Posted: 3:41 pm Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Top-ranked Palm Beach Gardens and American Heritage clash Friday night 

By Jeff Greer

Before the season started, Palm Beach Gardens and American Heritage were considered the best teams in the county. Before Friday’s anticipated 7 p.m. matchup in Gardens, they’re considered the best teams in the state.

Gardens is ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN and No. 1 in the Miracle Sports large-schools state poll. In that same Miracle Sports poll, American Heritage is the top-ranked small school.

If nothing else, the game has the softball community buzzing and local coaches wishing they could witness the clash of the Palm Beach County titans.

“We’ve been waiting for a big game,” said Gardens first baseman Taylor Schwarz, who signed to play for Florida next year. “We’ll have the same mentality and same energy we always do. We’re excited for it.”

Gardens (16-1) has outscored its opponents 158-10, and lost its first game of the season last Friday without starting pitcher Shelby Turnier on the mound. The Gators have two of the top five hitters in the area by average and five players with at least three home runs. Turnier is 13-0, sporting a 0.32 earned-run average and 107 strikeouts over 88 2/3 innings.

But Heritage (17-3) is no slouch, either. The Stallions have lost twice over the past week, but both losses were to state-ranked opponents. Junior ace Corrie Boggess (7-2, 0.52 ERA) is expected to start Friday. Her bat will play a big role, too: Boggess is hitting .481 with four home runs and 22 RBI.

“(American Heritage is) definitely a confident group, and they should be,” said Wellington coach Mark Boretti, who coached Boggess for two seasons at Wellington before she transferred to Heritage and lost twice to Gardens this spring. “They’ll play anyone.”

ABOUT THE TEAMS

Palm Beach Gardens
Record: 16-1
Best wins: Jupiter 1-0, 14-1; Plantation-American Heritage 7-0; Park Vista 3-2.
Players to watch: P Shelby Turnier, 1B Taylor Schwarz, 2B Tiffany Lower, C Virginia Spring, SS Liz Spring, CF Ta’Coia Williams, LF Sarah Diskant.

American Heritage
Record: 17-3
Best wins: Jupiter 2-1, 2-0; Flagler Palm Coast 2-1.
Players to watch: P Corrie Boggess, IF Jessie Mohl, CF Marissa Mangini, SS Whitney Farris.