Staff Report

As the high school baseball season is winding down, there’s still plenty of action for fans in South Jersey, as the third season of the South Jersey South Shore Baseball League kicks off tonight throughout Atlantic County. The league began in 2021 and now has 12 teams with  the addition of the Margate Hurricanes, a longtime staple in the now-defunct Atlantic County Baseball League.

The cream of the crop  are the South Jersey Surf, coached by Atlantic Cape Community College skipper Jeff Ball, a former Major League Baseball player. The Surf have dominated the league in their first two years, winning the league title both years, getting past the Buena Blue Dawgs each time.

Those two teams look to be loaded with talent again this summer, but there are plenty of other teams that have beefed up their rosters in hopes of challenging these two titans.

The league is a non-profit organization geared toward players ages 16 to 25, and is predominantly made up of college and junior college players. There have been some former pros, however, including 2022 league Cy Young Award winner Denny Brady, a former Buena Regional High star who pitched for several years in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization. The league also gives back to the communities each team represents by hosting free youth baseball clinics during the summer.

Here’s a quick look at each team, its manager and some of the key players to watch to get you geared up for the 2023 season. We’ve also broken them down in to “serious contender”, “potential contender” and “a lot to prove”:

SOUTH JERSEY SURF (2-time defending league champion): Managed by Jeff Ball. STATUS: Serious contender. PLAYERS TO WATCH: P Carson Denham; P Cole Vanderslice; C Dante DiPalma; OF Kevin Foreman; 1B Logan Petty; SS Caden Dulin. THE OUTLOOK: The Surf are the team to beat — until someone beats them. Offensively, this team is a juggernaut with guys like Dulin (Williamstown) and Petty (Mainland), as well as Foreman (St. Augustine Prep) at the top of the lineup as one of the speediest players in the league. Their pitching is always solid and they have one of the best catchers in the league in DiPalma (EHT). Look for them to compete for the league title once again.

BUENA BLUE DAWGS (2-time league runners-up): Managed by Jim Kurtz. STATUS: Serious contender. PLAYERS TO WATCH: C Ryley Betts; P Denny Brady; 1B Jimmy Kurtz; P Joey Kurtz; P Austin Wokock. THE OUTLOOK: If Brady gets enough innings in to qualify for the playoff roster, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Buena typically is very athletic and plays great defense, expect that to continue as the Blue Dawgs go for their first championship. Always a contender.

ABSECON OUTLAWS: Managed by Ray Keelan. STATUS: Serious contender. PLAYERS TO WATCH: 1B Ray Keelan (2022 league batting champion and MVP); INF Jailen Heard; P Stephen Kaenzig; OF Kyle Neri; P/3B Nick Atohi; INF Ryan Spina. THE OUTLOOK: This team is definitely a contender as they were knocking on the door last year in the semifinals. Keelan just hits, and hits, and hits, and he has plenty of guys to drive in. If the Outlaws can get enough pitching, watch out!

VENTNOR BAY SOX: Managed by Nate Wallace. STATUS: Potential contender.  PLAYERS TO WATCH: INF Alejandro Rosado; OF Dom Boselli; SS Sleiter Suriel; UTIL Rob Boselli. THE OUTLOOK: This team is built on hitting and they look to mash, and do it with flair with guys such as Rosado and Suriel, a couple of Pleasantville High products. They are fun to watch and will be looking to contend after a solid 2022 campaign.

The Ventnor Bay Sox have some serious offensive firepower and could be a contender this summer in the South Jersey South Shore Baseball League. (South Jersey Glory Days file photo/Sully)

MARGATE HURRICANES: Managed by Jason Law. STATUS: Potential contender. PLAYERS TO WATCH: 1B Jimmy Pasquale; INF Donnie Stone; INF Brody Levin; INF Dylan Scaranda; OF Monny Strickland; OF Duke McCarron; INF Evan Taylor. THE OUTLOOK: Coach Law has assembled an impressive list of names on his roster as a first-year team, so we’ll see how quickly this group can gel. Plenty of names to recognize as local former and current high school stars, such as Taylor, who set a new Ocean City High RBI record this season, as well as Devin Sharkey and Jayson Hoopes, former star pitchers at Mainland and St. Augustine Prep, respectively. This team could be a contender if everything comes together.

NORTHFIELD CARDINALS: Managed by Joe Bunting. STATUS: Potential contender. PLAYERS TO WATCH: P Ben Bradt; C Gavin Shapiro; SS Justin Epifanio; OF Wayne Hill Jr.; OF Yoan Feliz; P Brandon Riggs; DH Juan Mejia. THE OUTLOOK: The Cardinals are always competitive, as coach Bunting hates to lose more than anybody around. The Cards can always pitch and typically have a solid lineup. If they can play good defense, they’ll be right there at the end.

OCEAN CITY WATER DOGS: Managed by Ed Terry and Andrew Bristol. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: OF Dom Fiorentino; P Gannon Brady; INF Ben Hoag; C Joe Repetti; P Travis Large; P C.J. Furey. THE OUTLOOK: The Dogs have some good young arms with guys like Brady, Furey, Tommy Lex and Large. This team has been right around .500 the last two years, so they’ll need to hit better to make a big leap in the standings.

HAMMONTON HOT SHOTS: Managed by Brad Mountain. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: INF/P Marco Levari; INF Jon Newman; INF Zach Newman; C Austin Sofran; INF Gavin West; OF Robbie Petracci. THE OUTLOOK: The Hot Shots came out of the gates hot last year, but consistency was tough to find. They’ll have the kind of offense that can put up runs, but can they find the pitching to hold other teams off? We shall see.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP EAGLES: Managed by Bobby Wright. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: SS Jay Salsbery; 1B/P Cole Frye; P/UTIL Cohen Cook; INF Michael Tallarida; INF Trevor Smith. THE OUTLOOK: The Eagles can always hit and score runs, the problem has been consistent pitching. If they can find that, they’re a tough team to beat, especially at home. They have some guys in the middle of the lineup who can make life tough for opposing pitchers, especially the second and third time through the order.

SOMERS POINT CAPTAINS: Managed by Dave O’Sullivan. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: OF Mike Blackiston (2022 league home run champion); P Tyler Monzo; C/OF Dylan Stezzi; UTIL/P Mike Adelizzi; P Anthony Capasso; INF Dante Edwardi; INF/P Manny Aponte; INF/C Samson Gerner. THE OUTLOOK: The Captains have had a pretty good offense the last couple of years, averaging nearly five runs per game last season, and last year the top of the lineup was as good as any team’s. The problem has been pitching, and specifically walks. If the Caps can reduce the free passes they should have a pretty good defense and scrappy offense. Don’t be surprised to see this team greatly improve on its four wins from a year ago.

The Somers Point Captains return 2022 league home run champion Mike Blackiston, an outfielder who played at Salem County College and just committed to the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. (South Jersey Glory Days file photo/Sully)

GALLOWAY MUSTANGS: Managed by Buddy DeMilio. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: P Nate Kennedy; P Ethan Dodd; OF Matt Johansen; SS John Leonetti; P Mike DiBlasio. THE OUTLOOK: The Mustangs have some pretty good arms, but this is a team that has struggled offensively. If the Stangs want to make some noise this year, they’ll have to hit the ball and score some runs to back up what could be a nice pitching staff.

EGG HARBOR CITY KNIGHTS: Managed by Belford Rivera. STATUS: A lot to prove. PLAYERS TO WATCH: SS Stephen Petrosh; INF Matthew Rivera; P/OF Joe Hamill; INF/P Sean Brady; INF Jason Rapasardi. THE OUTLOOK: This team has a bunch of former Cedar Creek, Holy Spirit and Absegami players and if you let the Knights get going offensively, it’s going to be a rough day for you. The key for them contending is going to be finding some consistent pitching. This is a team that has to stay away from big innings so it has a chance to win games late with its offense.

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE (all games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted/South Jersey Surf play home games at Birch Grove Park in Northfield. For all other field locations, visit southjerseyssbl.com)

TUESDAY: Absecon at Northfield; South Jersey Surf at Margate; Egg Harbor Township at Egg Harbor City; Galloway at Hammonton; Somers Point at Ventnor (7:30 p.m.).

WEDNESDAY: Buena at Northfield; Absecon at Ventnor; Ocean City at EHT; Somers Point at Egg Harbor City; Galloway at Margate.

THURSDAY: Hammonton at South Jersey Surf; Galloway at Ocean City.

FRIDAY: Buena at Margate; EHT at South Jersey Surf; Hammonton at Ventnor; Somers Point at Ocean City.