Posted: 4:02 pm Monday, March 25th, 2013
By Jeff Greer
Remember that horrible Nelly song in which the rapper asks, “What does it take to be No. 1?” For Palm Beach County softball, at this point in the season, all it takes is losing the least.
Four of the top five teams in the county lost last week, and the fifth lost enough the week before to warrant a holding pattern on judging them.
Palm Beach Central beat Jupiter before losing to Plantation-American Heritage. Jupiter then turned around and won four in a row over the weekend, albeit against lesser competition. American Heritage lost to Plantation-American Heritage, too, but beat Trinity Christian as expected the next day. Park Vista, after winning its first two games of the week, lost to Wellington. And Gardens won its only game of the week, an impressive win over Gulliver Prep, but a few losses the week before kept the Gators from climbing the rankings.
To sum, everything’s still chaos. If you think you know which team is the best, think again.
Here’s the top 10, with an expanded “also considered” list:
The Post Top 10
1. Jupiter (16-4)
2. American Heritage (12-3)
3. Palm Beach Central (10-7)
4. Palm Beach Gardens (11-6)
5. Park Vista (16-5)
6. Wellington (13-5)
7. West Boca Raton (13-5)
8. Dwyer (9-7)
9. Boca Raton (10-10)
10. Spanish River (9-3)
Also considered: Suncoast, King’s Academy, Seminole Ridge, Grandview Prep, Benjamin.
Best of the Treasure Coast: Lincoln Park, Okeechobee, John Carroll, Jensen Beach.
The most interesting district in the state, 9-8A, has three teams in the top five and all five district members in the top eight. Jupiter and Gardens started the season as the favorites. Central loomed as a dark horse. Wellington had a solid group. Dwyer began with a new coach.
The district standings give us no sign of things to come:
* Jupiter is 5-2 with one final game against Wellington.
* Gardens is 6-2 and done with district games, with series splits against Central and Jupiter.
* Central’s 4-2 with favorable matchups against Dwyer and Wellington remaining.
* Wellington stands at 2-4.
* Dwyer is winless at 0-7, but still competes very well in district games.
If you’re still with me, that means one team out of Central, Gardens and Jupiter could end up having its entire postseason dictated by a “blind draw.” In a class that almost always features a Palm Beach County team as the state-title favorite, it’s a shame one team won’t even get to the regional playoffs.
Plantation American Heritage will be on a Palm Beach County tour next week, with games against Gardens, Jupiter and Park Vista.
This week, our American Heritage, Central, Gardens, Jensen Beach and Okeechobee head to the Kissimmee Klassic. Check out the tournament’s website for the full info. The schedule’s listed below.
Nos. 7 through 10 leave a lot to be desired. West Boca’s impossible to read, and Boca, Dwyer and Spanish River are trying to push into the top group of 8A, but that’s a tall order. King’s Academy and Suncoast, in particular, have come on later in the season.
Large Schools Player of the Year Watch
Kylee Hanson, P, Sr., Jupiter
If it’s a pitcher, and it almost always is, Hanson’s the obvious choice. Her return this spring meant Jupiter would once again have the state tournament on its mind. Her rise ball is the best in the area, and she combines good stuff with great power. If a pitcher’s leading her team to state, it’s Hanson. Plus, she’s the area’s winningest pitcher and has the most strikeouts, and she can swing the bat. Also, I’d be remiss to skip a mention of catcher Alex Arciola, who both defensively and offensively has put together a standout season as Hanson’s batterymate. Hanson stats: 12-3, 1.16 ERA, 167 strikeouts, 102 innings pitched, 2 home runs, 17 RBIs.
Emily Lochten, C/SS, Jr., Park Vista
Hanson’s already signed with FAU; Lochten verbally committed to the Owls. Not a bad season for these two, either. Lochten is a fantastic athlete and a great fielder with a cannon for an arm. At times over the past few seasons she was inconsistent and hard to read. This year’s she’s been the rock-solid leader of a very good Park Vista team. She’s one of the area’s most complete players. Lochten stats: .481 batting average, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs.
Kasandra Castle, IF, Jr., Palm Beach Central
Palm Beach Central’s senior-laden squad certainly has plenty of talent, but Castle’s the most consistently mentioned player by opposing coaches. She and pitcher Amanda Blanchard have been huge for the dark-horse Broncos. Castle stats: .498 batting average, 3 home runs, 17 RBIs.
Minnie Cocuzza, OF, Soph., Palm Beach Gardens
An emerging star in a loaded lineup, Cocuzza burst onto the scene with some eye-popping performances in March, including a 4-for-4 night against Palm Beach Central. She leads Gardens in RBIs, with 22, and rates third in the county in that category. She’s got a rocket arm, and is still improving. She has several teammates who could push for a mention, including third baseman Sydney Jones (2 HRs, 16 RBIs), Ta’Coia Williams (3 HRs, 18 RBIs) and Virginia Spring (3 HRs, 18 RBIs). Cocuzza stats: .350 batting average, 22 RBIs.
Small Schools Player of the Year Watch
Brianne Lint, C/IF, Jr., Suncoast
Second year in a row a Suncoast kid is at the top of heap in hitting. (Reminder: We include Class 5A with the smaller schools to even out the numbers for All-County, but during the season the stats are split 5A-8A and 1A-4A by our computers.) Lint leads in homers, and is close to the top in both average and RBIs for a solid Suncoast club that’s beaten Gardens and several other good teams this spring. Lint stats: .468 batting average, 6 HRs, 29 RBIs.
Corrie Boggess, P, Sr., American Heritage
The steady righty dominates at the small-schools level, with all kinds of stats to back up her accolades as Small Schools Player of the Year last spring. She’s considered one of the tougher outs in the area when she hits, and her pitching helped the Stallions to a repeat state title in 2012. Her team’s loaded behind her, but Boggess is the centerpiece. Boggess stats: .550 batting average, 3 HRs, 21 RBIs, 7-1, 0.86 ERA, 41 innings pitched, 47 strikeouts.
Arden Pettit, C, Jr., Benjamin
One of the area’s best all-around players, Pettit is a dynamite defensive catcher and has the hitting to back it up. She’s committed to Stanford, and carries a Bucs’ team playing in a tough district. Pettit stats: .641 batting average, 2 HRs, 11 RBIs.
Games of the Week
There aren’t too many local games this week with everyone on spring break, with the exception of the Kissimmee Klassic at the end of the week. Here’s a few good ones, plus big-time games next week.
King’s Academy at Royal Palm Beach
Palm Beach Gardens vs. West Orange, 1 p.m.
Okeechobee vs. Sarasota Riverview, 1 p.m.
Jensen Beach vs. Pine Castle Christian, 1 p.m.
Palm Beach Central vs. Florida Christian, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 2
Park Vista at American Heritage
Spanish River at Suncoast
Wednesday, April 3
Jupiter at Wellington
Palm Beach Central at Dwyer
Thursday, April 4
Park Vista at Plantation American Heritage
West Boca Raton at Palm Beach Central
Friday, April 5
King’s Academy at American Heritage
Jupiter at Plantation American Heritage
Palm Beach Gardens at Florida Christian
Saturday, April 6
Plantation American Heritage at Palm Beach Gardens