South Jersey Baseball Preseason Top 25
1. St. Augustine (26-4 last season): The Hermits began where they ended last season, despite returning just three starters as position players. They have a deep and talented pitching staff led by Villanova-bound ace Cole Vanderslice and featuring Virginia recruit Jason Hoopes. Juniors Kenny Levari, whose home run vs. Bishop Eustace in the sectional semifinals has become the stuff of program lore, and Kevin Foreman (.442, 15 steals) lead the offense.
2. Bishop Eustace (23-5): The Crusaders have a loaded lineup led by Maryland recruit Matt Orlando (.411, seven homers), who also is the staff ace (7-0, 56 strikeouts), and Penn State recruit Johnny Piacentino (43 hits, six homers). Senior Mike Guzzardo, a Campbell recruit, had five homers and 35 RBIs. Juniors Chase Conklin (.514, 37 runs), a Richmond recruit, and Nick Senior (.418), a St. Joseph’s recruit, are players to watch.
3. Egg Harbor Twp. (15-7): The Eagles might rival St Augustine for quality pitching depth. Their staff is led by Rutgers recruit Jordan Sweeney (4-1, 3.37 ERA) along with seniors Cory Kessler (4-2, 2.26), a Hartford recruit, and Mike Dodd (2-2, 2.76) along with hard-throwing junior Sean Duffy, a High Point recruit. Senior Robbie Petracci (.377, eight doubles), an Old Dominion recruit, and junior Bobby Baxter, a speedy switch-hitting leadoff man, should spark the offense.
4. Gloucester Catholic (20-8): The Rams loom as favorites to capture another Non-Public B crown behind a powerful lineup that features seniors such as outfielder Lillo Paxia (.563, three homers), a Florida State recruit, and first baseman Luke Lesch (.341, four homers), a Rider recruit. Other players to watch are senior infielder Tyler Cannon (.421), an Iona recruit; senior outfielder Jake McNellis (.439), a Frostburg recruit; and junior infielder Ryan Nutley (.359), a La Salle recruit.
5. Eastern (25-6): The Vikings have a strong lineup led by senior shortstop Jack Winsett (.400, 42 runs), a Rider recruit, and senior catcher Dylan Stezzi (.348, eight home runs) as well as senior A.J. Funari (.313) and Matt Karpousis (.366, 31 RBIs). The development of the pitching staff will be key.
6. Clearview (13-9): The Pioneers have a seasoned lineup led by seniors such as first baseman Brandon Drapeau, a St. Joe’s recruit, as well as shortstop Mike Decker, a Columbia recruit, and centerfielder Shawn Dougherty. Other key returners are senior outfielder Evan Campbell, senior infielder Eric Weiss, senior infielder Aidan Hoffman and sophomore outfielder Ian Petrutz, among others.
7. Shawnee (17-9): The Renegades will be led by senior shortstop Conner Coolahan, a La Salle recruit, along with senior pitchers Jackson Balzan, Dylan Parker and Brandon Epstein. Other key seniors include infielder Jack Steel and outfielders Joe Dalsey, Joe Moore and Dalton Short.
8. Washington Twp. (13-13): The Minutemen have top juniors such as pitcher Nick Hammer as well as outfielder Christian Kane and infielder Greg Rossi. Senior Luke Kaschak is a proven power hitter.
9. Cherry Hill West (15-10): The Lions have a wealth of pitching with five seasoned veterans in seniors Eli Atiya, Brian Robertson, Jake Miller and Ryan Widmeier along with sophomore Brandon Chorzelewski. Junior Nick Heubel, a transfer from Camden Catholic, adds to the staff depth. The lineup will be led by Rider recruit Scott Shaw as well as Tyler Kubrak, John Gray and Jared Hernandez along with junior Danny Berckman.
10. Kingsway (13-11): The Dragons return eight starters and 15 letter-winners under new coach Bill Alvaro Jr. Leading the way is senior shortstop Sean Szestowicki, a James Madison recruit, and senior pitcher/outfielder Zach Brook, a Gardner-Webb recruit. Seniors such as pitcher/catcher Josh Crowding, pitcher Trevor Mitchell and infielder Caleb Ritchie are seasoned players, as well.
11. Paul VI (15-6): The Eagles have some experienced pitchers in seniors Chris Rowell and sophomore Ryan Rumsey, who were the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 starters, respectively, last season. Seniors such as shortstop Jimmy Bruno, centerfielder A.J. Tropiano and catcher Christian Waltz should solidify the defense.
12. Rancocas Valley (8-8): The Red Devils have some pitching depth and will be led by four-year varsity players in pitcher/infielder Bryce Mangene, a Penn recruit, along with outfielder pitcher Eli Dickerson, a La Salle recruit, and first baseman Tom Pancheri.
13. Timber Creek (13-12): The Chargers are a team to watch with senior lefty Zach Grace (5-0, 2.72 ERA, 45 strikeouts), an Iona recruit, leading the way along with senior infielder Will Bartley (.417, 20 runs) and senior catcher Kevin Savage (.391, 19 RBIs). Timber Creek should get a boost from junior pitcher Jarrett Browning (2-0, .254 ERA, 28 strikeouts) a transfer from Cherokee.
14. Lenape (11-11): Senior catcher Cade Hunter, a Virginia Tech recruit, leads the way for the Indians. Senior Bryan Feldman, who was 6-0 last season, could emerge as the staff ace. Senior shortstop Brian Haverson batted .365 last season.
15. Haddonfield (17-6): The Bulldawgs will be led by senior pitcher Dylan Heine, a Rider recruit, and senior infielder Steve DiTomasso, a George Washington recruit. Senior shortstop/pitcher Chris Brown is another player to watch.
16. West Deptford (18-8): The Eagles have three seasoned, accomplished senior pitchers in Dylan Wakeley, Jack Murphy and Gabe Finocchi. The offense will be led by senior outfielder Ben Smith along with juniors such as infielders Ricky Templeton and Colby Garrison and outfielder R.J. Mason.
17. Buena (14-8): The Chiefs are an experienced team led by seniors such as pitcher/outfielder Andrew Slade, infielders Trevor Redziniak, Julian DelValle and Yan Sauri, and catcher Jake Guglielmi.
18. Audubon (15-9): The Green Wave will be led by senior shortstop Ryan Coyle, who has 80 career hits, as well as junior pitchers Sean Colbert and Dustin Bellis. Other key veterans include seniors Garrity Bantle, John West, Hunter Brozozowski and Kyle Verbitski, among others.
19. Pennsville (20-9): The Eagles will be led by senior shortstop/pitcher Cody Durham (.283, 30 hits at plate; 1.78 ERA, 60 strikeouts on mound) along with senior second baseman Ray Knappenberger (.341, 22 RBIs) and junior outfielder Nick Toms (.375, 36 runs).
20. Seneca (19-8): The Golden Eagles have some pitching depth with senior Ryan Graham, who also is a top outfielder (.342, 19 RBIs), and junior Josh Willitts (2-2, 245 ERA) leading the way. Senior Matt Christopher (.301, four homers) is another live arm.
21. Mainland (15-6): The Mustangs have arms in seniors Devin Sharkey (5-2, 164 ERA, 47 strikeouts) and Hunter Rich (2-1, 180 ERA) and sophomore Chase Petty (20 strikeouts in 14 innings), among others. Sharkey (.313, five doubles), Petty (.381) and sophomore Mark Elliot (.303) should lead the offense.
22. Haddon Twp. (12-11): The Hawks have pitching depth in seniors Aaron Johnstone (4-5, 2.77 ERA, 69 strikeouts) and Brody DeCastro (2-1, 4.20 ERA) and junior Justin Merryfield (302, 29 strikeouts). The lineup is stocked with veterans such as junior Jackson Green (.446, six homers), a Nebraska recruit, and senior four-year starters in outfielder Nick Squazzo (.419), a Jefferson recruit; catcher Brennan Marsh (.418); and infielder Chad Ball (.426).
23. Williamstown (14-9): The Braves have pitching depth led by senior Jacob Addis and juniors Brett Wichrowski and Jon Wood. Sophomore utility player Brody Colbert is a youngster to watch.
24. Bordentown (17-6): The Scotties have a deep pitching staff led by seniors Kyle Marchetti and Kyle Kato and junior Nick Nemes. Senior Chris Wade (.347, 26 RBIs) leads the offense.
25. Cherry Hill East (12-12): The Cougars will be led by senior outfielder Ellis Schwartz, a Stony Brook recruit, as well as seniors Steve Lombardi and Joey Wright, both Immaculata recruits.