Posted: 2:29 pm Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
By Matt Porter
The district champions have been crowned, but they’re long done celebrating. It’s time for regional playoffs, where one loss ends a team’s season.
Twenty-two area teams are involved in district quarterfinal games, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday at various locations. Here’s the schedule and predictions for the first round.
Update (3:30 p.m., Wednesday): Class 3A game hosted by American Heritage has been moved from Wednesday to Thursday.
Port St. Lucie (17-8) at Bradenton-Manatee (17-11), 7
After beating Sebastian River and South Fork in the District 12-7A tournament, Port St. Lucie ran into a buzzsaw – Martin County – in the district final. They meet one of the state’s stronger teams in Manatee, which broke up a five-inning perfect game by Venice starter Brandon Elmy to win the District 11-7A title 7-5.
Venice (19-8) at Martin County (26-1), 7
It’s been a dream season for Martin County, which tied a 39-year-old school record for most wins in a season and won its first district title since 2006. Looking to build on their school-record 16 straight wins, the Tigers may look to senior right-hander Josh Thorne, who allowed three singles in a district final shutout. He also had five homers in the regular season, while teammate Danny Hudzina (six) tied for the area lead.
Favorite: Martin County
West Boca Raton (15-11) at Royal Palm Beach (22-4), 6:30
An intriguing matchup from a coaching standpoint: Royal Palm’s resurgence has been led by Brian Joros, who built West Boca into a state powerhouse. Current West Boca coach Nick Siano won the school’s only state title last year, in his first as a head coach. Royal Palm, the District 13-7A champs, will lean on senior right-hander Justin Lauginiger, who threw a one-hitter in a district final win. West Boca will likely start senior Matt Warren.
Favorite: Royal Palm Beach
Forest Hill (15-8) at Atlantic (19-7), 7
Atlantic’s District 14-7A title led to its first regional appearance since 2002. In order to win their first regional playoff game since 1998, the Eagles will have to solve Forest Hill right-hander Mike Murray, the area’s strikeout king. Expect Atlantic to start senior Sam Bergida, who beat West Boca in the district final.
Pompano Beach (11-10-1) at Jensen Beach (19-6), 7
Jensen Beach cruised to a District 15-5A title thanks to a 13-hit attack and junior right-hander Taylor Blatch, who entered the game with a 0.48 ERA and a 6-0 record. The Falcons have a deep pitching staff that should help them go far in the Class 6A tournament.
Favorite: Jensen Beach
Suncoast (11-13) at Plantation-American Heritage (20-4), 7
Tough test for Suncoast, which is still looking for its first regional playoff win. Plantation-Heritage has one of the country’s powerhouse teams for several years and should jump all over the Chargers if they again make 10 errors, as they did in the district final.
Favorite: Plantation-American Heritage
John Carroll (12-12) at Winter Park-Trinity Prep (22-4), 7
The Rams mustered just one hit in a District 6-3A loss to Melbourne Central Catholic. They might look to starter Richard Harrell, who kept them in the game by allowing six hits in six innings in the district final. Trinity Prep has lost just once at home and outscored opponents 199-92.
Favorite: Trinity Prep
Benjamin (18-8) at Fort Myers-Evangelical Christian (18-10), 7
Benjamin has proven it can play with the big boys, but hasn’t shown it can take care of King’s Academy, which beat the Bucs for the District 12-3A final. The Bucs meet a similarly pesky bunch in Evangelical, which put together a two-run rally in the seventh inning to beat Naples-Community for the District 11-3A title.
Favorite: Evangelical Christian
Naples-Community (18-6) at King’s Academy (17-10), 4
Expect King’s to hand the ball to senior Matt Pisciottano, who shut down Benjamin in a 2-0 District 12-3A final win. If Benjamin and King’s Academy take care of their quarterfinal teams, we could see a district final rematch in the regional semifinals.
Favorite: King’s Academy
Summit Christian (18-8) at Coral Springs Christian (19-7-1), 4
Summit won the Class 1A state title last year and looks to have the pieces to make another deep playoff run. Though the Saints have two good starters (Sam Murphy and Anthony Delaney), good defense and a strong lineup, they can’t overlook Coral Springs Christian, which beat Benjamin 1-0 earlier in the season and handled Calvary Christian 4-0 for the District 14-3A title.
Favorite: Summit Christian
Orlando-University (12-16) at Centennial (11-12), 4 p.m.
The Eagles upset Vero Beach in the District 6-8A final. They’ll get an Orlando-University squad coming off a 10-0 loss to Orlando-Timber Creek in the District 5-8A championship.
Boca Raton (10-16) at Dwyer (17-8), 7
The Bobcats, in their first year under coach Jeff Rosa, get a Dwyer squad that seems to have put it together. District 9-8A champion Dwyer can be streaky at the plate – coach Frank Torre talks about “our Jekyll-and-Hyde offense” – but the Panthers have pitched well and played sound defense of late. Expect senior lefty Bradley Emery to get the nod for Dwyer.
Palm Beach Gardens (18-10) at Park Vista (23-4), 7
Fourth-seeded Gardens made a run to the District 9-8A title game, but fell short thanks to a two-base error. The Gators, who lost their top two starters to injuries at the beginning of the year, have found enough pitching to make a run. Last year the same thing happened to Park Vista. The Cobras went all the way to the state semifinals. One of those previously injured pitchers, senior lefty Brandon Rhodes, is the key to this year’s state title chances. He went 10-1 with a 0.83 ERA in the regular season.
Favorite: Park Vista
St. Andrew’s (12-12) at Fort Myers-Bishop Verot (25-2), 6
The Scots couldn’t grab the district title at home, and will now travel across the state to meet a dominant Bishop Verot team. St. Andrew’s senior right-hander Danny Young might oppose sophomore Jeff Passantino, who struck out seven and allowed three hits in the District 12-4A title game.
Favorite: Bishop Verot
LaBelle (16-8) at Lincoln Park Academy (10-11), 7
Make it three district titles in a row for Lincoln Park, which beat St. Andrew’s 6-2 for the District 12-4A crown. LaBelle lost its district final 10-1 to Verot, but hasn’t been out of many games.
Class 3A (note: rescheduled from Wednesday)
Fort Lauderdale-Calvary Christian (17-8) at American Heritage (18-7), 7
American Heritage gets to host a regional game by virtue of its 11-inning, 2-1 win over rival Summit Christian in the District 13-3A final. If both teams take care of the first-round regional opponents, they’ll meet in a district final rematch. Expect American Heritage and ace Dylan Silva to hold up their end of the bargain.
Favorite: American Heritage
Lake Worth Christian (3-15) at Community Christian (15-10), 7
The Cougars won the District 11-2A title with solid defense and speed. They’ll use that against Lake Worth Christian, which lost the District 12-2A title to Boca Christian.
Favorite: Community Christian
Vero Beach-Master’s Academy (12-6) at Boca Raton Christian (11-8), 4
Master’s starter Mason Smith struck out seven in six innings in a district title loss. Boca Christian has performed well under first-year coach Clint Erickson.
Favorite: Master’s Academy