Posted: 1:59 pm Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Baseball: West Boca looking like a state championship contender 

By Matt Porter

West Boca's Michael Kelly warms up before a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

West Boca's Michael Kelly warms up before a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

If anyone feels West Boca Raton can’t make a run to the state tournament, please state your objections now.

The top-ranked Bulls have come up short a few times this season – their four losses include one to Wellington, the No. 2 team in the area and the team they could meet in the 15-5A final, and one to Palm Beach Central early in the year – but they have enough talent to be the last team standing in Class 5A this year.

West Boca is big — likely the area’s biggest team — and loaded with pitching and offense. Ace Michael Kelly is the area’s most dominant pitcher and should be a first- or second-round MLB Draft pick in June. No. 2 starter Parker Danciu would be a No. 1 on most area teams. Shortstop Tyler Greene, like Kelly a preseason All-American, is projected as a mid-round draft pick. The lineup is strong, one through nine, and having two dominant pitchers makes a team’s playoff run much easier.

West Boca's Michael Kelly warms up before a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Bulls ace Michael Kelly. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Kelly has lived up to the hype with a 5-1 record, 1.28 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. If you’re interested in amateur baseball and live in Palm Beach County, chances are you’ve seen him. His fastball lives 92-93 and touches 95 with late hop, his two-seam has plenty of movement, and his curveball and change make it impossible for batters to sit on anything. He’s had minor bout of wildness, which at this level helps him more than hurts him. At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he’s got a pro-ready frame, hits exceptionally well (.382, 4 HR, 23 RBI) and throws heat from third base to first when he’s not pitching.

Danciu, a junior and like Kelly a Florida commit, is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefty with fastball that hovers around 90, a strong change and a nasty curve. His best outing of the season was his April 12 no-hitter against Dwyer, where he had all three working. He’s 4-1, 1.43 with 38 K in 29.1 innings this year. A lefty bat, he has some pop and plays a solid left field. Junior right-hander Matthew Warren has seen a lot of work, and Greene and junior Ryan Owens (6-4, 200) will take the ball when needed.

West Boca's Todd Vandercook waits to bat during a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

West Boca's Todd Vandercook. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Greene, a Georgia commit, is batting .366 with 3 homers and 15 RBI. Before the season, he told Baseball America that he is taking online classes through West Boca so he can focus on training for baseball and improve his 6-3, 190-pound frame. Todd and David Vandercook, a unique story in their own right, have produced all season. David is second among large schools players in homers (6) and is batting .382 with 20 RBI. Todd, at 5-11 the Bulls’ shortest starter, is batting a team-best .440.

Senior first baseman Thomas Stallone (6-4, 200) has big-time power. Senior DH Griffin Cornwell (.361, 3 HR, 16 RBI) has earned a spot in the lineup. Behind the dish, sophomore Michael Barash (6-0, 180) is one of the area’s best underclassmen and has hit leadoff and in the late part of the order. Junior center fielder Matt Mulroy (6-0, 190) isn’t an easy out in the No. 9 hole. Junior utilityman Joe Youngross is good enough to start at a few different positions.

From the start, 15-5A has been a three-team race. Kelly nearly no-hit Dwyer March 11, allowing one hit before Danciu got the final out. Kelly outgunned Wellington’s Andrew Istler April 14, striking out 10 in six innings. However, Istler had West Boca’s number a month ago, striking out 14 in a 5-0 win over the Bulls. Kelly picked up his first loss of the year in that game, allowing four runs on six hits in four innings. Aside from that March 22 loss to Wellington, West Boca has had everyone’s number.

West Boca has had more success against Dwyer than Wellington, but with the No. 1 seed, it may not matter who the Bulls play – they’ll have Danciu going, and he’s a favorable matchup with anyone else’s No. 2. The odds are in their favor; and if coach Nick Siano’s crew isn’t playing in the 15-5A title game, they’ve fallen well short of their potential.

West Boca coach Nick Siano during a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

West Boca coach Nick Siano during a Feb. 9 preseason game against Palm Beach Central. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)