Posted: 2:41 pm Monday, February 18th, 2013

SOFTBALL: Inside the top 10 

By Jeff Greer

Rain hampered our ability to enhance the area’s softball picture last week. But two games — and their surprising results — turned what we thought we knew into mush.

At the season’s start, American Heritage and Jupiter seemed destined to be Nos. 1 and 2 all season. Gardens, the area’s biggest statewide powerhouse, possessed serious power but inexperienced pitching, which made the Gators a wild card, along with a young but good Park Vista squad. Several things over the past few weeks highlighted the wild-card nature of Gardens and several other teams.

Gardens lost to Suncoast in its season opener. Suncoast is a good team, but the Gators don’t normally drop games like that. In other words, that result sent shock waves through the county’s softball community. But not as much as the Gators’ back-to-back wins last week over Jupiter and Park Vista. Gardens, considered an underdog against Jupiter ace Kylee Hanson, bested Jupiter in 11 innings. Then the Gators came back from a 7-1 deficit to beat Park Vista 8-7 on Friday night. That’s two wins over top-five teams last week, enough to boost Gardens all the way up to second in our new Post softball rankings, listed below.

TOP 10
1. American Heritage 2-0
2. Palm Beach Gardens 3-1
3. Jupiter 3-1
4. West Boca Raton 3-0
5. Wellington 5-0
6. Park Vista 2-2
7. Suncoast 2-1
8. Palm Beach Central 2-2
9. Dwyer 2-2
10. Boca Raton 2-2
Also considered: Seminole Ridge, Grandview Prep.

West Boca and Wellington continued their hot starts. West Boca hosts Dwyer on Tuesday, and that should be a fun game. Wellington gets its biggest early-season test to date with a Wednesday away meeting with Jupiter.

Park Vista dropped three spots, but it’s tough to penalize the Cobras too much for their two losses last week. They played Westminster Christian and Gardens, two of the state’s top programs, and lost close games. Against Westminster, Vista stormed back from a big deficit. Against Gardens, Vista lost a big lead. Both games were equally tough to lose, but coach Chuck Layman believes his team will be better in the long run because of them.

GAMES TO WATCH

Tuesday
American Heritage at King’s Academy, 4 p.m.
Dwyer at West Boca, 7 p.m.

Wednesday
Santaluces at Park Vista, 7 p.m.
Wellington at Jupiter, 7 p.m.
Palm Beach Central at Boca Raton, 7 p.m.

Thursday
Palm Beach Gardens at Dwyer, 7 p.m.

Friday
Boca Raton at Park Vista, 7 p.m.