The NJSIAA baseball tournament will begin tomorrow and culminate with state finals on June 9 at Toms River South, Toms River East and Toms River North.
Which South Jersey teams have the best chance to win state titles?
From here, it looks like pitching-rich Cherokee (Group 4) and Bishop Eustace (Non-Public B), although several other area teams will also be in the hunt.
But first things first.
First, teams must wade through the difficult South Jersey section of the tournament. The pairings will be released online today on www.njsiaa.org, and here is a look at the six South Jersey sections:
South Jersey Group 1: Pitman and five-time defending champion Pennsville are the favorites, while Gloucester and Riverside have been hot lately and also merit attention.
Pitman went 3-1 against Gloucester and Pitman in the regular season and it has been getting solid pitching lately.
South Jersey Group 2: On paper, Buena is the heavy favorite, but keep an eye on a host of dangerous Colonial Conference teams, especially Gateway and Haddon Township. Cinnaminson and Delran are also worthy contenders.
Buena has played, by far, the toughest schedule of any team in this section.
South Jersey Group 3: Deptford, Seneca and West Deptford are the glamour teams in this section, one that includes dangerous dark horses in Shawnee, Delsea and Northern Burlington.
After a slow start, Shawnee and West Deptford have regrouped. Deptford can beat anyone when Sheldon Johnson is on the mound. Ditto West Deptford with Alex Dalsey.
Pick: West Deptford.
South Jersey Group 4: This bracket has a heavy Toms River flavor, and all are viable contenders: defending champion Toms River East, Toms River North and Toms River South.
But Cherokee has a deep staff that features Alex Pracher, Gary Wilson and Dan Smith and will be tough to beat.
This is a fascinating group that includes several other teams capable of making a title run, including Mainland, Egg Harbor Township, Winslow Township, Eastern, Cherry Hill West and Cherry Hill East. Millville, Washington Township and Vineland are also threats.
South Jersey Non-Public A: Christian Brothers Academy is the slight favorite, but Camden Catholic is peaking at the right time and St. Augustine may have the section's best offense. Holy Cross, Holy Spirit and Notre Dame also will be factors.
Camden Catholic and St. Augustine will score a ton of runs, but their pitching may be a little short.
Pick: Christian Brothers Academy.
South Jersey Non-Public B: Defending champion Bishop Eustace, St. Rose of Belmar, Gloucester Catholic and Sacred Heart are the heavyweights in this section.
Eustace will benefit from a tough schedule, and the Crusaders will get a boost if talented righthander Chris Monaco returns from a shoulder injury.
That said, Gloucester Catholic is always a major tournament threat, and Sacred Heart has the experience - and talent - to win it all.
This should be a classic tourney, with numerous close games.
Pick: Bishop Eustace.
In Central Jersey, Moorestown (Group 3), Bordentown (Group 2), Florence (Group 1) and New Egypt (Group 1) are the area teams with the best chance of contending for a Central Jersey crown. It would be a major surprise, however, if any of them won their respective groups.
Moorestown upset Seneca in last season's South Jersey Group 3 final, but the Quakers are in the Central Jersey section this year.