2019 South Jersey baseball tournament preview: Favorites, dark horses, teams to watch

Breaking down the South Jersey baseball tournaments:

Field: 1. Shawnee. 2. Jackson Memorial. 3. Eastern. 4. Kingsway. 5. Cherry Hill East. 6. Toms River North. 7. Millville. 8. Vineland. 9. Rancocas Valley. 10. Clearview. 11. Williamstown. 12. Lenape. 13. Howell. 14. Brick Memorial. 15. Cherokee. 16. Egg Harbor Twp.

Favorite: Take your pick. Shawnee is the top seed and riding high after winning the Diamond Classic. But this is an absolutely loaded field. Lower seeds such as Clearview, Williamstown and Lenape have been among the best teams in South Jersey over the last few weeks. EHT is the 16 seed and the Eagles were a preseason Top 5 team!

Best first-round game: Take your pick for a third time. Clearview at Millville matches two teams that started slowly but have gathered a lot of steam. RV at Vineland is a good 9-8 battle. But the best could be Lenape at CH East, two Olympic American rivals. They’ve met once this season, with CHE winning 10-9 in eight innings.

Senior shortstop Alec Rodriguez is a player to watch for Cherry Hill East.

Projected second-round battles: The Lenape-CHE East winner vs. Kingsway (assuming the Dragons beat Howell) would be a good one. If Williamstown, which is 7-2 in May, upsets TR North, the Braves would visit Eastern if the Vikings hold serve vs. Brick Memorial.

Player to watch: Lenape catcher Cade Hunter is batting .469 with 18 extra-base hits, including eight HRs, and 31 RBIs.

Another player to watch: Shawnee senior left-hander Jackson Balzan is 6-0 with a 0.72 ERA with 46 Ks and just 14 BBs.

Favorite: Another toss-up. As the top seeds, Triton and Cherry Hill West have the smoothest path (on paper), but this is an especially loaded Group 3 field.

Mike Shannon is a top pitcher and hitter for No. 1 seed Triton.

Dark horse: Hammonton. The Blue Devils have won four in a row and have a top 1-2 punch on the mound in Mike Walter (5-0, 1.42) and Steve Restuccio (30 Ks in 29.1 IP).

Watch Ocean City: The Red Raiders have won 13 in a row and have formidable pitching depth in ace Brandon Lashey (6-0, 0.48) as well as Matt Nunan (2-0, 1.22), Gannon Brady (5-0, 1.56) and Tommy Finnegan (4-1, 1.04).

Ryan West is a player to watch for second-seeded Cherry Hill West.

Player to watch: Cherry Hill West outfielder Scott Shaw is batting .512 with 13 walks and 21 runs.

Field: 1. Haddonfield. 2. West Deptford. 3. Delran. 4. Audubon. 5. Haddon Heights. 6. Cedar Creek. 7. Barnegat. 8. Collingswood. 9. Sterling. 10. Delsea. 11. Pemberton. 12. Manchester. 13. Camden Charter. 14. Oakcrest. 15.Cinnaminson. 16. Lower Cape May.

Haddonfield ace Dylan Heine is a player to watch for the top-seeded Bulldogs.

Player to watch: Haddonfield ace Dylan Heine, a Rider recruit, is 8-0 with a 0.58 ERA with 58 Ks and 7 BBs.

Player to watch: Glassboro junior Noah Putney is batting .405 with 16 extra-base hits.

St. Augustine has won two straight Non-Public South A titles.
Ryan Rumsey is a top hitter and pitcher for Paul VI.

Best first-round game: Camden Catholic at Paul VI. These schools are fierce rivals in every sport. These teams have played twice this season, with Paul VI winning two tight games by 3-0 and 6-5.

Gloucester Catholic has won two straight Non-Public B state titles.

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