Posted: 11:53 am Monday, March 24th, 2014

Softball: Inside the Top 10, plus this week’s top matchups 

By Jodie Wagner

Softball diamonds were quiet for the most part last week, as most of our top 10 took a brief hiatus for spring break.

Palm Beach Gardens and American Heritage were the only teams to see action, as the Gators played nationally ranked Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday (5-3 loss) and state-ranked Plantation-American Heritage on Saturday (4-2 loss), and the Stallions played South Sumter Friday (7-2 win) and Citrus Saturday(10-3 loss) at the Leopard Softball Slam in Brooksville.

All five of Palm Beach Gardens’ losses this season are to state-ranked teams, including two to Wellington and two to unbeaten St. Thomas Aquinas. The Gators held their spot at No. 4 this week, behind Jupiter, Park Vista and Wellington.

There are plenty of good games to keep an eye on this week, as Wellington plays back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday against Spanish River and Jupiter, respectively, and Park Vista, Palm Beach Gardens, Dwyer and Palm Beach Central also will see plenty of action.

Here is a look at our top 10 this week:

  1. Jupiter (15-2): Warriors have won four straight
  2. Park Vista (16-3): Seven batters over .400
  3. Wellington (12-3): Plays No. 1 Jupiter Thurs.
  4. Palm Beach Gardens (12-5): All losses to ranked teams
  5. Spanish River (9-2): Faces No. 3 Wellington Wed.
  6. Trinity Christian (9-1): Pitching, offense key for Warriors
  7. Dwyer (8-3): Panthers gaining momentum
  8. Palm Beach Central (12-4): Broncos have won nine straight
  9. American Heritage (10-6): Stallions drop 3 of 4
  10. West Boca Raton (8-3): Marina Costa hitting .520

Games to watch this week:

No. 4 Palm Beach Gardens at No. 9 Palm Beach Central, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.: The Gators have played a very tough schedule both within and out of the county. All five of their losses have come against state- or nationally ranked teams, including Wellington, Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas and Plantation-American Heritage. The Broncos will be another tough opponent. Palm Beach Central swept all four of its games at the Jupiter Spring Break Tournament to move back into our poll. Senior pitcher Amanda Blanchard is 12-4 with a 1.02 ERA and 134 strikeouts. The Gators counter with sophomore Bailey Whalen, who is 7-3 with a 1.11 ERA. Expect a battle between the two.

No. 1 Jupiter at No. 3 Wellington, Thursday, 7 p.m.: The Warriors moved up to No. 1 in our poll last week after winning all four of their games at the Jupiter Spring Break Tournament. Jupiter is getting solid pitching from starter Megan Jeffrey, who is 10-2 with a 1.02 ERA and 114 strikeouts. The Wolverines beat Palm Beach Gardens for the second time before the break and won three of four at the Jupiter tournament. Starter Stephanie Schmidt is 7-2 with a 1.66 ERA and also is hitting .522, just behind teammate Amanda Peck at .536.

No. 10 West Boca Raton at No. 5 Spanish River, Friday, 7 p.m.: The cross-town rivals meet for the second time this season following the Sharks’ 4-3 victory Feb. 28 on the road. Spanish River lost its second game of the season to Park Vista just before the break.  The Bulls beat Royal Palm Beach. Marina Costa is hitting .520 for West Boca.