Posted: 11:49 pm Sunday, April 21st, 2013
By Matt Porter
We talked about the area’s five most powerful districts in our preview story. It’s time to go on the record with our predictions for every area tournament:
Prediction: Jupiter over Palm Beach Gardens
Breakdown: Up for grabs, as usual. Jupiter is the deepest, most complete team in the area — quality arms, quality bats and quality gloves abound. Center fielder Peter Sitaras (.519), catcher Logan Heiser (.418), first baseman Johnny McCarthy (.408, 5 HR, 31 RBI) and right fielder Pat Walther (.375, 20 RBI) are the offensive leaders, while righties Lance Fry (6-1, 1.29 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 32.2 innings) and Kyle Keatts (29 strikeouts) and lefty Scott Danek (6-0, 1.19) will get the ball first. Palm Beach Central has possibly the area’s wisest coach in Scott Benedict, who lets no opponent get away with mistakes. Senior lefty John Padich (5-2, 1.37, 57 strikeouts in 56.1 innings) needs to be on to beat Gardens on Tuesday, especially since bulldog right-hander Jorge Alfonso (4-0, 0.89) has been limited to 15.2 innings due to elbow inflammation. Junior lefty Shane Sawczak (4-3, 2.00, 40 strikeouts in 35 innings) has made the most of his opportunity, pitching some big innings. The Broncos defend well, especially up the middle with shortstop Danny Hernandez and center fielder Gage Morey. Palm Beach Gardens made it to state last year and is playing well heading into districts. Last year’s playoff hero, righty Joey Boyd, had a slow start but has returned to form (2-0, 2.16 in 22.2 innings). Fellow senior Riley Colbath, who missed last year with an injury, has been on fire (5-1, 0.48, 38 strikeouts in 43.2 innings), and junior first baseman Pavin Smith (.355, 4 HR, 21 RBI) is a dual threat. Forget the poor start, the sub-.500 record and know this: Dwyer is the only 9-8A team to beat Jupiter, and has won four of its last five district games. If the 1-2 of Cheyne Bickel (53 strikeouts) and Tom Szapucki (49 strikeouts) pitch like they have been, the Panthers could repeat. Senior shortstop Hunter Hope leads the area in homers (8) to go with a .345 average. What about Wellington? The Wolverines are young, but crazy things happen when a team lacks the weight of expectations. They have some strong contact hitters, including Matt Morales (.520), Michael Cusenza (.486) and Jake Summey (.448) and good right-handers in senior Nick Lawrence and junior Spencer Stockton. Team that emerges from this group should be considered a state title threat.
Wellington (5) vs. Dwyer (4), 7 p.m.
Palm Beach Central (3) vs. Palm Beach Gardens (2), 7 p.m.
Dwyer (4)/Wellington (5) winner vs. Jupiter (1), 7 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
at John I. Leonard
Favorite: Park Vista
Prediction: Park Vista over John I. Leonard
Breakdown: Supposed to be a down year for Vista (17-6), with a slew of sophomores in the starting lineup. Didn’t happen. Sophomore Austin Smith became a legitimate ace (4-4, 2.44, area-best 70 strikeouts in 51.2 innings) and is batting .388. Senior center fielder Trey Amburgey and sophomore shortstop Matthew Mika (.397) are valued at the plate and in the field. Leonard’s pair of aces – senior Noel Canete (5-3, 1.60, 39 strikeouts in 48.1 innings) and senior lefty Jared Johnson (2-2, 1.93, 47 strikeouts in 40 innings) – are tough in this format, in which two strong starters can be a ticket to regionals. The Lancers (12-10) don’t hit for a ton of power, but do have productive sticks like Javier Casas (.434), Oscar Singh (.393), Canete (.375) and Eliot Rodriguez (.373). Seminole Ridge (12-11) has split with everyone in the district, earning the second seed. Spanish River (9-12) counts a pair of wins over West Boca Raton, while Boca Raton (11-13) split with Vista and Leonard, and beat Dwyer to start the season.
Spanish River (4) vs. Boca Raton (5), 6 p.m.
Park Vista (1) vs. Spanish River (4)/Boca Raton (5) winner, 4:30 p.m.
Seminole Ridge (2) vs. John I. Leonard (3), 7 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
at West Boca Raton
Favorite: West Boca Raton
Prediction: West Boca Raton over Atlantic
Breakdown: Atlantic lost five in a row to start the year, then won nearly every game after that. Only team to beat the Eagles: West Boca, which did it twice. West Boca (16-6), which won it all in 2011, dropped its first two but followed that with a 10-game winning streak. Atlantic returns some of the key players from last year’s state semifinal run: catcher Brad Myott (21 RBI), shortstop Bobby Bourque (.376), center fielder Jesse Kieffer (.347) and right fielder Joey Ohannesian (.358, 19 RBI). Bruce Thomas has emerged as a solid bat (.407, 2 HR, 20 RBI), but the big stick is cleanup man Jarren Pinkney (.470, 5 HR, area-best 34 RBI), a junior left fielder who was on JV last year. Atlantic (18-7) will lean on right-hander Cody Bryant (6-2, 1.69, area-best 70 strikeouts in 57.2 innings), who is also batting .393 with 4 homers. Myott (5-0, 1.99 in 28 strikeouts in 30.2 innings) has been solid, as has Duane Cyr (1.78 ERA). The emergence of Olympic Heights under veteran coach Sam Howell makes Atlantic’s road tougher. The Lions (10-14) have a few solid hitters in Casey Furnas (.382, 20 RBI) and Sean McClaskie (.377). Lake Worth (3-21) went 0-6 in district play and was outscored 63-4.
Olympic Heights (3) vs. Atlantic (2), 6 p.m.
Lake Worth (4) vs. West Boca Raton (1), 6 p.m.
Final, 6 p.m.
at Royal Palm Beach
Favorite: Royal Palm Beach
Prediction: Royal Palm Beach over Santaluces
Breakdown: Tough road for Santaluces and Royal Palm, each of whom lost their aces to injury. Defending district champ Royal Palm has a pair of solid wins over Santaluces, which hasn’t reached regionals since 2005. The 13-13 record isn’t impressive, but Royal Palm Beach expected its schedule to be tough. The Wildcats didn’t expect to lose ace Justin Lauginiger to Tommy John surgery, or several other talented players to off-the-field circumstances. However, the 5-1 district mark denotes a strong team, and this is. Expect senior Jordan Lauginiger, Justin’s twin brother, to pitch a district final against Santaluces, which was 12-10 in the regular season. Chiefs’ ace Peter Strzelecki (tendonitis) is nearly 100 percent, which adds to a good front-line pair of Cody Wager (7-1, 2.08, 40 strikeouts in 46.2 innings) and Dominic Teresi (2-4, 2.08 in 40.1 innings). Troy Steele is batting a team-high .423. Forest Hill split with Royal Palm, but lost twice to Santaluces – its semifinal opponent – by a combined 21-0 score. Palm Beach Lakes was winless (0-6) in district play, but its 8-17 overall record is the Rams’ best in several years; they broke a 70-game losing streak last year.
Santaluces (2) vs. Forest Hill (3), 4:30 p.m.
Royal Palm Beach (1) vs. Palm Beach Lakes (4), 7 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
at Jensen Beach
Favorite: Jensen Beach
Prediction: Suncoast over Jensen Beach
Breakdown: Jensen Beach went through the district 6-0, but beat Suncoast by one run in both meetings. If Suncoast can get to Florida State-bound righty Taylor Blatch, they’ll have a first district title since 2003. If Jensen prevails, the Chargers will at least be regionals-bound for the first time in five years. Suncoast (12-8) has had a turnaround season under first-year coach Brook Cross, a 2002 Jupiter High grad. The Chargers’ leading hitter and pitcher is junior righty Will Engel (.407; 4-1, 0.25, 32 strikeouts in 28 innings), though Braden Hartigan (1-2, 1.67, 32 strikeouts in 26.1 innings), Chaz Kaps (37 strikeouts) and Jack Granger (30 strikeouts, batting .333) are more than capable. It would be a stunner if Fort Pierce Westwood (6-11, 2-4) or Boynton Beach (0-6, 5-18) scored a knockout, though Boynton junior righty Kyle Tedesco (1-5, 1.89, 37 strikeouts in 37 innings) gives his team a puncher’s chance.
Fort Pierce Westwood (3) vs. Suncoast (2), 4 p.m.
Jensen Beach (1) vs. Boynton Beach (4), 7 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Cardinal Newman
Prediction: Cardinal Newman over Lincoln Park
Breakdown: While Lincoln Park (12-10) earned the top seed, it split a pair with Newman – scraping by 7-6 in their last meeting. Cardinal Newman‘s turnaround has been impressive — 9-15 last year to 17-8 this year — and Wednesday’s win over Jupiter shows the confidence the Crusaders have going in. St. Andrew’s (7-11) was 0-4 in district games, but played LPA and Newman tough. Glades Central no longer fields a team.
St. Andrew’s (3) at Cardinal Newman (2), 7 p.m.
Final: Cardinal Newman/St. Andrew’s at Lincoln Park (1), 7 p.m.
at American Heritage
Favorite: American Heritage
Prediction: American Heritage over Pope John Paul II.
Breakdown: Expected another Hatfield-McCoy battle between Heritage and Summit, but Pope has surpassed the Saints. American Heritage hasn’t played like last year’s state runner-up, but the Stallions (13-12) have enough talent to make a deep run in the playoffs — their 10th regional appearance in a row. While the bats haven’t been consistent, ace righty Anthony Delaney (4-2, 2.33, 67 strikeouts in 42 innings) has been one of the area’s best pitchers once again. Small (5-10) but hard-throwing, he gives the Stallions hope for a playoff run. Zach Schneider (1-3, 2.29 in 36.2 innings) has been reliable. Pope John Paul II (14-11) has strong arms in Alex Bialakis (56 strikeouts), Josh Parker (44 strikeouts) and Daniel Mayer (4-1, 2.45, 33 strikeouts in 34.1 innings). Summit Christian (10-14) is down from 2011′s state title team, but shouldn’t be taken lightly: The Saints beat Atlantic and Park Vista, and lost their four district games by a combined seven runs (troubling fact: they were held to one run in those games).
Pope John Paul II (2) vs. Summit Christian (3), 7 p.m.
Final: Pope John Paul II/Summit Christian vs. American Heritage (1), 7 p.m.
Prediction: Benjamin over King’s Academy
Breakdown: All signs point to it being Benjamin’s year, but that’s what we thought last season. Can King’s pull off another upset? Not if Benjamin (20-5) and its talent-laden roster plays up to its capability. The Bucs have two aces (Bennett Sousa and Matt Harris, who are 11-2 with 80 strikeouts in 73.1 combined innings). They have young talent (sophomore Baylen Sparks is batting .409, freshman Matt Ellmyer is hitting .322 and has been a valued starter/reliever). They have great glove men (center fielder Kody Ruedisili, also batting a team-high .443; shortstop Harris, also batting .361). They have all the pieces to make a run. They’ve also beat their rival, King’s Academy, twice, thought it wasn’t easy and probably won’t be should they meet in a final this week. King’s (13-12) has six players batting higher than .300, but throwing strikes has been a problem. Jupiter Christian (6-18) is decent, but not up to par with these two.
Jupiter Christian (3) at King’s Academy (2), 4 p.m.
Final: King’s Academy/Jupiter Christian at Benjamin (1), 4 p.m.
at Lake Worth Christian
Favorite: Glades Day
Prediction: Glades Day over Boca Raton Christian
Breakdown: Defending champ Boca Christian (13-8) is frisky, but hot-hitting Glades Day (14-6) has a little more talent than the others. Junior Jon Rodriguez (.559) has cooled from his 20-for-23 start, but is still a speedy offensive weapon no other team in the district has.
Wellington Christian (4) vs. Glades Day (1), 4 p.m.
Lake Worth Christian (3) vs. Boca Raton Christian (2), 4 p.m.
Final, 4 p.m.
TREASURE COAST AND ELSEWHERE
Prediction: Vero Beach over Centennial
Breakdown: Aside from an early-season hiccup against Treasure Coast, Vero (21-6) has been cruising. Second-seeded Centennial and third-seeded T-Coast will battle for a spot in the final.
Prediction: Martin County over South Fork
Breakdown: Strong group. Defending champ Martin County (20-4) has the pedigree, but South Fork and Okeechobee beat the Tigers during the regular season. South Fork (13-10) played Palm Beach County’s best tough in losses, but also fell to Port St. Lucie and Sebastian River.
Fort Pierce Central (6) at Port St. Lucie (3), 4 p.m.
Okeechobee (5) at Sebastian River (4), 7 p.m.
Fort Pierce Central/Port St. Lucie vs. South Fork (2), 4 p.m.
Okeechobee/Sebastian River vs. Martin County (1), 7 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
District 11-4A at LaBelle
Prediction: Bishop Verot over LaBelle
Breakdown: Top-seeded Verot went 8-0 in district play with a 99-3 run differential, and should handle a charge from second-seeded LaBelle. Clewiston, the third seed, split its district slate. The rest of the pack: Fort Myers-Gateway (fifth), Fort Myers-Dunbar (fourth).
Prediction: John Carroll over Melbourne Central Catholic
Breakdown: Second-seeded John Carroll, which like top-seeded MCC was 7-1 in district play, handed Benjamin two of its five losses. Melbourne-Holy Trinity (fifth seed), Vero Beach-St. Edward’s (fourth), Melbourne-Florida Air (third) stack up as also-rans.
Prediction: Vero Beach-Master’s over Community Christian
Breakdown: Top-seeded Master’s beat second-seeded Community 5-3 in their only meeting. Third-seeded Morningside Academy is a very long shot.