Posted: 5:14 pm Monday, March 11th, 2013
By Jeff Greer
For the first time ever, I don’t look very smart.
I’m joking about the smart part — just ask my coworkers, friends, etc. — but the 2013 softball season has me talking in circles.
One day I write Gardens is rounding into powerhouse form; two days later the Gators lose at home to Palm Beach Central, a team they’d just beaten. I thought Wellington was ready to jump into the five spot in our weekly rankings after a win over West Boca and an extra-innings loss at Jupiter, then the Wolverines lose twice to Gardens in a two-week span by a combined score of 35-5.
I had Benjamin ninth in the rankings, saying the win count mattered a bit more than the strength of schedule, an argument against my best judgment. Then the Bucs lost 11-zip to their chief rival, King’s Academy.
So, take this week’s rankings as you should take the rankings every other week: They’re a snapshot of the area’s best 10 teams as of Monday of the given week. And remember, I’m not as smart as I look.
1. American Heritage (8-0)
2. Palm Beach Gardens (8-3)
3. Jupiter (11-3)
4. Park Vista (9-3)
5. Palm Beach Central (4-4)
6. Wellington (8-4)
7. West Boca Raton (7-3)
8. Dwyer (6-4)
9. Spanish River (7-1)
10. King’s Academy (9-5)
Best of the Treasure Coast: Okeechobee, South Fork, Lincoln Park, John Carroll.
Jupiter, with its prom coming this weekend, chose not to play in Gulliver Prep’s Slam Fest tournament this coming weekend. It’s one of the state’s best regular-season weekend tournaments, along with the Kissimmee Klassic, and several area teams will be there (more on that below). So Jupiter went down south and played Gulliver Prep and Westminster Christian over the weekend. The Warriors beat ‘em both. Those wins over Miracle Sports’ fourth-best team in the state and No. 1 4A school Gulliver Prep and the No. 2 3A school, Westminster, will surely thrust Jupiter into the state’s top 10, which will be released Tuesday. The win over Park Vista back home moved Jupiter up to third in our weekly rankings.
So why isn’t Jupiter higher than Gardens? It’s hard to rank one team ahead of another, regardless of the previous week’s results, if they’ve played head-to-head. In this case, Gardens won the first round. Well, my friends, we get a more-than-fun second look at that matchup on Tuesday night, when Jupiter travels 7.9 miles down Military Trail to take on second-ranked Gardens in this season’s second installment of the Melee on Military Trail. Coming into the game, Jupiter has the momentum, but the Warriors did last time, too, and Gardens outlasted Jupiter 7-3 in extras. Let’s hope this one’s just as exciting.
Wellington‘s impossible to figure out, as I mentioned above, and will remain a team to watch the rest of the season. The Wolverines do far better in low-scoring affairs, which is why they match up better with Jupiter than Gardens. Central showed its grit this weekend and last Tuesday, when it almost came back and beat Gardens in their first of two meetings in five days. The Broncos lost a close but sloppy game Tuesday by one run, undone by the red-hot bat of Minnie Cocuzza, Gardens’ secret weapon, but came back Saturday with a … you guessed it … close but sloppy win. Let’s face it, these District 9-8A games are ugly. Central is a major player in that district.
Dwyer‘s starting to win with first-year coach Eddie Wallace at the helm. You have to respect the work the Panthers have done to find their competitiveness again. They’re just behind West Boca, a team I’m still struggling to read, and just ahead of surging Spanish River, which at 7-1 is a surprise contender in District 10-8A. I honestly thought Boca and Seminole Ridge would be more potent in that district, but Spanish River‘s the closest contender to Park Vista right now.
And then there’s King’s, winners of eight in a row, sliding in at 10. Not hard to pop them in after their recent wins. The Lions are an experienced group that reached the state semis last year, and even without ace pitcher Aubree Murphy, should be a tough out in April and May. Coach Tim Willcox expected his team to start slow and build into a winner, and here it is. Maybe even a little early.
SLAM FEST FEATURES MAJOR TALENT
Now, about that Slam Fest. American Heritage is headed down. So is Central, Gardens, Okeechobee and Park Vista. The round-robin games with our area teams are all Friday afternoon and evening (I’ll list the full schedule below), and tournament play begins Saturday morning. All the games are at Palmetto Bay Park. As Gulliver Prep coach Mark Schusterman told me Monday, there will be four defending state champs and four others that made the state semifinals in 2012 playing in this year’s tournament.
Here’s the list of all the teams playing, their assigned brackets and pools, and the schedule of local teams’ games. Asterisks (*) denote defending state champs and pound signs (#) denote state semifinalists from last year.
Pool A: *Gulliver Prep, LaBelle, Park Vista
Pool B: *American Heritage, *Chamberlain, Western
Pool C: Osceola, Okeechobee, Key West
Pool D: #Belleview, Melbourne, Barron Collier
Pool A: *Plantation American Heritage, Charlotte, #Bishop Snyder
Pool B: Timber Creek, Palm Beach Central, #Palmetto
Pool C: Coral Reef, Doral Academy, St. Thomas Aquinas
Pool D: #Cooper City, Palm Beach Gardens, Westminster Christian
Pool A: Coral Gables, Coral Springs Charter, South Dade
Pool B: Florida Christian, Southwest, St. Brendan
Pool C: Deerfield Beach, Marathon, Naples
Pool D: Barbara Goleman, Braddock, West Broward
FRIDAY’S LOCAL-TEAM GAMES
American Heritage vs. Tampa-Chamberlain, 12 p.m.
Okeechobee vs. Kissimmee-Osceola, 12 p.m.
American Heritage vs. Davie-Western, 4 p.m.
Okeechobee vs. Key West, 4 p.m.
Park Vista vs. Pinecrest-Gulliver Prep, 6 p.m.
Palm Beach Gardens vs. Cooper City, 6 p.m.
Palm Beach Central vs. Orlando-Timber Creek, 6 p.m.
Palm Beach Gardens vs. Miami-Westminster Christian, 8 p.m.
Palm Beach Central vs. Miami-Palmetto, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY’S KEY GAMES
Blue Bracket semifinals, noon
Grey Bracket semifinals, noon
Blue Bracket consolation game, 4 p.m.
Grey Bracket consolation game, 4 p.m.
Blue Bracket championship, 6 p.m.
Grey Bracket championship, 6 p.m.
BIG LOCAL MATCHUPS
Benjamin at King’s Academy, 4 p.m.
Spanish River at Park Vista, 7 p.m.
Jupiter at Palm Beach Gardens, 7 p.m.
Dwyer at Suncoast, 7 p.m.
Palm Beach Central at Wellington, 7 p.m.
Wellington at Suncoast, 7 p.m.
Jupiter at Dwyer, 7 p.m
West Boca Raton at Boca Raton, 7 p.m.