Posted: 5:05 pm Monday, April 8th, 2013

Softball: Inside the Top 10, stat leaders and more 

By Jeff Greer

The Palm Beach County softball rankings look different from last week.

I’ll be the first to admit I struggled with this top 10. First off, Jupiter‘s still my No. 1. But I popped a new team at No. 2, and it may spark some fierce debate. I’ll get to the whys after you read the rankings.

The Post Top 10
1. Jupiter (17-4)
2. Palm Beach Gardens (15-7)
3. Palm Beach Central (15-8)
4. Park Vista (17-5)
5. American Heritage (14-6)
6. Wellington (14-7)
7. West Boca Raton (17-5)
8. Suncoast (11-9)
9. Dwyer (9-9)
10. Spanish River (9-4)
Also considered: Boca, King’s Academy, Seminole Ridge, Glades Day.
Best of the Treasure Coast: Lincoln Park, Okeechobee, John Carroll, Jensen Beach.

Hear me out on No. 2. First of all, weekly rankings, to me, signal which teams are playing the best softball right now. In other words, head-to-head results that aren’t fresh may not really matter to me. When I rank these teams each week, I’m basically saying that, on Monday when the rankings come out, here’s who I think would win a head-to-head game between these two schools.

Gardens jumped to the second spot because of a win that sent ripples through the state softball community. A 1-0 win against Plantation-American Heritage is a game-changer. Why? The Plantation version of Heritage was the top-ranked team in the state in the Miracle Sports rankings last week. Gardens all season has been a “what if?” kind of team. We know the Gators can hit with anyone in the state (and country, for that matter). Can they field consistently? What about their pitching? We got a resounding answer to those questions on Saturday.

Palm Beach Central had a wonderful close to the season, with ace pitcher Amanda Blanchard taking the area lead in both strikeouts and wins. Kasandra Castle looms as a serious Player of the Year contender with a .533 batting average, four home runs and 26 RBIs. The Broncos dealt with some turmoil in the offseason (I have a story coming on them this week) and are now in position to make a run in the district and regional playoffs. Of course, they’re the most dangerous No. 3 seed in the state. As I’ve referenced in a few places, Central lost out on first-place tiebreakers with Gardens and Jupiter. Both teams had more district road wins.

Park Vista just beat American Heritage, which was the highest-ranked Palm Beach County team in last week’s state rankings, but I suspect that’ll change. I fully expect both teams to at least win their district tournaments next week. Heritage has its sights set on another state title. Vista’s got a much tougher road, but the Cobras beat Central and played both Gardens and Jupiter tough.

Wellington has gone through some mid-season changes, with a different coaching staff behind head coach Mark Boretti and pitcher Remi Losey out for the season, but I do think Wellington, in any other district, would probably make the regional playoffs. West Boca is a team I find intriguing, and could be a dark horse in the Class 7A tournament.

Suncoast jumps into the top 10 with wins over Boca and Spanish River. The Chargers also come on at the end of the season, and have put up some nice victories this year, including one against Gardens. Dwyer has one of the area’s leading hitters in Kelsey Huff, and first-year coach Eddie Wallace deserves some credit for making the Panthers far more competitive than they were a year ago, even if they’re winless in District 9-8A. It is, after all, the toughest district in the state, with Central, Gardens, Jupiter and Wellington.

To the stats!

LARGE SCHOOLS (6A-8A)

Batting
Angela Vasquez (Forest Hill) .627
Savannah Fruin (Spanish River) .622
Kelsey Huff (Dwyer) .569
Haley Gonzales (West Boca) .564
Shay Fitzgerald (Atlantic) .542
Kasandra Castle (Palm Beach Central) .533
Maxise Hillaire (Lake Worth) .489
Samantha Howard (Spanish River) .489
Emily Lochten (Park Vista) .481
Victoria Rogers (Atlantic) .464

HOME RUNS
Savannah Fruin 4, Kasandra Castle 4, Emily Lochten 4, Victoria Manning 4, Ta’Coia Williams 4, Virginia Spring 4.

RBIs
Kasandra Castle 26, Ta’Coia Williams 26, Angela Vasquez 23, Haley Gonzales 23, Minnie Cocuzza 23.

PITCHING
Amanda Blanchard (Central) 15-8, 1.99 ERA, 178 strikeouts, 142 IP
Kylee Hanson (Jupiter) 13-3, 1.18 ERA, 175 strikeouts, 106 IP
Sammy Wroblewski (Spanish River) 9-3, 0.84 ERA, 98 strikeouts, 67 IP
Brittany Urie (West Boca) 9-2, 0.97 ERA, N/A strikeouts, 58 IP
Kelsey Lay (Gardens) 8-2, 1.87 ERA, N/A strikeouts, 86 IP

SMALL SCHOOLS (2A-5A)

BATTING
Cali Gumpel (Wellington Christian) .714
Calli Norton (PJPII) .667
Arden Pettit (BEN) .641
Becca Gomez (TKA) .625
Loren Kilgore (JCS) .611
Kristen Wright (TKA) .611
Kiana Rivera (JCS) .600
Soclaina Van Gurp (TC) .595
Alex Link (BRC) .592
Corrie Boggess (AH) .550

HOME RUNS
Taylor Martin (LPA) 8, Cali Gumpel 5, Soclaina Van Gurp 5, Melissa McBride (LPA) 4.

RBIs
Cali Gumpel 41, Calli Norton 40, Lizzie Rahal (JCAR) 34, Tyler Chnupa 32, Rachel Taylo 25.

PITCHING
Taylor Strickland (LPA) 13-2, 1.06 ERA, 104 strikeouts, 86 IP
Jalysa Semenuk (WC) 10-4, 2.70 ERA, 128 strikeouts, 77 2/3 IP
Corrie Boggess (AH) 7-2, 0.86 ERA, N/A strikeouts, 41 IP
Philny Llewellyn (TC) 7-1, 0.84 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 58 IP
Lizzie Rahal (JCAR) 7-2, 2.38 ERA, 63 strikeouts, 67 2/3 IP

MATCHUPS OF THE WEEK

Monday
Grandview Prep at Spanish River

Tuesday
Spanish River at Wellington
Park Vista at West Boca
Boca at Dwyer
Seminole Ridge at Palm Beach Central

Wednesday
Wellington at Plantation-American Heritage

Thursday
Dwyer at Park Vista
Seminole Ridge at Suncoast
West Boca at Jupiter

Friday
Jupiter at Plantation-American Heritage

Saturday
Palm Beach Gardens at Pembroke Pines Charter