Posted: 10:31 am Saturday, April 19th, 2014
By Anthony Chiang
With baseball district tournaments just days away, here’s a look at each one. The final two teams standing in each district will advance to regionals.
Prediction: Palm Beach Gardens over Jupiter in the final.
Breakdown: Jupiter is the hottest team in this district, but Palm Beach Gardens is the most talented. The young Warriors have won eight straight to rebound from a slow 6-11 start to clinch the top seed. But the Gators have two future Major League Draft picks at the top of their order in catcher Jj Schwarz and first baseman/pitcher Pavin Smith. Recently, Gardens has also been playing sharp baseball, winning five straight behind good pitching. The Gators have allowed just eight runs during the winning streak. However, Gardens is going to have to get by Palm Beach Central before it can get to Jupiter. The Broncos held the No. 1 seed for most of the season, but lost it after dropping their final two district games. Still, a Scott Benedict coached team is not going to be an easy out, and Central ace Shane Sawczak (5-3, 1.56 ERA in 54 innings) can shut down any team in the district if he’s on. Gardens and Central split the season series 1-1. Seminole Ridge and Wellington come in at the No. 4 and No. 5, but they are both capable of upsetting Jupiter. Each team beat Jupiter in the regular season. The Hawks pitching duo of Richie Cotromano (3-2, 2.10 ERA in 40 innings) and Jake Paez (5-2, 2.43 ERA in 46 innings) makes them a legitimate threat despite being the fifth seed.
(5) Seminole Ridge at (4) Wellington, 7 p.m.
Games at Jupiter
(2) Palm Beach Gardens vs. (3) Palm Beach Central, 7 p.m.
(1) Jupiter vs. Seminole Ridge/Wellington winner, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Park Vista
Prediction: Park Vista over Spanish River in the final.
Breakdown: When discussing the best team in this district, there is no argument. Park Vista is the class of District 10-8A and the Cobras should win this tournament. Junior Austin Smith has done it all for Park Vista, posting a 9-0 record and a 0.14 ERA in 51 innings, while batting .394. The Cobras finished with a perfect 8-0 district record. Spanish River is next on the list at No. 2. Sophomore Anthony Acino has been great for the Sharks, batting .338 with 10 RBIs. Acino will need to have a big tournament to help Spanish River move on to regionals. Boca Raton is not going to make it easy, though. The Bobcats allowed more than three runs just once over their final five games of the regular season. Santaluces and John I. Leonard have struggled this season, combining to post a 3-13 district record and 19-29 overall record.
All games at Spanish River
(4) Santaluces vs. (5) John I. Leonard, 7 p.m.
(1) Park Vista vs. Santaluces/John I. Leonard winner, 4:30 p.m.
(2) Spanish River vs. (3) Boca Raton, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Favorite: West Boca Raton
Prediction: West Boca Raton over Dwyer in the final.
Breakdown: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. The top two seeds in this district, West Boca and Dwyer, have a lot of it. The Bulls have posted nine shutouts this season, and the Panthers feature the one-two punch of Thomas Szapucki (3-1, 1.02 ERA in 34.1 innings) and Colton Rendon (5-2, 1.53 ERA in 32 innings). It’s going to be tough for No. 3 Royal Palm to get past the top two seeds, but the Wildcats showed they are capable of doing it, though. Royal Palm gave West Boca its only loss in the regular season, as Brandon Houk (4-5, 2.32 ERA in 45.1 innings) shut down the Bulls. The pitching trio of Houk, Tristan McKenzie (2-3, 0.94 ERA in 37.1 innings) and Shendell Winright (2-0, 1.60 ERA in 30.2 innings) will be the key to the Wildcats’ chances of earning a trip to regionals. Atlantic is the only other team with a winning district record, as the bottom four seeds are a combined 10-42 in the district.
(8) Palm Beach Lakes at (1) West Boca Raton, 7 p.m.
(2) Dwyer at (7) Lake Worth, 7 p.m.
(6) Forest Hill at (3) Royal Palm Beach, 7 p.m.
(5) Olympic Heights at (4) Atlantic, 7 p.m.
Games at Lake Worth
Forest Hill/Royal Palm Beach winner vs. Dwyer/Lake Worth winner, 5 p.m.
Olympic Heights/Atlantic winner vs. Palm Beach Lakes/West Boca Raton winner, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Pembroke Pines Charter
Prediction: Pembroke Pines Charter over Boynton Beach in the final.
Breakdown: After winning just four games last season, Boynton Beach is just one game away from punching a ticket to the regionals under new coach John Drouin. The Tigers have used stellar pitching from players like Brandon McCabe (4-3, 1.40 ERA in 40 innings) and Victor Hughes (2-2, 0.00 ERA in 23 innings) to turn the program around. McCabe (.327 with 15 RBIs) has also helped out with the bat. Boynton Beach (11-9) should be able to get by Stranahan, which is 5-10 this season, to get to the district final and advance to regionals. The Tigers beat Stranahan 11-0 in the regular season.
All games at Pembroke Pines Charter
(2) Boynton Beach vs. (3) Fort Lauderdale-Stranahan, 7 p.m.
Championship game – (1) Pembroke Pines Charter vs. Boynton Beach/Stranahan winner, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Palm Bay-Bayside
Prediction: Suncoast over Palm Bay-Bayside in the final.
Breakdown: Although Bayside holds the top seed, one can argue Suncoast is the best team in the district. The Chargers recorded more wins in the regular season and split the season series with Bayside. Casey Goldenberg, who is hitting almost .400, will play a big part in Suncoast’s postseason run. The Chargers need just one win to make it to the district final and advance to regionals.
All games at Melbourne-Palm Bay
(2) Suncoast vs. (3) Palm Bay, 6 p.m.
Championship game – (1) Bayside vs. Suncoast/Palm Bay winner, 6 p.m.
Favorite: Lincoln Park
Prediction: Lincoln Park over Clewiston in the final.
Breakdown This district has been a two-team race all season. Lincoln Park and Clewiston are heavy favorites to come out of this group.
(4) Pahokee at (1) Lincoln Park, 7 p.m.
(3) Glades Central at (2) Clewiston, 7 p.m.
Championship game at Clewiston, 7 p.m.
Favorite: American Heritage
Prediction: American Heritage over King’s Academy in the final.
Breakdown: This is a very tough district. It wouldn’t be surprising to see American Heritage, King’s Academy or Cardinal Newman win this tournament. But as the No. 1 seed, the Stallions, have the best chance and the easiest road at earning a trip to regionals. American Heritage went a perfect 8-0 inside the district behind the dominant arm of Brendan Brundage. The right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 53.2 innings. In addition, Jonathan India (.355, 4 HR, 17 RBIs) provides American Heritage with a power bat that can go deep at any time. King’s had been playing very well recently, beating good teams like Park Vista, Suncoast and Cardinal Newman down the stretch. But the after stringing together a five-game winning streak, King’s lost its final three games of the regular season. The Lions’ game against Cardinal Newman will be one of the best district semifinal games in the county. King’s is likely to throw ace Dominic Mercurio (4-1, 2.67 ERA in 39.1 innings). Mercurio also gets it done at the plate, as he is hitting .519 with eight doubles. Cardinal Newman posted a 3-4 record over its final seven games of the regular season. But the Crusaders need just one win to erase any memory of that and advance to regionals. Cardinal Newman will rely on the bat of Bruce Steel (.500, 4 HR, 20 RBIs), a Wake Forest commit, to ignite the offense. Pope John Paul II and St. Andrew’s will have a tough time getting to regionals, as the winner of their game will face No. 1 American Heritage in the district semifinals. Neither team beat the Stallions in the regular season.
(5) St. Andrew’s at (4) Pope John Paul II, 4 p.m.
Games at American Heritage
(2) King’s Academy vs. (3) Cardinal Newman, 4 p.m.
(1) American Heritage vs. St. Andrew’s/Pope John Paul II winner, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Melbourne Central Catholic
Prediction: Melbourne Central Catholic over Benjamin in the final.
Breakdown This is weird. The top three seeds have all beaten each other this season, which means this tournament is unpredictable. Melbourne Central Catholic split the season series with Benjamin and Florida Air Academy, Benjamin split the season series with Melbourne Central Catholic and Florida Air Academy, and Florida Air Academy split the season series with Melbourne Central Catholic and Benjamin. Got it? In other words, get ready for some competitive baseball. Benjamin will face Florida Air Academy with a trip to the regional playoffs on the line. The Buccaneers are likely to throw out dominant lefty Bennett Sousa (3-3, 1.75 ERA in 32 innings), who is committed to Virginia, against the Falcons. Benjamin won six of seven games to end the regular season.
All games at Bob Gladwin Baseball Complex in Fort Pierce
(4) John Carroll vs. (5) Vero Beach-St. Edward’s, 6 p.m.
(1) Melbourne Central Catholic vs. John Carroll/St. Edward’s winner, 6 p.m.
(2) Benjamin vs. (3) Melbourne-Florida Air Academy, 6 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Favorite: Fort Lauderdale-Westminster Academy
Prediction: Coral Springs Christian over Trinity Christian in the final.
Breakdown This is probably the most competitive district in the area. From top to bottom, the talent in this district is unreal. Trinity Christian (20-4) comes in at the No. 4 seed. That says it all. But the Warriors are as good as any team in this district. If Trinity is going to have success, ace Richard Moesker will need to be on his game. The hard throwing Moesker was roughed up against King’s Academy last week, but he still finished the season with a 6-1 record and a 1.57 ERA. Even more impressive than that, Moesker struck out 72 batters in 44.2 innings. On the offensive side, Bruce Martin leads the way. The junior leadoff hitter is batting .473 with 24 RBIs this season. The Warriors won 11 of their final 12 regular-season games. If Trinity gets by Lake Worth Christian, the Warriors will face one-seed Westminster Academy. The Warriors fell to Westminster Academy 2-1 on April 11. Oxbridge Academy is capable of upsetting No. 2 Coral Springs Christian. Thunderwolves left-hander Ben McGrath gave Coral Springs Christian trouble in the regular season, holding the Crusaders to one run and striking out five in three innings of work. Expect for McGrath to pitch for Oxbridge in the first round.
(7) Oxbridge Academy at (2) Coral Springs Christian, 4 p.m.
(6) Jupiter Christian at (3) Pompano Beach-Highlands Christian, 7 p.m.
(5) Lake Worth Christian at (4) Trinity Christian, 7 p.m.
Games at Coral Springs Christian
(1) Westminster Academy vs. Lake Worth Christian/Trinity Christian winner, 4 p.m.
Oxbridge Academy/Coral Springs Christian winner vs. Jupiter Christian/Highlands Christian winner, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 4 p.m.
Favorite: Glades Day
Prediction: Glades Day over Atlantic Christian in the final.
Breakdown: Glades Day swept through the district to finish with a perfect 8-0 record in the regular season. Behind the hitting of Oscar Ruiz and the pitching of Noel Figuroa, the Gators are heavy favorites to win this tourney. Atlantic Christian will have good chance to get the runner-up spot and advance to regionals. The bottom three teams in the district combined to post a 5-16 record inside the district.
All games at Glades Day
(5) Wellington Christian at (4) Berean Christian, 4 p.m.
(1) Glades Day vs. Wellington Christian/Berean Christian winner, 1 p.m.
(2) Atlantic Christian vs. (3) Community Christian, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 4 p.m.
Favorite: Deerfield Beach-Zion Lutheran
Prediction: Zion Lutheran over Boca Raton Christian in the final.
Breakdown: While Zion Lutheran is the favorite, Grandview Prep and Boca Raton Christian need just one win to move on to regionals. Out of those two Palm Beach County squads, Boca Raton Christian has the best shot at advancing. The Blazers are hitting .364 as a team due in part to Grant Gardiner (.485, 23 RBIs) and Tommy Havelka (.482, 13 RBIs).
All games at Boca Raton Christian
(2) Boca Raton Christian vs. (3) Grandview Prep, 4 p.m.
(1) Zion Lutheran vs. Boca Raton Christian/Grandview Prep winner, 4 p.m.
Around the Treasure Coast
Favorite: Fort Pierce Central
Prediction: Fort Pierce Central over Vero Beach in the final.
(4) Treasure Coast at (1) Fort Pierce Central, 4 p.m.
(3) Centennial at (2) Vero Beach, 7 p.m.
Championship game at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Port St. Lucie
Prediction: Port St. Lucie over Jensen Beach in the final.
(5) Fort Pierce Westwood at (4) South Fork, 6 p.m.
Games at Port St. Lucie
(2) Jensen Beach vs. (3) Okeechobee, 1 p.m.
(1) Port St. Lucie vs. Fort Pierce Westwood/South Fork winner, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 4 p.m.
About the Author
Anthony Chiang began his writing career in Gainesville at the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper. At The Independent Florida Alligator, he covered the school’s golf, volleyball, baseball, and football teams. The Miami native has also written for the Sun Sentinel and MLB.com, following the Tampa Bay Rays.