Posted: 2:16 pm Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Softball: Inside the Top 10 

By Jeff Greer

Small trends emerged early this season, and it’s starting to shape our Top 10 rankings.

We’ll continue to see changes, surely, but the top group is pretty clear. Heritage, Gardens, Jupiter, Park Vista and Wellington appear to be the best five teams in the area through the initial stages of the season. West Boca, Palm Beach Central and even Dwyer are on the next fringe. Several others, namely Boca, Suncoast and Seminole Ridge, could find their way back into that second group, while others, like Benjamin and Spanish River, are off to good starts.

Here’s this week’s Post Top 10:

1. American Heritage (4-0)
2. Palm Beach Gardens (4-1)
3. Park Vista (6-2)
4. Jupiter (6-3)
5. Wellington (6-1)
6. West Boca Raton (4-1)
7. Palm Beach Central (3-2)
8. Dwyer (3-3)
9. Benjamin (5-1)
10. Spanish River (3-1)
Best of the Treasure Coast: Okeechobee, South Fork.

Heritage, with plenty of speed and very good defense, is winning low-scoring games and remains undefeated. The Stallions will be tested this week against Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Central. Heritage and Gardens hoped to play their game at FAU, but those plans fell through.

Gardens can only get better as the season wears on. That’s scary for the rest of District 9-8A. Before the season started, Jupiter stood as the team to beat. As long as ace Kylee Hanson is there, the Warriors are the district’s most formidable threat to go to state, but Gardens’ two young pitchers Bailey Whalen and Kelsey Lay have the Gators competitive enough to win games with their bats and defense. Both of those aspects of Gardens’ game have been shaky in the early going, but hitting and fielding always improve as season’s continue. That makes Gardens very scary.

Sticking that district, Wellington, Dwyer and Palm Beach Central each look pretty tough. Wellington, despite losing, impressed me in an extra-innings game at Jupiter. Remi Losey is a capable pitcher, and Stephanie Schmidt leads a scrappy group that can hit a little. If the fielding improves, so will Wellington.

Dwyer beat West Boca, proving my argument in last week’s comments section that strength of schedule matters more than record. The Panthers are only 3-3, but the three losses came against Central, Wellington and Gardens.

Park Vista’s a very interesting team, as is West Boca. I love Vista’s bats, and I think the defense and pitching come along. Coach Chuck Layman said as much as his team’s second consecutive 8-7 loss. The Cobras look great winning their own tournament over the weekend. West Boca lost to Dwyer, but remains an intriguing team.

Games of the Week

Tuesday
Park Vista at Seminole Ridge
Boca Raton at Spanish River
Palm Beach Gardens at Wellington

Wednesday
Palm Beach Gardens at American Heritage

Thursday
Suncoast at Okeechobee, 6 p.m.
Jupiter at Dwyer
Wellington at Seminole Ridge
American Heritage at West Boca Raton

Friday
Spanish River at Grandview Prep
Palm Beach Central at American Heritage
King’s Academy at Royal Palm Beach