Posted: 11:34 pm Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Baseball regional finals preview: Jupiter, West Boca, King’s Academy looking for state berths 

By Matt Porter

Regional finals are here, and three Palm Beach County teams are left. Here’s how Jupiter matches up with Flanagan, how West Boca stacks up with St. Thomas Aquinas, and King’s Academy’s chances against Clearwater Central Catholic.

All games Friday. Admission is $7.

CLASS 8A: Jupiter (22-4) at Pembroke Pines-Flanagan (20-5), 7 p.m.

Up for grabs: Orlando-Olympia/Altamonte Springs-Lake Brantley winner in Class 8A state semifinal, Friday, May 17 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers

JUPITER

Jupiter

Jupiter

On the mound: Senior lefty Scott Danek (6-0, 1.17 in team-high 36 innings) pitched a four-hit shutout in Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Seminole Ridge. Next to get the ball: a mystery. It could be senior Kyle Keatts (3-1, 3.88, 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings), senior Hunter Halsey (0.00, 3 saves in 12.2 innings), junior Brandon Keithley (2-0, 3.13 in 15.2 innings) or senior Parker Hamilton (4.04, 28 strikeouts in 17.1 innings). It will not be senior Lance Fry (6-1, 1.29 in 32.2 innings), who will likely miss the rest of the season with an injury.

At the plate: Everyone’s hitting for the Warriors these days, though senior center fielder Peter Sitaras (large schools-best .519), senior first baseman Johnny McCarthy (.408, 4 HR, 31 RBI) and junior catcher Logan Heiser (.418) have the best numbers. Against Ridge, senior right fielder Pat Walther (.375, 20 RBI) went 3-for-3 with a homer, a triple and 3 RBI.

In the dugout: In 2012, Andy Mook took over for Doug Ferguson, who retired after 21 years. His first season ended in the District 9-8A semifinals with a 6-1 loss to Dwyer. This year has been markedly different. The Warriors started 14-0, climbing as high as No. 14 in the MaxPreps national rankings, and have lost just four games since. This is the first trip to the regional finals for Jupiter, which first made the playoffs in 1964.

FLANAGAN

Flanagan

Flanagan

On the mound: Flanagan beat Parkland-Douglas 3-0 in Tuesday’s regional semifinal thanks to sophomore ace Gentry Fortuno, who struck out 10, including six over the final three innings. Fortuno has yet to lose a game in his high school career; he’s 9-0 this season and 17-0 overall. In 67 innings, he has fanned 85 and walked 10. Juniors Alex Sarmiento (7-1, 1.26) and Chris Rodriguez (1-2, 2.38) and lefty Kharlin Sued (3-2, 1.52) have pitched all but 4.1 of Flanagan’s innings.

At the plate: The Falcons’ home field is uniquely shaped, with a short porch in center about 250 feet from the plate. In any park, junior first baseman Ryan Dodge (.483, 3 HR, 26 RBI) can rake. Senior second baseman Andres Visbal (.360, 3 HR) is a threat, as is freshman outfielder Eric Rivera (.313).

In the dugout: Coach Ray Evans, in his 10th season, has three state championships (2005, ’06 and ’10). The Falcons were named 2010 national champions by Baseball America. He has coached a playoff team in all of his 10 years but one (2009). How’s this for success: Flanagan, opened in 1996, first made the playoffs in 1999. Since then, the Falcons have missed once.

CLASS 7A: West Boca Raton (20-6) Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas (18-6), 7 p.m.


Up for grabs:
Haines City/Harmony winner in Class 7A state semifinal, Friday, May 17 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers

WEST BOCA RATON

West Boca Raton

West Boca Raton

On the mound: Senior Brad Busch stepped up after West Boca lost ace Sean Gabel to an arm injury in the preseason. Busch went 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. Junior Angelo Dovas, who allowed five hits and one unearned run in a 2-1 win over Santaluces in a regional quarterfinal, could be a second option. The Bulls will have all pitchers available.

At the plate: West Boca has no problem producing in the clutch. The Bulls beat 2012 state semifinalist Atlantic four times — twice in the regular season, once in the District 14-7A title game and, most recently and importantly, in Tuesday’s regional semifinal – each by one run. It was a sixth-inning sac fly, a shallow pop to right on which junior Joe White ran aggressively, that scored the winning run on Tuesday. Especially productive: senior Sean Kuchta (.403, 2 HR, 22 RBI), junior catcher Gary Garcia (.380), White (.358), junior shortstop Koby Pepia (.347) and freshman DH Dominic Ingross (.364).

In the dugout: In 2011, rookie coach Nick Siano took over a star-studded team and led it to a state title. The Bulls were bounced out of last year’s regional semifinal (by Atlantic, naturally). This season has been some of Siano’s best work. After losing his two best players – Gabel and catcher Michael Barash, who elected to skip his senior season and enroll early at LSU – he has led the Bulls to the brink of another state appearance.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

On the mound: Aquinas’ 1-2 of senior lefty Alec Byrd (7-2, 1.34, 92 strikeouts in 57.2 innings) and senior righty Frank Rubio (7-2, 1.71, 74 strikeouts in 49 innings) have carried the Raiders all season. Rubio got the start in Wednesday’s 8-5 regional semifinal win over Davie-Nova, so count him out. The Bulls will see Byrd, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound Florida State commit who throws in the high-80s.

At the plate: Some big bats in this lineup, such as 6-2, 185-pound sophomore shortstop Christian Demby (.460, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 12 steals), Byrd (.354, 2 HR, 26 RBI) and junior outfielders Ross Thibeault (.203, 4 HR) and Rafael Amanau (.411). Senior outfielder Peter Nicoletto (.338, 16 steals) is dangerous on the bases.

In the dugout: The Raiders have been one of Broward’s best baseball programs for the last two-plus decades. Under coach Bobby Lawson, they made the regional playoffs every year since 2001, with a state title in 2003. After a state final four appearance in 2010, Aquinas was one-and-done in 2011 and ’12, after which Lawson resigned. First-year coach Troy Cameron, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves out of Aquinas in 1997, has the Raiders looking at another state run.

CLASS 3A: Clearwater Central Catholic (25-4) at King’s Academy (17-12), 4 p.m.

Up for grabs: Jacksonville-Providence/Daytona Beach-Father Lopez winner in Class 3A state semifinal, Monday, May 20 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers

CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC

Clearwater Central Catholic

Clearwater Central Catholic

On the mound: Right-hander David Paul (8-0, 1.74 ERA, 73 strikeouts in 52.2 regular-season innings) pitched CCC to a win over Clearwater-Calvary Christian, allowing three hits and striking out nine. He also pitched a two-hitter against Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney in the quarterfinals. Junior Mike Del Monte (6-0, 2.44) and Tyler Simmons combined for a win in the District 9-3A final.

At the plate: CCC strung together a big inning – three RBI singles and two errors – to grab a 7-1 win in the regional semifinals. Senior outfielder Johnny Karaphillis (.430), junior second baseman Derek Gibree (.420), sophomore catcher Andrew Mink (.378) and Steton Hill-bound infielder Benito Mendizabal (.378) are CCC’s most consistent hitters, while junior third baseman Brendan Overton (.345, Pinellas County-best 5 HR, 31 RBI) brings the boom.

In the dugout: The Marauders have 16 regional appearances in last 22 years under coach Todd Vaughan. They have reached the regional finals six times since 2001, winning state titles in 2002 and 2007. CCC won 16 games in a row, tying a school record that was set in 2002, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That year, CCC won the state title.

KING’S ACADEMY

King's Academy

King's Academy

On the mound: King’s staff is over the early-season strike-throwing struggles and has pitched confidently of late. King’s could use any combination of seniors John Monte (4-2, 2.68), Jacob Krigbaum (5-4, 2.82, 40 strikeouts in 44.2 innings) and closer John Carpenter (6 saves, 1.83 ERA), who has walked four batters and struck out 17 in 23 innings. Sophomore lefty Matt Tucker (3-0, 3.06) is a change-of-pace option.

At the plate: The Lions have a deep and productive lineup led by junior catcher Ryan Johnson (.462, 10 doubles), freshman first baseman James Vaughan (.375, 23 RBI), junior third baseman Dominic Mercurio (.346) and outfielder Carpenter (.375). They average slightly more than 5 runs per game and have been held under three runs six times in 29 games. King’s runs well, too: Carpenter and Krigbaum are a combined 24-of-29 on steal attempts; King’s is 57-of-69 as a team.

In the dugout: Under former coach Wayne Sewell, King’s won state titles in 1992 and 2001. Though he’s still looking for his first state berth, Doug Magaw has brought the Lions to the regional final in each of the last four seasons and is regarded as one of the area’s finest coaches. Look no further than his handling of Tucker, whom he held out against rival Benjamin in two regular-season games. When he unleashed him in the district final, the Bucs’ talented lineup struggled.