With the NJSIAA baseball tournament almost finished, we have learned that South Jersey's premier team is . . .
For the first part of the year, Shawnee was deservedly the area's top-ranked team. And when the Renegades stumbled, Sacred Heart climbed to the top. On merit.
Sacred Heart seemingly clinched The Inquirer's No. 1 ranking when it rallied past No. 2 Shawnee, 6-5, in the final of the 16-team Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic on May 24.
Ah, but that was before the zaniness of the NJSIAA tournament.
There have been a slew of tournament upsets, including Sacred Heart's 10-5 loss to No. 7 Bishop Eustace in Friday's South Jersey Non-Public B semifinals.
Can a team finish No. 1 and not even have a sectional title to its credit?
Perhaps. But Sacred Heart's loss, along with Shawnee's stunning defeat to Clearview in the Group 3 quarterfinals, has opened the door, ever so slightly, for teams like Gloucester Catholic and Bishop Eustace to make a claim for No. 1.
Gloucester Catholic? The team that began the year with an 8-8 record and didn't even qualify for the Diamond Classic?
Truth be told, if the rankings were based on the last three or four weeks, Gloucester Catholic, currently ranked No. 5, would get my vote as the area's best. During that span, the Rams are 12-0, including a regular-season win over Sacred Heart.
But the rankings should reflect a full season of play. Gloucester Catholic loses points for its slow start, though it should be noted that several of its losses were against powerhouse opponents. It should also be pointed out that the Rams have been a different team since hot-hitting shortstop Steve Bruno transferred from St. Joseph's Prep during the season.
As for Bishop Eustace, it is much more formidable now that power-hitting Dan Sieracki, who missed most of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, has returned to the lineup. Sieracki swatted a grand slam in Friday's win over Sacred Heart, and, so, yes, he's back to his old self. So is Eustace, which has won six of its last seven.
If Eustace (21-8) and Gloucester Catholic (20-8) win state titles - both need two more wins in their respective sections - they could make a legitimate claim for area supremacy. Sacred Heart (25-3) also can make a strong case, based on its regular-season and Diamond Classic play.
In any event, it says here that one of the three Non-Public teams will finish No. 1. Yes, it's surprising there's even a debate, but the wacky NJSIAA tourney has, once again, demonstrated that baseball is the most unpredictable of all scholastic sports.
Hard-throwing Shawnee senior righthander Quinton Miller, a North Carolina signee, was named Gatorade's New Jersey player of the year.
If he is deemed signable, Miller could be selected early in Thursday's major-league draft for first-year players.
If not, North Carolina has open arms.
Monmouth University first baseman Andy Meyers, a former Sterling standout, drew major-league scouts' attention in the recent Northeast Conference tournament.
Meyers, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior first baseman who projects as a corner outfielder if he plays in the pros, concluded an outstanding four-year career at Monmouth by batting .500 (8 for 16) with two homers and six RBIs in the tournament.
Monmouth lost in the final to Mount St. Mary's (Md.), 14-2.
A first-team New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Association selection, Meyers finished the season hitting .309 with seven homers and 45 RBIs for a Monmouth team (37-16) that set a school record for wins in a season.
Scouts talked to Meyers, 22, during the season, and he is hopeful of getting drafted.
"Anything can happen. The draft is such a funny thing," Meyers said yesterday. "I've talked to players who were told they would get drafted, and it never happened. And I've talked to guys who never heard a thing from the scouts, and they went [in the draft]. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and if I don't go, I still plan to sign with somebody as a free agent. I know I have the ability to play at the next level. It's just that I need someone to take a chance on me."
For two summers, the lefthanded-hitting Meyers played left field in the New England Collegiate League. He will graduate from Monmouth in December.
"I want to stay in sports, whether it's playing or in the sports-management field," he said.