitchers from a team that reached the South Jersey Group 2 final. Junior pitcher/infielder Jake Danner (7-1, 1.31 ERA; .459 with 11 doubles) leads the way. Seniors Zack Funk (.350, six triples), Chris Gilcrest (.356, 32 runs) and Mike Macaluso (.328, nine doubles) power the attack.

11. Haddonfield (19-7): The Bulldogs have pitching depth with seniors Jason Cavanaugh  (8-2, 1.77 ERA) and Stephen Noll (4-0, 2.52 ERA) and junior Mark Ostbye, who has a Pitt offer. Junior third baseman Mike McLaughlin (.348, five homers) leads the offense.

12. Cherry Hill East (14-14): The Cougars have arms in seniors Zack Lang, a Bloomsburg  (Pa.) recruit, and Alex Dimpter along with junior Nick DiEva, who has committed to Stony  Brook. Junior outfielder Nick Ciocco led the team in RBIs and extra-base hits last season.

13. Eastern (17-10): The Vikings have a top pitcher in Steve Priolo, a Marist  recruit and a speedy pair of table-setters in senior infielder Nick Tierno (.436, 30 runs), a La Salle recruit, and junior infielder Tom Flacco.

14. Rancocas Valley (13-10): The Red Devils will be led by senior catcher Nick Cieri  (.483), a Maryland recruit with 85 career hits.

15. Shawnee (10-12): The Renegades have a pair of top hitters in senior outfielder Jarret DeHart (.368), an LSU recruit, and senior catcher Brian Lawler (.403), a James Madison recruit.

16. Audubon (24-6): The Green Wave will rebuild a bit with seniors Bob Panico sparking the offense for a squad with a pair of top sophomore pitchers in Wayne Test and Austin Tassi.

17. Hammonton (20-7): The Blue Devils will be led by junior pitcher/outfielder Justin  Smith (10-1, 1.26 ERA, nine complete games; .413, 22 RBIs) as well as junior outfielder  Alex Padovani (.369, 34 hits).

18. Clearview (10-12): The Pioneers' pitching should be strong behind Lehigh recruit Dave Young and Binghampton recruit Matt Pennell.

19. Paul VI (14-8): The Eagles have a pair of top bats in senior outfielder/pitcher Nick  Gallo, a George Mason recruit, and junior catcher Devin Ruiz (.462).

20. Delsea (20-10): The Crusaders return 16 pitching wins in senior Nick Freijomil (8-2), a Long Island recruit, and junior Bryan Dobzanski (8-1).

-- Contact Phil Anastasia at Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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