Posted: 5:21 pm Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
By Matt Porter
The reality of today’s high school baseball (and many other sports) is this: schools fight for bragging rights and championships, but many of the players play on the same travel teams and in the same summer leagues. They know each other. More often than not, they’re good friends.
So when one of them suffers an injury, get-well wishes are quickly expressed. For weeks, District 9-6A players and coaches have sent theirs to Palm Beach Central ace Bobby Poyner, who is done for the year with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Everyone wants to see him back throwing, and if he’s not drafted, wearing orange and blue at Florida next season.
Of immediate interest, though, his injury gives Park Vista a bit of a break.
Instead of Poyner (6-1, 1.91 ERA, 51 strikeouts in 40.1 innings), the lefty with nasty stuff who shuts down opponents, the Cobras will likely see Palm Beach Central right-hander Mitch Blakeney in the No. 2 vs. No. 7 matchup of the 9-6A tournament. With sincere apologies to Blakeney, who is an excellent pitcher (5-2, 3.05, 27 strikeouts in 39 innings) headed to Palm Beach State this fall, he doesn’t inspire in teams the same dread Poyner does.
By virtue of their early-season loss to Poyner and Palm Beach Central, their marathon loss to Atlantic and some other tiebreaker funkiness, the Cobras (16-5, 4-4) fell to seventh in the seedings.
Park Vista’s pitchers have to worry about a powerful Palm Beach Central offense, which put up a mercy-rule 15-5 win on Feb. 27. The Cobras’ strong infield defense is key, with N.C. State commit Trea Turner at short and Stetson-bound Brett Lashley at second. Junior Tyler Kendall, a Florida commit, plays third and 6-foot-7, 245-pound Alec Saikal is adept with the glove at first. The Cobras have an excellent catcher in strong-armed junior Robbie Coman (6-1, 205), a Virginia commit.
“Our pitchers have been throwing strikes, hitting their spots. Our pitchers have a lot of confidence in our fielders. Get a ground ball, we’ve got a shot,” Greenstein said. “It definitely gives our pitchers an advantage.”
They don’t have the top-level pitching of Jupiter or Santaluces, but the Cobras should have enough depth to stay in the game. Senior ace Ryan Pistey threw a no-hitter against Okeechobee March 18, and should go against Central. Brian Bussell (4-0, 3.85) has been strong in relief. Josh Mowrey has 38 strikeouts. Coman struck out 10 batters in four innings in Park Vista’s 15-inning loss to Atlantic.
The Cobras have more than enough hitting to get the job done – witness April 12’s 9-8 win over Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy, then ranked No. 2 in the nation by Baseball America. Turner (.450) hits leadoff, and a strong 3-4-5-6 of Coman (.381), sophomore center fielder Trey Amburgey (.377, 3 HR) and Saikal (3 HR) and Kendall keeps the line moving.
It could be a 9-8 game with Central, which in its current incarnation looks a lot like Park Vista — a team lacking a dominating No. 1 starter, but possessing a healthy lineup and a strong defense.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter if you’re one or nine in this district, and you’ve seen it first-hand,” Greenstein said a few weeks ago. “This is the real deal. You can be No. 1, but you’ve still got to go against someone’s No. 1 pitcher, and they’re all good.”
It won’t be a matchup of star No. 1s here, just two strong-hitting, strong-fielding teams proving they have enough pitching to get by.