Posted: 5:38 pm Monday, February 25th, 2013

Baseball: The Post’s top 10 for Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 

By Matt Porter

Early on, two teams have jumped out ahead of the pack. And wouldn’t you know it – they play each other this week. This week marks the first round of District 9-8A games, so the top half of the top 10 could be completely shuffled next week. Here’s how it looks now:

The Palm Beach Post baseball top 10
1. Jupiter (4-0) Holding top spot will be tough
2. Palm Beach Gardens (5-0) Visits Jupiter on Friday
3. Palm Beach Central (4-1) Strong win over Dwyer
4. Dwyer (2-2) Pitching is top-notch, as expected
5. Royal Palm Beach (1-3) Three out-of-area losses
6. Wellington (4-2) Lots to prove this week
7. King’s Academy (5-1) Only loss was to Jupiter
8. Benjamin (3-1) Loss to unbeaten John Carroll last week
9. Trinity Christian (3-3) Three straight losses after Santaluces Slam
10. American Heritage (2-3) Anthony Delaney: 16 Ks in Summit win
On the bubble: Santaluces (3-2), Seminole Ridge (4-2), Summit Christian (2-3), Boca Raton (2-3)

Jupiter holds the top spot, but with games at Dwyer and at home for Palm Beach Gardens this week, the Warriors have to work to maintain it.
No. 2 Palm Beach Gardens has outscored opponents by a ridiculous 55-3 margin thus far. Of those wins, the most impressive is a road district win at Wellington. That’s certainly an impressive way to begin the season, but Jupiter’s hot start at the Santaluces Slam gave it the early No. 1 ranking. The Warriors had racked up wins over American Heritage and King’s Academy before Gardens had played a game. They followed that with a 10-0 shutout of a good Santaluces club and a 7-5 road win at South Fork. A probable Jupiter win at Park Vista was rained out.

Palm Beach Central‘s loss to Trinity Christian at the Santaluces Slam feels like a while ago. The Broncos, which beat Atlantic and Summit Christian at the season-opening tournament, last week scored decisive wins over West Boca and, most importantly, district rival Dwyer. Next up is another district game, Tuesday at Wellington, before hosting two Polk County teams (Auburndale and Haines City) this weekend. Expect Central to keep its top pitchers fresh for next week’s district games against Gardens and Jupiter.

Dwyer has a chance to throw a wrench into next week’s rankings if it beats Jupiter at home on Wednesday. Standout sophomore Tom Szapucki and freshman Colton Rendon combined to no-hit Seminole Ridge last week. Expect Szapucki to get the start Wednesday, with senior Cheyne Bickel taking the hill on Friday at Wellington.

Yes, its 1-3 record looks bad. But Royal Palm Beach‘s three losses were on the road at good out-of-area teams. The Wildcats had a tough road trip at Key West, losing last Friday and Saturday by a combined 23-9 margin. They also lost their season-opener 5-4 at South Broward. Its win over Wellington was a sign Royal Palm can play, though. The ‘Cats will get another chance to prove themselves Wednesday at American Heritage.

It’s that loss to Royal Palm that keeps Wellington at No. 6. The Wolverines, despite beating four decent clubs in Spanish River, Boca Raton, Seminole Ridge and John I. Leonard, lost last week’s district opener 6-0 to Gardens. The gantlet continues this week with Central (Tuesday) and Dwyer (Friday). The record may not end up looking spectacular, but the Blue and White will be one of the area’s best teams.

For district rivals King’s Academy and Benjamin, it’s all about their game next Monday, March 4 at King’s Academy. Until then, it’s tough to sort them out. King’s has early-season wins over Trinity Christian, American Heritage and Santaluces, losing only to Jupiter. That’s a more impressive resume than Benjamin, who run-ruled Jensen Beach and ace Taylor Blatch, but has gone 2-1 since then, with a negative (8-9) run differential. None of that will matter if the Bucs beat King’s next week, of course; if they do it after this week’s stretch – three tough games in four days, including the King’s game – it’ll be that much more impressive. King’s, meanwhile, should be rested and ready; the Lions host Haines City on Friday. That’s all for them this week.

Tough to know what to make of Trinity Christian‘s pair of losses at Merritt Island and Rockledge last weekend. Traveling to the Space Coast isn’t easy for any South Florida program, not even an independent one that’s used to covering the state. Merritt Island and Rockledge are a combined 6-1, so it’s not like the Warriors lost to tomato cans. They should have an easy time with rebuilding Champagnat (1-2) on Thursday, and be fresh and ready big road games next week against King’s (Tuesday, March 5) and Benjamin (Friday, March 8).

Then there’s American Heritage, which struggled in the Slam – losses to Jupiter, Santaluces and King’s – then routed Boca Raton 14-3 before earning a critical district win over Summit Christian last Friday. The teams play again, this time at Summit, on March 11. Until then, Heritage’s schedule doesn’t have heavyweights on it, so it’ll be hard for the Stallions to make moves in the rankings. They won’t lack for big games, though; after Summit and another district opponent, Pope John Paul II, the Stallions face Gardens, Heritage-Plantation and Central.

On the bubble: Santaluces lost to Jupiter and King’s, but beat Heritage. Wednesday’s game against Seminole Ridge and next week’s tilts with Heritage and Royal Palm are the Chiefs’ chance to jump in the ranks … Despite being no-hit by Dwyer and losing to Wellington by five runs, Seminole Ridge has potential. The Hawks’ four wins have come over rebuilding opponents, but they’ve put up a 69-5 run differential in those games. That alone bears watching … Summit dropped below .500 with that loss to Heritage, but the Saints can get back on track this week against Boca and Benjamin … Boca stunned Dwyer to start the year, but lost games to Wellington, Heritage and West Boca Raton by a combined 27-4 score before beating a quality North Broward Prep club 10-4.

Best of the Treasure Coast: Martin County (3-0), Jensen Beach (4-1), John Carroll (3-0).