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Baseball: New Top 10

By Phil Anastasia

There's a new No. 1 in town.

Eastern jumps from No. 2 to No. 1 in the new Top 10, as the Vikings have won 14 of their last 15 and have compiled a 19-2 record while playing a demanding schedule.

Washington Township moved from No. 4 to No. 2. The Minutemen have an argument for the No. 1 spot, as they beat Eastern by a 3-2 score in the first game of their current seven-game winning streak. Plus, they beat then-No. 1 Gloucester Catholic by 8-1 in Saturday's Diamond Classic opener.

I kept Eastern ahead based on a better body of work over the long season but it was close. We'll be better able to sort this out based on the results of next weekend's Diamond Classic games as well as the state tournament, as both Eastern and WT will be in SJ 4.

Here's the new Top 10, with last week's ranking in parentheses

1. Eastern (2) 19-2
The Vikings are 14-1 since April 10. The Vikings have allowed two or fewer runs in 13 games. That's an astounding number, reflective both of their strong pitching and their defense. Junior third baseman/centerfielder Tom Flacco has taken his game to another level, and the Vikings are getting great work from senior second baseman/leadoff man Nick Tierno, junior first baseman Jake Quinn and lot of other guys. "These guys have fun being with each other," Eastern coach Rob Christ said. "It's fun watching them have fun."

2. Washington Township (4) 16-5
In a seven-game winning streak, the Minutemen have beaten No. 1 Eastern, No. 4 Bishop Eustace and No. 3 Gloucester Catholic. This team must love 90 mph fastballs. In two games started over the last nine days by fireballers Zac Gallen of Bishop Eustace and Mike Shawaryn of Gloucester Catholic, WT scored 21 runs. This is a talented veteran team that has found its stride after a few stumbles early in the season. A serious threat to win the Diamond Classic and to strike deep in the Group 4 state tournament.

3. Gloucester Catholic (1) 19-4
Sophomore right-hander John Murphy (4-1) has an 0.24 ERA with 40 strikeouts and just six walks. The Rams were stunned over the course of seven days as senior right-hander Mike Shawaryn was knocked out of games in 6-1 loss to St. Joe Montvale and an 8-1 loss to Washington Township. One guy who knows Shawaryn well said his stuff is fine and he appears healthy. He's just throwing too many fat strikes. Sophomores Anthony Harold, Sean Breen and Fran Kinsey all are batting better than .300 with a combined 13 doubles for the Rams.

4. Bishop Eustace (6) 16-5
Junior lefty Devin Smeltzer was 2-0 last week: 14 innings, three hits, 27 strikeouts. BE went 4-0 and gave up two runs, total. That was key for a team that had lost four of its previous five and also suffered a blow when sophomore infielder Chris Jones, one of their best offensive players, was lost for the year with a fractured elbow. BE is right back in Olympic National race after big win over CH West. And with Smeltzer, senior Zac Gallen, sophomore Justin Hagenman and a couple other live arms, the Crusaders will be a threat to win the Diamond with its compacted schedule next weekend. Big game Saturday as BE plays Eastern in the quarters. This is a rivalry game. BE handed Eastern one of its two losses by a 9-6 score April 10.

5. St. Augustine Prep (3) 13-6
Senior catcher Barry Buchowski is batting .431 with five doubles and five home runs. The Hermits hit a speed bump last week, losing to Millville in a Cape Atlantic League game, then played a bit of a ragged game in a 10-4 loss to Eastern in the Diamond Classic opener. "We have to get back to practice Monday and get this out of our system and try to get on a roll," SAP coach Mike Bylone said.

6. Audubon (7) 14-3
Two-out singles by junior Eric Schorr and senior Justin Jannetti led to the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 6-5 victory over No. 9 Delsea in Saturday's Diamond Classic. The Green Wave, which won its only Diamond Classic title in 1995, gets its shot at Washington Township on Saturday at 10:30 at Deptford.

7. Cherry Hill West (5) 12-5
Senior Brad Machinski was one out away from a no-hitter and settled for a one-hitter in an 11-0 win over Buena in the Diamond Classic on Saturday. A bit of an odd week for the Lions as they lost a pair of Olympic National games to BE and Seneca but bounced back in a big way with that Diamond Classic win. They'll see Vineland in the quarters at Deptford. Sophomore A.J. Wright leads the offense with eight doubles.

8. Vineland (10) 16-4
Junior Johnny Malatesta collected three hits and four RBIs in a 12-5 win over Northern Burlington in the Diamond Classic on Saturday. Vineland clinched the Cape American II title last week, too. Big test for these guys Saturday against a CH West team that puts a lot of stock in the Diamond Classic.

9. Delsea (8) 16-5
Junior Bryan Dobzanski has five extra-base hits in the Crusaders' last five games. The 6-5 loss to Audubon in the Diamond was tough for Delsea as a couple of things went against the Crusaders. This team has played solid baseball all season. Still in the driver's seat in the Tri-Co Royal and one of the teams to beat in the SJ 3 tournament.

10. Pitman (NR) 13-3
Senior Chris Seibert struck out 10 in a 2-1 win over West Deptford in the Diamond Classic on Saturday. The Pitman-Camden Catholic winner will be a surprise team in Sunday's semifinals of the Diamond Classic. This is a senior-laden squad determined to prove they belong in the Diamond and can make some noise in there. Senior Matt Ennis leads SJ with 7 pitching wins.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Camden Catholic (14-7): Big win for Irish by 5-3 over then-No. 9 Williamstown in the Diamond opener. More strong work from senior pitcher Colan Miller.

Northern Burlington (15-2): Tyler O'Dell (7 doubles), Ryan Shinn (8 doubles, 5 HRs) and Zach Gaekler (5 wins, 3 HRs) lead the way for the Greyhounds, who are steaming toward the Burlco Liberty title.

In the mix:

Sterling (12-5): The Silver Knights have beaten Colonial Liberty rival West Deptford -- which earned the division's Diamond bid -- twice by a combined 18-0. Both times, junio Donovan Casey was on the mound.

Shawnee (12-7): Senior John Montefusco has eight doubles and six HRs for the Renegades.

Delran (12-5): Senior Justin McFadden is tied for the SJ lead with six HRs.

Williamstown (11-7): Senior Kyle Grim is 6-0 on the mound.

Holy Spirit (11-6): Senior Ricky Hopkins leads the Spartans with 7 doubles.

Rancocas Valley (11-3): The Red Devils hope to get top hitter Nick Cieri (shoulder) back to take some swings in the CJ 4 tournament.

Holy Cross (9-6): Senior Jim Hoff leads the Lancers with 7 doubles.

Lenape (9-6): Before a 4-0 win over Winslow, the Indians lost four in a row by cores of 5-2, 5-3, 4-3 and 3-2.

Buena (16-4): The Chiefs have wins over Millville, Vineland, Holy Spirit and Moorestown.

West Deptford (13-6): The Eagles lost a tough 2-1 decision to Pitman in the first round of the Diamond on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh.

-- Phil Anastasia