Posted: 2:16 pm Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Baseball: The Post’s Top 10 for Tuesday, March 12, 2013 

By Matt Porter

It’s mid-March and we’re starting to see teams put it together. Three have separated from the pack, and a fourth is heading with them. The final six spots in the rankings are in a constant state of flux. Here’s how the area shakes out:

The Palm Beach Post Top 10

1. Jupiter (9-0) Area’s deepest, most consistent squad
2. Palm Beach Central (8-2) Beat everyone in 9-8A but Jupiter
3. Palm Beach Gardens (7-3) Solidly in area’s upper tier
4. Benjamin (9-1) Allowed just 13 runs in 10 games
5. Wellington (6-5) Still making young-pup mistakes
6. Atlantic (6-5) Six wins after five losses
7. Dwyer (3-6) Test vs. Park Vista this week
8. Trinity Christian (5-5) Routed by Benjamin last Friday
9. King’s Academy (5-5) Three L’s in a row, all to ranked teams
10. Park Vista (7-1) Young Cobras looking good
On the bubble: Santaluces (6-4), American Heritage (5-6), West Boca Raton (4-2)
Best of the Treasure Coast: Jensen Beach (7-2), Martin County (6-1), John Carroll (9-1)

With strong pitchers like senior Kyle Keatts, Jupiter has taken down all challengers so far. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)

With strong pitchers like senior Kyle Keatts, Jupiter has taken down all challengers so far. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)

The top three teams in the area aren’t leaving many doubts. Jupiter hasn’t lost, Palm Beach Central lost in the Slam and then to Jupiter, and Palm Beach Gardens lost to Central, Jupiter and a team from Polk County (Auburndale). They’ve handled everyone else. Jupiter’s most impressive quality is its depth. The Warriors are loaded with experienced arms and few position players can afford to get comfortable, knowing someone behind them can push for more playing time. Central has a strong 1-2 (John Padich, Jorge Alfonso) and is very good up the middle. The lineup can go quiet at times, but there’s a lot of production in those bats. Gardens seems to have filled the holes caused by graduation, and its young core is a year older. Ace Joey Boyd is still regaining his form.

Then we have Benjamin. Ah, the old big-school/small-school debate. Benjamin’s schedule doesn’t include all of the area’s top teams – though Palm Beach Central is lurking at the end – but the Bucs have already played plenty of strong opponents: Jensen Beach, Summit Christian, King’s Academy, Trinity Christian and South Fork. And more importantly, they’ve ripped through their schedule, for the most part. Before Monday’s 11-1 win over South Fork (which pushed the Bucs’ record to 9-1), they hadn’t allowed a run in four games. They’ve pitched six shutouts this year and have allowed just 13 runs in 10 games. They’ll carry a chip on their shoulder on Wednesday against John Carroll, the only team to beat them this year.

The rest of the pecking order is less solid. Wellington would be a district title contender in other places, but is just 1-3 in a brutal District 9-8A. There’s a good amount of talent there, including some fine pitchers (Spencer Stockton, Nick Lawrence and Mike Rodriguez), but mental mistakes have hurt the Wolverines. Atlantic started the year 0-5, but has won six games in a row. You’ll remember last year, when the Eagles started 0-4, then won 12 in a row and eventually made it to state. Not saying this team has that run in them, but they’re certainly not scared of a slow start.

Dwyer has the perhaps the most disappointing start of any area team. Our preseason No. 1 has just three wins, and has beat just one team with a record above .500. The Panthers went 0-4 in the first round of 9-8A play. Trinity Christian surprised early, starting 3-0 and handing Palm Beach Central its only loss. But the Warriors are 2-5 since. Included in that is a split with King’s Academy, which has lost three in a row. The Lions’ recent losses were to ranked opponents (Benjamin, Trinity Christian and Atlantic). They have a tough test Thursday at home against Wellington.

Finally, there’s Park Vista, which makes its debut in our rankings. The Cobras have been mashing – they’ve outscored opponents 69-13 – but that’s not the whole story. The opponents so far are a combined 22-54; just one of the seven teams they’ve beat (John I. Leonard) is over .500. You can’t go by record alone. Luckily for the Cobras, they get to show what they’re made of this week. They have four games: at Central (Tues.), Santaluces (Wed.), John I. Leonard (Fri.), at Dwyer (Sat.).

As far as the bubble teams, Santaluces is 6-4 and counts wins over American Heritage, Atlantic and Summit Christian. Beating Park Vista (Tues.) and Atlantic (next Tues.) would open eyes. Both of those games are on the road. American Heritage hasn’t shown the depth it had during last year’s state run, but still has enough talent to give Gardens (Thurs.) and Central (next Fri.) pause. Plus, the Stallions have shut out District 13-3A rival Summit Christian twice now. They turn their attention to Wednesday’s big district game against Pope John Paul II, which is a respectable 7-5. West Boca Raton started 0-2, but has put together four wins in a row. Tuesday’s home game against Atlantic should tell us how far the Bulls have really come.

We’re two weeks away from spring break, which is usually a good thing for teams. Some, like Gardens last year, seem to catch fire over the break. We’ll see. Thoughts on the rankings? Leave them below.