Posted: 1:40 pm Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Baseball: Inside the state semifinals 

By Anthony Chiang

Only one baseball team from Palm Beach County remains.

Park Vista hopes to celebrate again this weekend. (Photo by Bill Ingram)

Park Vista hopes to celebrate again this weekend. (Photo by Bill Ingram)

Park Vista will fight to stay alive against Valrico-Bloomingdale in the Class 8A state semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m. The Cobras have never won a state title, but they are hoping to change that this weekend.

Here’s some stuff to help keep track of the games in Fort Myers:

Here are the updated brackets: 8A, 7A, 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A.

Here is the complete schedule for this year’s state tournament.

I’ll be in Fort Myers following Park Vista’s state tournament run, so make sure to follow me on Twitter for news and updates from the games.

If you are able to make it up to Fort Myers, admission is $9 per day at JetBlue Park.

Finally, here is what you need to know about Park Vista’s matchup.

Class 8A state semifinals

Park Vista (26-3) vs. Valrico-Bloomingdale (20-9), Friday at 1 p.m.

After escaping a difficult region, Park Vista feels battle-tested as it enters the state tournament. It marks the Cobras’ first appearance in the final four since 2011, when Park Vista fell to Jose Fernandez and Tampa Alonso in the state semifinals. The Cobras have advanced to the state tournament three times before this season, but they have only advanced to the state final once (2008). In other words, Park Vista, which has not won a state title, has not had much success in the state tournament.

But this year could be different, as the Cobras are nationally ranked and enter as the favorite to win the Class 8A state title. Out of the four teams remaining, Park Vista has the fewest losses with three, as Bloomingdale (20-9), DeLand (21-11) and Homestead-South Dade (21-6) have combined to post a 62-26 record. The Cobras are led by junior pitcher Austin Smith, who is 12-0 with a sparkling 0.30 ERA. Smith is expected pitch Friday, which is bad news for Bloomingdale. The Florida Atlantic commit doesn’t throw 95 mph, but he can throw three pitches for strikes and also sports a .429 batting average. If you needed confirmation that he’s ready for Friday’s game, here it is.

At the plate, the Cobras have been hot. Park Vista has scored six or more runs in six of its past seven games. Junior first baseman Joey Genord leads the way with a .400 batting average and a team-high 26 RBIs. But the key to the Cobras’ lineup is leadoff hitter Matthew Mika. The speedster, who is hitting .420, will make opposing teams pay when he’s on base. Mika has recorded an amazing 47 stolen bases this season.

However, Park Vista may be facing its toughest test against Bloomingdale. The Bulls are expected to start 6-foot-6 ace Logan Crouse. The Florida State commit is dominant, as he enters with a 0.69 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings this season. The right-handed pitcher touches the high 80s consistently.

If Bloomingdale has a weakness, it’s at the plate. The Bulls have been held to two runs or less in 12 of their 29 games and are hitting .248 as a team. Junior Conrado Skepple is one of just two Bloomingdale hitters batting over .300, as he enters Friday’s game with a .386 batting average and 14 RBIs.

Edge: Bloomingdale will need to keep it a low-scoring game to have a chance. Park Vista holds a big advantage with the bats, as the Cobras have scored 216 runs to Bloomingdale’s 141 runs. Seven Park Vista batters are hitting over .300 to just two batters for Bloomingdale. In other words, the numbers say the Cobras will have an easier time scoring runs. But if Crouse starts for the Bulls, he has a chance to negate any advantage Park Vista has at the plate. I like Park Vista’s chances with Smith on the mound, however. The combination of Smith and the Cobras’ bats will lead them to the state championship game.

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