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Baseball: New Top 10

Cherokee moves into the top spot in the new Top 10.

The Chiefs have won 10 in a row and beat previous No. 1 Washington Township by a 4-1 score on Monday in Cooperstown, N.Y.

WT drops to No. 2. I was ready to move Gloucester Catholic to No. 1 if the Rams had held on against Don Bosco Prep Sunday night in a 10-inning classic in that Provident Bank Park in Pomona, N.Y.

But when Bosco won 5-3 on a three-run, walk-off HR, the Rams dropped from No. 2 to No. 3.

Audubon dropped a few spots to No. 7 after a tough week that included losses to Bishop Eustace in the Ralph Shaw Classic final and Haddonfield in a Colonial game on Saturday.

Eastern is playing well and moving up. Holy Cross returns to the Top 10 at No. 9 and CH West returns at No. 10.

The Lions made a statement with a 12-7 victory over Paul VI on Friday. From my standpoint, that game had major implications in terms of how the Diamond Classic field was filled out.

Here's the new Top 10, with previous rankings in parenthese:

1. Cherokee (4) 12-2
The Chiefs have won 10 in a row and have allowed just seven runs in their last five games. This is a big, strong, physical imposing team. The key for the Chiefs has been their pitching. After a little bit of a ragged start in which many of their pitchers struggled with their command, the Chiefs have been getting great work from a deep staff led by Colin Perro and Ryan Kelley (who shut down WT) but also featuring Matt Curry and Jim Rossi. Senior CF Jordan Glover had two doubles and a HR against Camden Catholic. If the Chiefs can beat Haddon Township in the first round, they'll face the GC-Millville winner in the second round of the Diamond.

2. Washington Twp. (1) 13-1
Sophomore Mark Scarpa's last three pitching victories were by scores of 12-0 over Millville, 7-1 over Timber Creek and 5-0 over Triton. Interesting first-round match in the Diamond as the Minutemen face Olympic American rical Eastern, which is playing good baseball. Juniors Shaine Hughes and Ryan long continue to lead WT at the plate but the key to this team has been its overall speed, defense and great work by a pitching staff led by Scarpa, Billy Grubb and Matt Long.

3. Gloucester Catholic (2) 15-3
The Rams lost a 10-inning heart-breaker to North Jersey power Don Bosco Prep by a 5-3 score on a three-run, walk-off homer on Sunday night. The Rams are crossing their fingers and hoping for a return to health by junior RHP Mike Shawaryn (back, arm) and senior second baseman Joe Brooks (thumb). One thing about the Diamond pairings: The Rams will have a shot to make their case as SJ's best team. They have No. 5 Millville in a finals-caliber opener. If they win that, they likely will get No. 1 Cherokee. If they win that, they likely would see No. 2 WT or No. 6 Eastern. No shortage of big games there.

4. Buena (7) 13-4
Senior catcher Manny Colon, who has signed with Maryland-Baltimore County, hit two home runs in a 3-0 week for the Chiefs. The defending champions face No. 9 Holy Cross in an interesting first-round game, with the Audubon-Bishop Eustace battle on the other side of the bracket. Buena's pitching depth will be tested in the Diamond.

5. Millville (5) 11-4
Senior Aaron Cox leads the Thunderbolts in pitching victories (4), doubles (6) and home runs (3). Millville vs. GC would be a great title gane. Now it's a Diamond opener. If the Thunderbolts get past the Rams, they culd see No. 1 Cherokee. That's a team they could see again in the SJ Group 4 tourney.

6. Eastern (9) 12-6
Led by Mike Marchitto and Steve Priolo, the Vikings have won four in a row and nine of 12. This team was highly rated early in the season, went a little under the radar for a few weeks and now the Vikings are back. Marchitto has been locked in at the plate for two weeks. Priolo has been the ace on the mound but this team has pitching depth. If they can get all their pitchers near the top of their games, they can make a run in the Diamond and in SJ 4. Eastern lost to WT by a 6-5 score on a walk-off back on April 5. That was WT's third straight walk-off to open the season. The teams still have to play again in Olynmpic American competition and could meet for a fourth time in the SJ 4 tourney.

7. Audubon (3) 14-4
Seven players have hit home runs for the Green Wave, led by Keith Michalski and Doug Young with five each. A weird week for the Green Wave included losses to BE and Haddonfield and a win that was the 400th victory of coach Rich Horan's career. This team has been mashing the ball but the bats were pretty quiet in the losses to BE and Haddonfield. Green Wave gets another shot at BE in Diamond opener. Could be a much different game if Andrew Schorr is on the mound for Audubon.

8. Sacred Heart (8) 12-3
Senior Holvin Figueroa had a double in each game as the Lions clinched the Cape National berth in the Diamond Classic with wins over Wildwood Catholic and Middle Township. Diamond opener is a Cape-Atlantic classic: Sacred Heart vs. St. Augustine. If the Lions win that one, they'll carry the small-school flag against the Eastern-WT winner.

9. Holy Cross (NR) 15-2
The Lancers have hit a South Jersey-best 21 home runs. John Adryan has 6. Chris Burns has 5. What happened to the small-ball era with the new bats? Holy Cross gets defending champion Buena in the Diamond opener. A win there and they'll face the Audubon-BE winner. A good chance for HC to make a major statement.

10. Cherry Hill West (NR) 12-5
Senior Anthony Canavatchel might be the only non-starter in South Jersey with six doubles. The Lions earned an at-large berth to the Diamond with that 12-7 win over Paul VI on Friday. They also knocked PVI out of the tournament, although Haddonfield's victory over Audubon on Saturday also had a lot to do with that, since it made Haddon Twp. the Colonial Patriot entry and pushed Audubon into the at-large pool. CHW has Pennsville in the Diamond opener, with Burlington Township-Sterling on the other side of the bracket. The opportunity is there to win two and get to Sunday's semifinals, which would be huge for the program. One thing about the Diamond brackets: It's just the luck of the draw but the top half is loaded with the No. 1 (Cherokee), No. 2 (WT), No. 3 (GC), No. 5 (Millville) and No. 6 (Eastern) in the rankings as well as No. 8 (SH) and No. 9 (HC). The bottom bracket has only the No. 4 (Buena) and No. 7 (Audubon) teams, among Top 10 clubs. Interesting.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Moorestown (9-5): Quakers made a late push for Diamond berth with six straight wins. Watch these guys in SJ 3.

Paul VI (11-5): Tough loss to CHW on Friday reallty cost the Eagles. In my mind, the best team not to make the Diamond.

St. Augustine Prep (10-6): Hermits got an at-large berth on the basis of victories over No. 4 Buena and No. 5 Millville. They also 10-runned BE.


Haddon Twp. (11-4): The Hawks were on the bubble as an at-large contender until Haddonfield did them a huge favor by knocking off Audubon. But its not like HT backed in; they did beat Audubon head-to-head to earn the tie-breaker.

Shawnee (9-6): Renegades were in Diamond contender after beating SA and CHW but lost their last three before the cutoff.

Pennsauken (12-2): Another serious contender for an at-large berth. Schedule hurt the Indians in comparison to some of the other contenders.

-- Phil Anastasia