Posted: 12:02 am Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Baseball: The Post’s top 10 for Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 

By Matt Porter

Though we have a week of real games to view as evidence, we’re still not totally convinced every team in our rankings will remain in the top 10 for the duration of the season. There’s a handful of candidates who are ready to pounce if one of the ranked teams continues – or begins – to slide.

Here’s how we see the area right now:

The Palm Beach Post baseball top 10
Jupiter (3-0) Return nearly everyone from last year’s team
Palm Beach Gardens (1-0) Light week before Wellington on Saturday
Dwyer (1-1) Needs to pick it up with 9-8A games looming
Trinity Christian (3-0) Great start at Santaluces Slam
Palm Beach Central (2-1) Will pitching depth be a concern?
Benjamin (2-0) Swinging hot bats early on
Royal Palm Beach (1-1) Tight win over Wellington
Wellington (2-1) Not looking like a fifth-place club
Park Vista (1-0) Good test against Jupiter on Saturday
Summit Christian (1-2) Talented club took down Atlantic
On the bubble: King’s Academy (2-1), Boca Raton (2-1), Atlantic (0-3), American Heritage (0-3)

No complaints if you’re a Jupiter fan. The Warriors (3-0) take over the No. 1 spot after rolling through the Santaluces Slam, beating Heritage, King’s and Santaluces by a combined 29-9 score. They started without coach Andy Mook and senior shortstop/pitcher Kyle Keatts, who were serving a carryover suspension stemming from last year’s district tournament. Jupiter doesn’t have an easy game from here until March – South Fork (Wednesday) and Park Vista (Saturday) before district games against Dwyer (Feb. 27) and Gardens (March 1). The Warriors close the first half of district play against Wellington (March 6) and Central (March 8). A club that deep – nearly every contributor from last year returns – should handle itself fine.

It’s a pretty light week for Palm Beach Gardens (1-0), which beat Coral Reef last Saturday to start the year. Junior lefty Pavin Smith was the opening-day starter, leaving Joey Boyd and Riley Colbath waiting for their turn to throw. They might not get a chance against Cardinal Newman and Palm Beach Lakes, but one of those three will definitely get the call when the Gators kick off 9-8A play at Wellington on Saturday.

Even the best pitchers have bad starts, so it’s a little early to call Cheyne Bickel washed up after his role in Dwyer‘s season-opening 7-3 loss to Boca. While Bickel didn’t have his best stuff, his teammates were unable to knock in runs. They deserve to get knocked down a few pegs, but there’s still a lot of talent there – the Panthers (1-1) were our preseason No. 1, after all. The 9-8A games against Central (Saturday), Jupiter (Feb. 27) and Wellington (March 1) loom larger after a sluggish start.

It’s always hard to know exactly what to make of Trinity Christian, which makes its top 10 debut. The Warriors (3-0) are on their last year of playing an independent schedule, so the common-opponents factor is sometimes of no help. No guesswork involved in judging Trinity’s start, though: three wins against top-10 quality teams. The wins haven’t been blowouts – the Warriors beat Summit, Central and Atlantic by a combined five runs – but they’re wins over quality clubs. Trinity has King’s on Thursday before visiting Space Coast clubs Merritt Island and Rockledge on Friday and Saturday.

Like many teams, Palm Beach Central (2-1) is figuring out what it has after its top pitchers. No. 1 starter John Padich and No. 2 man Jorge Alfonso pitched strong in a season-opening win over Atlantic, but Central’s bats couldn’t pick up Kyle Magner in a 5-2 loss to Trinity. Alfonso threw a one-hitter in an 11-1, five-inning win over Summit. Either he or Padich will get the ball for Saturday’s district opener at Dwyer.

Benjamin‘s 2013 debut was a strong statement – a 10-0, run-rule win over Jensen Beach and ace Taylor Blatch, who’s headed to Florida State. That day it was Virginia-committed junior Bennett Sousa that impressed the dozen scouts who attended. His defense made several key plays and of course, the offense put up 10. A tight win over Suncoast isn’t cause for concern. Suncoast is scrappy. The Bucs (2-0) have a brutal stretch beginning next Friday, March 1: Summit Christian followed by University (March 2) and a big district game at King’s (March 4).

Take out a 3-1 loss to Royal Palm and Wellington (2-1) has had the kind of offensive start coaches dream of. Sandwiching that Royal Palm loss were a 7-0 win over Spanish River and an 11-1 trouncing of Boca. That’s good news heading into the Wolverines’ late-February slate, which includes district games against Gardens (Saturday), Central (next Tuesday) and Dwyer (next Friday).

We’ll really see what Park Vista (1-0) is made of on Saturday, when top-ranked Jupiter comes to town. It was good for the Cobras’ young players to start with an 8-0 win over Okeechobee, but the tests will be harder against Summit (Tuesday) and Jupiter. Sophomore right-hander Austin Smith picked up the win against Okeechobee, with eight Ks in five innings.

Finally, Summit Christian makes its top 10 debut. Yes, the Saints (1-2) have one win, a 7-6 win over Atlantic, to their credit. Yes, their most recent game was an 11-1 pounding at the hands of Central. But throw in a one-run loss to Trinity and I’m more convinced of Summit’s strength than winless Atlantic or Heritage. They’re on the road for both Park Vista on Tuesday and Friday’s all-important 13-3A opener at Heritage, so the Saints won’t have an easy time holding onto the 10-spot.

Dropped out: Atlantic (0-3), American Heritage (0-3).
On the bubble: It’s hard to overlook the start – a 7-3 win on the road at then-No. 1 Dwyer – but Boca Raton (1-1) didn’t show anything in that loss to Wellington. Jury’s still out … King’s Academy (2-1) couldn’t get the bats going in its first game, a 2-1 win over Santaluces, but lost 14-6 to Jupiter and beat American Heritage 14-8. Worth watching … American Heritage has the talent, but the results aren’t there. Big week, with Boca on Tuesday and a district opener against Summit on Friday … Atlantic held Central scoreless until extras, then lost a pair of 7-6 games to Summit and Trinity. Last year, the Eagles won 12 straight after losing to the same three teams. They’d like a repeat of that (and their run to state). We’ll see if they have it in ‘em.