Posted: 2:18 pm Monday, April 28th, 2014

Baseball: Inside the regional quarterfinals 

By Anthony Chiang

The district tournaments are in the books and regional quarterfinals begin this week. Here’s a breakdown of each matchup involving an area team, including predictions.

Palm Beach Gardens enters the regional quarterfinals with a 20-7 record. (Photo by Bruce Bennett)

The schedule features a bunch of good games, including a Class 3A contest between two of the best pitchers in the state.

Class 8A

Jupiter (15-12) at Park Vista (23-3), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: Park Vista is arguably the best team from Palm Beach County remaining in the playoffs. The Cobras are expected to start right-hander Austin Smith, who owns a 10-0 record to go along with a fabulous 0.12 ERA. On top of that, Park Vista has scored 36 runs over its past three games and it will be playing at home Thursday. But Jupiter is capable of pulling off the upset. The Warriors are young, but they have improved tremendously since the start of the season. Before falling to Palm Beach Gardens in the District 9-8A final, Jupiter had won nine consecutive games. Senior pitcher Lance Fry (2-2, 1.02 ERA) is expected to  start on the mound for the Warriors. Park Vista beat Jupiter 6-2 in the regular season. Last year, the Warriors eliminated the Cobras in the Class 8A regional quarterfinals on their way to the state semifinals.

Prediction: Park Vista is just too strong. Jupiter is talented, but they are a year away from a deep postseason run. The Cobras will use the arm of Smith to beat the Warriors 4-1 at home.

Spanish River (17-10) at Palm Beach Gardens (20-7), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: It took Palm Beach Gardens a little bit, but the Gators are finally playing like one of the best teams in the area. Gardens started the season with a 5-4 record, but it enters regionals on a seven-game winning streak. It’s hard to struggle when the middle of your lineup features stars JJ Schwarz and Pavin Smith. The duo combined for nine RBIs in the Gators’ victory over Jupiter in the district final. Smith, who strikes out nine batters for every one walk, is also a stellar pitcher and he’s expected to start for Gardens on Thursday. Spanish River will have to find a way to string together some hits against Smith’s 95 mph fastball. The Sharks fell to Park Vista 11-1 in the District 10-8A final.

Prediction: Palm Beach Gardens is too talented and Smith is too dominant on the mound. The Gators will get past Spanish River 7-2.

Class 7A

Coconut Creek-Monarch (15-7) at Atlantic (13-14-1), Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: Atlantic might be the Cinderella story of Palm Beach County baseball this season. The Eagles entered the District 13-7A tournament with a 10-14-1 record, but the Eagles escaped with the district title after defeating top-seeded West Boca Raton and second-seeded Dwyer on consecutive nights. Atlantic is powered by the bat of senior Jarren Pinkney, who is batting .382 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. After advancing to the regional semifinals last season, the Eagles are looking to make a deeper postseason run this time around.

Prediction:
Atlantic’s Cinderella story will come to an end, as Monarch will win a wild one 8-7.

Dwyer (17-7) at Fort Lauderdale (12-9-1), Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: The Panthers will have to win on the road if they are going to make it to the regional semifinals. Dwyer is expected to start star pitcher Thomas Szapucki. The junior left-hander has struck out 45 batters in 34.1 innings pitched on his way to posting a 3-1 record and a 1.02 ERA this season. If the Florida commit is on his game, Fort Lauderdale is in trouble. The Flying L’s are led by senior Lucas Berken, who is batting .414 with a team-high 20 RBIs.

Prediction: Dwyer has been saving Szapucki for this time of year. The pitcher will shine, as the Panthers earn a 4-0 road victory to move on.

Class 6A

Boynton Beach (13-11) at Okeechobee (13-10), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: After finishing with just four wins last season, Boynton Beach has earned a trip to the regional quarterfinals under new head coach John Drouin. The Tigers are led by Ian Acevedo, who is batting .417. But Boynton Beach does not enter this matchup with much monentum, as the Tigers have dropped four of their past six games.

Prediction: Boynton Beach had an impressive turnaround season, but the Tigers will fall to Okeechobee 6-3 in the regional quarterfinals.

Class 5A

Suncoast (15-9) at Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy (25-2), Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: Suncoast is in for a difficult challenge. Archbishop McCarthy is currently ranked No. 4 in the MaxPreps national baseball rankings. In addition, Suncoast will have to make the trip to Broward County for the game, as the Mavericks have dropped just one game since Feb. 19. Archbishop McCarthy has posted 13 shutouts this season. But Suncoast will try to pull off the upset behind Casey Goldenberg, who is batting .382 with 22 RBIs this season.

Prediction: The Chargers will not be able to get past one of the best teams in country, as Archbishop McCarthy will cruise to a 7-0 win.

Class 4A

Cardinal Newman (16-11) at Coconut Creek-North Broward Prep (17-9), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: This should be a good one. Cardinal Newman has been led by Wake Forest commit Bruce Steel the entire season. Steel is batting .514 with five homers and 23 RBIs. But the Crusaders will need to get production from other players like Anthony Zaleski and Rudy Viton if they are going to get past North Broward Prep. Cardinal Newman was eliminated in the regional quarterfinals last season. On the other side, the Eagles feature Alex Ernestine (.418, 4 HRs and 19 RBIs).

Prediction: Cardinal Newman will not get eliminated in the regional quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. The Crusaders win 6-3 to advance.

Hollywood-Chaminade (11-16) at Pope John Paul II (12-16), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown: Nobody expects a team that finished seven games under .500 to advance to the regional quarterfinals. But that’s exactly what Pope John Paul II did, beating American Heritage and Cardinal Newman on its way to winning the District 13-4A title. The Eagles will likely start ace Alex Bialakis, who shut out the Stallions in a complete-game performance last week. Bialakis is 3-4 with a 2.16 ERA this season. Chaminade is another underdog that has surprised people, as it also enters the matchup with a losing record.

Prediction: Pope John Paul II will continue its magical run, beating Chaminade 3-1.

Class 3A

Benjamin (14-11) at Coral Springs Christian (20-7), Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Breakdown: If you like offense and home runs, you won’t like this game. The projected pitching matchup is about as as good as it gets. Benjamin is expected to throw out Virginia commit Bennett Sousa (4-3, 1.44 ERA) and Coral Springs Christian will most likely counter with Touki Toussaint (5-2, 0.63 ERA). Both pitchers are projected to be selected at the top end of the 2014 MLB Draft. Although Coral Springs Christian enters as the favorite, the Buccaneers have a chance in this one. After a slow start, Benjamin has won seven of its past nine games.

Prediction:
It will be close, but Coral Springs Christian will come out on top. Benjamin will lose 2-0 despite a valiant effort.

Class 2A

Vero Beach-Master’s Academy (9-7) at Glades Day (17-4), Thursday at 4 p.m.

Breakdown: Glades Day enters this game on a six-game winning streak. Behind the hitting of Oscar Ruiz and the pitching of Noel Figuroa, the Gators should take care of business.

Prediction:
Glades Day will win 8-3 to move on to the regional semifinals.

Atlantic Christian (8-8) at Merritt Island Christian (12-8-1), Thursday at 5 p.m.

Breakdown: Atlantic Christian played a tough schedule this year and it should come back to help the Saints in the postseason. Ronald Ramadan is the big bat in Atlantic Christian’s lineup.

Prediction: Regular-season losses against Seminole Ridge and Suncoast will prove to be valuable for the Saints this week. Atlantic Christian will pull off a 5-4 upset.

Boca Raton Christian (12-12) at Hollywood-Sheridan Hills Christian (2-9), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Breakdown:
Boca Raton Christian is led by senior Grant Gardiner, who accumulated a team-high 24 RBIs and 20 stolen bases this season. The Blazers will get a favorable matchup in the first round of regionals.

Prediction: Boca Raton Christian will breeze past Sheridan Hills Chrsitian 8-2.

Around the Treasure Coast

Class 8A
Fort Pierce Central (13-9) at Winter Park (21-5), Thursday at 7 p.m.

Class 7A
Martin County (17-9) at Naples-Gulf Coast (20-4), Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Class 6A
South Fork (6-17-1) at Pembroke Pines Charter (17-4), Thursday at 7 p.m.

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