Posted: 5:25 pm Friday, April 22nd, 2011
By Matt Porter
Wellington won’t concede District 15-5A to top-ranked West Boca, which it blanked early in the season and lost to 3-2 last week. It just wants another shot to play the Bulls.
Coach Scott Riddle was upset after that loss, knowing his team blew a chance to earn home field advantage – and let Dwyer and West Boca fight it out – while having a much easier road to the 15-5A final. The two district finalists, of course, earn a trip to regionals while everyone else plans for next season.
The Wolverines aren’t a large team, but similar to Dwyer, they’re strong and solid. They have an ace, Duke signee Andrew Istler, who matches some of the area’s best and a tight defense that keeps the runs down. Frankly, it’s hard to keep these sort of stats in a coverage area this large, but the Wolverines may have allowed the fewest runs of any large-school team this season.
Istler (4-3, 1.39, 39 K in 45.1 innings) hovers around 88-90, but the righty uses a nasty curve, a strong change and locates exceptionally well. He was especially on-point in his March 22 shutout of West Boca, in which he allowed three hits and fanned 14, outgunning Bulls ace Michael Kelly. Istler retired 14 of the last 16 batters and struck out the side to cap the win. A two-way prospect at the next level, he’s the team’s leading hitter, batting .484 with 24 RBI from the No. 3 spot. Senior Clint Knoblauch, who tossed a one-hitter in a 3-1 win over Palm Beach Central March 3, is a rock-solid No. 2 starter.
Wellington is especially strong up the middle, with senior shortstop Mitch Morales showing plenty of range and a strong arm alongside rangy second baseman Jared Tosner, a junior. Senior center fielder Tommy Kirchner doesn’t miss much out there. Senior catcher Alex Tannone is a quarterback behind the plate and blocks well.
As a whole, the Wolverines don’t mash, but they’re patient. Morales (.333) and Kirchner (.435) set the table for Istler, powerful third baseman Peter Rivera (3 HR, 20 RBI) and Tannone (.477). Tosner has been at the top of the area’s batting leaders, but dropped to .433 by season’s end. In the seven-hole, first baseman David Koos (.368) can hit. Senior left fielder Jordan Hernandez and senior right fielder Zach Turturici can get on base.
Wellington sat home last season, while Dwyer and West Boca earned trips to regionals. Like Dwyer, the Wolverines need the bats to come through to have a shot. If that happens, they’ll be in the final. If not, they’ll think long and hard about what might have been.