Dennis Barth doesn't spend much time worrying about national rankings, but the Gloucester Catholic baseball coach sees some interesting scenarios for his team with regard to MaxPreps' Xcellent 25.
Not only is Gloucester Catholic No. 8 in the country in that ranking, but the Rams' schedule offers the opportunity to move up - perhaps as high as the top spot.
MaxPreps has Bishop Gorman High School of Las Vegas at No. 1 and Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, N.J. at No. 4 - and Gloucester Catholic could play a total of three games against those powerhouse teams.
"We could end up playing both of them," Barth said of the teams ranked ahead of his squad.
Gloucester Catholic is the two-time defending Non-Public B state champion. The Rams finished 31-2 last season, ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer and by the Newark Star-Ledger.
But before the Rams even throw a pitch this season, they are dealing with the expectations that come with lofty national rankings.
In addition to MaxPreps' ranking, Gloucester Catholic is No. 12 in Baseball America's national Top 25 and No. 23 in USA Today's Super 25.
Baseball America has Bishop Gorman at No. 2 and Don Bosco at No. 14, while USA Today has Bishop Gorman at No. 4 and Don Bosco at No. 20.
Gloucester Catholic has a regular-season game against Don Bosco scheduled for May 6 in New York. The Rams also could face the Ironmen in the Non-Public A state title game on June 9, since Gloucester Catholic has moved up to the larger classification this season.
Gloucester Catholic could play Bishop Gorman in the Bishop Gorman Easter Classic April 11-15 in Las Vegas. This is the second year in a row that the Rams will play in the prestigious tournament, which draws top teams from the West Coast.
Last season, Gloucester Catholic went 3-1 in the tournament, losing to Bishop Gorman by 4-1 in the semifinals.
The Rams' only other loss last season was by a 4-3 score to Buena in the semifinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
Gloucester Catholic is led by five seniors who have signed with Division I colleges: shortstop Robbie Alessandrine (Monmouth), second baseman Joe Brooks (East Carolina), first baseman John Brue (St. Joseph's), outfielder Pat Kane (Old Dominion), and third baseman Brett Tenuto (Stony Brook).
The Rams also feature senior catcher Elliott McCummings as well as junior pitcher Mike Shawaryn, who went 7-0 last season with a 1.56 ERA and is one of the state's most highly recruited players in the Class of 2013.
"Our No. 1 goal every year is to win a state title," Barth said. "That's what we're focused on."