Posted: 10:47 am Monday, March 31st, 2014

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

By Anthony Chiang

Palm Beach Central made a statement last week.

Palm Beach Central handed Park Vista its first of the season on Saturday. (Photo by Bill Ingram)

With two big wins, including one over No. 1 Park Vista, the Broncos made it clear that they are a team to watch as the postseason nears. Here is how Central’s hot play affected the rankings.

Post Top 10
1. Park Vista (15-1): Suffered first loss Saturday.
2. West Boca Raton (13-1): On seven-game winning streak.
3. Dwyer (11-4): Duke Stunkel hitting .415 for the Panthers.
4. Palm Beach Central (13-5-1): Beat district foe Wellington and No. 1 Park Vista last week.
5. Trinity Christian (14-3): Byron Murray leads Warriors with team-high 23 RBIs.
6. Palm Beach Gardens (13-6): Starting to hit stride with wins in six of past seven.
7. American Heritage (12-6): Own impressive team ERA of 1.71.
8. Cardinal Newman (11-6): Bruce Steel hitting .533 with team-high 14 RBIs.
9. Wellington (12-6): Big game against Seminole Ridge this week.
10. Seminole Ridge (12-6): Riding four-game winning streak.

It finally happened. A team found a way to beat Park Vista. Central handed the Cobras their first loss of the season behind strong pitching from sophomore Anthony Maldonado. But Park Vista stayed at No. 1. It will take another loss to bump the Cobras from that spot, as one game can’t erase their impressive 15-0 start. As for the Broncos, they moved up one spot to No. 4 after wins over Wellington and Park Vista last week. Central sits atop a competitive District 9-8A with just two district games remaining. That’s pretty good for a team that lost seven starters from last season’s team.

Quietly, Palm Beach Gardens is starting to look like the team everybody expected them to be before the season started. The Gators have the talent, but a slow start to district play has them at the bottom of District 9-8A. However, there is still time for Gardens to move up in the standings before the postseason. On Friday, the Gators unleashed Virginia commit Pavin Smith, allowing him to pitch four innings in a win over Suncoast. The left-hander, who hits 95 mph on the gun, struck out eight. Look for Gardens to allow Smith to pitch more as the postseason nears.

Seminole Ridge made its way back into the rankings after a four-game winning streak. The Hawks still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in District 9-8A, but they will have to find a way to get by Wellington and Gardens over the next two weeks to have a chance. Carmine Cioffoletti has been swinging the bat well for Seminole Ridge, entering the week with a .368 batting average and a team-high 12 RBIs.

Games of the Week

No. 9 Wellington (12-6) at No. 10 Seminole Ridge (12-6), Tuesday at 7 p.m.: One team will keep its hopes of getting District 9-8A’s No. 1 seed alive, the other will have them pretty much erased. This is going to be a good one between two squads that have been consistently solid throughout the season. In their first matchup of the season, Wellington won 2-1 behind a very good pitching performance from Spencer Stockton. I have a feeling Stockton will be on the mound for the Wolverines on Tuesday, too.

No. 7 American Heritage (12-6) at No. 4 Palm Beach Central (13-5-1), Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.: The Broncos are riding a tall wave of momentum after wins over Wellington and Park Vista last week. But Palm Beach Central will face another tough test when it goes up against American Heritage this week. The Stallions will be out to avenge a 12-1 loss to Central in the Santaluces Slam, which is the most lopsided loss of the season for American Heritage.

Royal Palm Beach (11-7) at No. 2 West Boca Raton (13-1), Saturday at 6:30 p.m. After losing four straight, Royal Palm Beach got back on track with two wins last week. And on Saturday, the Wildcats can erase any memories from that losing streak with a win over West Boca Raton. The Bulls and the Wildcats are tied for first place in District 13-7A. But West Boca will enter the matchup as the favorite, as it features one of the top pitching staffs in the county.