Posted: 3:34 pm Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Baseball: Despite district losses, Boca Raton feels good about 9-6A chances 

By Matt Porter

As if their District 9-6A schedule wasn’t difficult enough, Boca Raton decided to end the regular season by playing the two top teams in the other high-power district in the area.

Boca Raton coach Justin Timmerman, shown here at a game in 2009, says his team has been in every district game. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Boca Raton coach Justin Timmerman, shown here at a game in 2009, says his team has been in every district game. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

On Tuesday, Boca (15-8, 2-6) faces Wellington and plays West Boca on Wednesday, ranked No. 2 and No. 1 in both the Palm Beach Post top 10 and the District 15-5A tournament seedings.

Were they the same Bobcats team that was making eight errors a game earlier in the year, these games likely wouldn’t be close. But this is a team that’s calmed itself down and generally speaking, made the routine plays. “We’re playing better baseball,” coach Justin Timmerman said. “If we can stay under one or two [errors] a game, we’ll be OK.”

They need that to happen, and badly.

The Bobcats started 5-0, but because of poor defense, they couldn’t pull it together for an extended stretch and ended up 2-6 in the district. They play Royal Palm Beach Monday for the No. 8 seed in the 9-6A tournament and a date at No. 1 Jupiter Tuesday.

“Most of the games for district, we’ve been right there,” Timmerman said. “We’re a bad inning away from competing to win. Not saying we would have won, but if we didn’t have those bad innings, we’d have a good shot.”

They have the offense to compete with anyone. Senior first baseman Mike Tallet (33 RBI) and senior center fielder Dominic Jose (33) lead large schools in ribbies, with senior catcher J.C. Coban (22) contributing plenty. Senior right fielder Hector Rojas jumped from fifth to leadoff midway through the year and is batting .378. With Rojas and Jose (.379, 4 HR) at the top, Boca has plenty of speed ahead of Tallet (.449, 3 HR) and Coban (.419, 4 HR). Junior corner infielder Sean Gallagher (6-4, 210) has settled into the fifth spot. “If they’re all on their game, they’re tough to pitch around,” Timmerman said.

Jose, a Stanford commit who is ranked among the top 100 players in the nation by Rivals.com, and Rojas are strong in center and right. Coban is one of the area’s best catchers, and controls the running game. “He knows how to control the infield and the outfield and handle the pitchers,” Timmerman said. “His hitting is a plus, but it’ll help him at the next level.” Coban is committed to Penn State, which has flown down to see Gallagher. Oral Roberts and Navy are also looking at Gallagher.

Tallet, a Palm Beach State signee, would appear to be the Bobcats’ No. 1 pitcher. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound lefty who throws in the low 80s with command of his fastball, curve and change, Tallet has pitched in some of Boca’s tougher games this year. Record-wise, Rojas has been Boca’s best, with a 5-1 record, 1.98 ERA and fanned 34 batters in 35.1 innings. Junior Peter Rantz (6-3, 180) has pitched mainly in relief but has been effective in a variety of situations.

Tallet will start against Wellington tonight, and Rojas gets the ball against West Boca. Timmerman isn’t committing to starting anyone Monday against Royal Palm Beach.”There’s times when Peter looks like the best guy. There’s times where Hector looks like the best guy,” Timmerman said. “I have three quality arms that can pitch a lot of games.”

To get through the 9-6A gauntlet and return to the regionals, where they lost in the first round 5-4 to Coral Springs last season, the Bobcats will need to keep the nerves calm, hope their arms don’t falter and get continued contributions from their lineup.

“I think this district, top to bottom, it’s tough,” Timmerman said. “We lost a game to Jupiter 2-1, Palm Beach Gardens 3-1, Palm Beach Central 3-1. We’re right there in a lot of the games. People have said it the last couple years — it could be a coin flip with a lot of these teams.”