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Palm Beach Playoff Preview

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That seemed to be the theme of the 2018 baseball season here in the Palm Beach & St. Lucie area. With all the regular season games in the books, it is time to get prepared for what may happen this week in the district playoffs. Which favorites have the best shot at a state title? Will there be a Cinderella team that crashes the dance? We have all the answers here in our district playoff preview. Enjoy!

9A-7

1. Vero Beach 22-2
2. Treasure Coast 15-5
3. Fort Pierce Central 10-12
4. Centennial 3-17

Vero Beach has established itself as a very true and legitimate contender in the state of Florida this season, and they have earned the distinction as the district favorite. The Indians closed out the regular season with fifteen straight victories, they were undefeated at home and they have not allowed a run in four consecutive games. Pitching has been dominant all season, as Vero Beach posted eleven shutouts overall.

There is one important fact that cannot be forgotten, and that is that Treasure Coast beat the Indians already this season. Of the two little losses, one was to their district rival and second seed. The Titans are every bit as capable of winning a district title and going on a run, and should both sides win their district semifinals it figures to be an exciting and tight district title game. Treasure Coast plays excellent team baseball, communicating easily among teammmates, and the club hustles and works hard for every step it takes. All the talent in the world sometimes still cannot stand up to a unified opponent that does everything the right way and with maximum effort.

So what chances do the underdogs even have then? It certainly will be a tough road for both Fort Pierce Central and Centennial. The Cobras put in a solid season but have struggled against elite teams with dominant pitching, although the club hung in there the second time against the Titans. Beating a team three times in one season is never simple to begin with. The Eagles have not won a district game in two years and it would be a tremendous growth spurt should the young team pull off the massive upset.

9A-9

1. Palm Beach Central 16-8
2. Palm Beach Gardens 14-11
3. Jupiter 11-11
4. John I. Leonard 3-18

One of the most competitive districts in Palm Beach County continued to live up to that reputation this year, with three teams tying the regular-season records. Rumor has it that it took multiple tiebreakers to try and decide the seeding, and finally the clubs all had to compete in a Ninja Warriors gauntlet challenge to decide it. It was the Palm Beach Central Broncos emerging as the top seed.

The Broncos certainly have a nice opportunity as the top seed, facing a John I. Leonard team in the semifinals that has posted just one win in three seasons of 9A-9 competition. The Lancers hung in there in both meetings against Central this year, and the semifinal figures to be another tight, low-scoring contest. The Broncos have performed at their best in district play all year, with three one-run decisions.

Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens meet in the district semifinal for the second straight season. In 2017 Jupiter blanked the Gators to end their season, and the Warriors have won seven in a row in the series dating back to February, 2016. That streak was not so easily maintained this season, with Jupiter winning both meetings by a 5-4 score, including an exciting, 12-inning battle two weeks ago. The rubber match this season should be just as exciting.

Once the finalists are determined, predicting a winner between them is nearly impossible. It seems every year the seeding and expectations have no bearing on the actual final outcome. These teams know each other so well, they bring out the best in one another, and any of them is capable of winning the district title.

9A-10

1. Park Vista 19-6
2. Santaluces 21-3
3. Boca Raton 8-14
4. Lake Worth 0-16

Things have gotten tighter than ever before in 9A-10 this season, after the top seed was decided by the flip of a coin. Park Vista has held the status quo as the reigning, two-time district champions. Meanwhile Santaluces has delivered its best season in years, which culminated in the team’s first win over the Cobras late in the regular season. The way the top two clubs in this district have payed this year, should they both advance to face one another in a rubber match for the district title, there is a good chance they would also meet again a fourth time in the regional playoffs.

That flip of the coin certainly paid big for the Cobras, as the top seed matches them up against a team that has not won a game all season. Park Vista has dominated the series between these two programs, and the Cobras find themselves in good position to win and advance for a chance for three-in-a-row.

Even with the great season the Chiefs have delivered, Boca Raton poises a big threat and will required Santaluces to answer with its best game of the season. Santaluces won both meetings this year, but only by a total of four runs. The Bobcats ended the Chiefs season a year ago and had gone 8-2 over the previous ten coming into this season. Santaluces had the honor of knocking out the Bobcats two years ago, and this semifinal meeting will now serve as the rubber match.

8A-12

1. Wellington 19-4
2. Seminole Ridge 14-11
3. Royal Palm Beach 10-13
4. Forest Hill 11-11

The Wolverines have been among the top teams in all of Palm Beach County this season, and they swept their way to the top seed in the district dance. Despite posting victories each time, Wellington won both games against Forest Hill by two runs, which lets the Falcons know they can compete against them. Wellington won on dominant itching early on, and has trusted more in the offense down the stretch. Things were up-and-down throughout the season for a younger Falcons squad, but they closed strong in winning four off their last five. These two clubs have a long history of close, low-scoring games, and the semifinal will likely be another chapter in that same story.

The other semifinal is a toss-up. Seminole Ridge and Royal Palm Beach split the season series, with the home team prevailing each time. On a neutral site that is not as relevant, although having the final at bats as the home team like Seminole Ridge has is always an advantage in any baseball game. The teams last met in the district playoffs two seasons ago, when the Hawks won their first title in program history. After getting rained out and last playing nearly two weeks ago, the Wildcats may have an advantage just in the excitement of finally hitting the field again.

8A-13

1. Spanish River 18-6
2. Coral Glades 12-9
3. Atlantic 4-17

This would be one of the most predictable outcomes in the district playoffs if it was not for Atlantic’s surreal ability to suddenly come alive at playoff time. The Eagles have made some unexpected runs the past few years, and have advanced to states, so they are no stranger to rising at this time of year. This season, however, the deck is stacked against Atlantic, as they have lost all four games to Coral Glades and Spanish River.

Coral Glades is another team that has rode some playoff momentum, knocking St. Thomas out of regionals just two seasons ago. Manager Joe Franco has also done his share of pulling playoff upsets while at Monarch, so should the Jaguars get by Atlantic in the district semifinals, they could be a team to watch heading into regionals.

The real story in this district is Spanish River. The Sharks are having their best season ever under longtime Manager Bill Harvey. The team has already surpassed their best win total with 18, and by virtue of being the top seed in a three team district, they will advance to regionals for the first time ever.

Don’t expect Spanish River’s magical season to end there. If they can win the district title, the Sharks would host the second seed from 8A-14, giving them a legitimate shot to be playing for a regional title a few weeks from now.

7A-14

1. Dwyer 17-8
2. West Boca 14-4
3. Olympic Heights 6-16
4. Boynton Beach 3-14

Dwyer swept the district series for the third season in a row and has yet to lose to any of the teams in 7A-14 during that time. The Panthers seemed primed for another playoff run in pursuit of a return to the state championships. The Panthers finished strong with victories in five of their final six games, after getting off to a great start with a tournament title in the Santaluces SLAM tournament.

West Boca and Olympic Heights get a rematch from last season’s semifinals, which the Lions won convincingly to reach the regional playoffs for the first time under manager Casey Beck. This season the Bulls have more momentum heading into the big game, having won three straight and seven of their last eight contests.

7A-13

1. Jensen Beach 14-6
2. Martin County 15-6
3. Okeechobee 11-11-1
4. South Fork 7-16-1

The Falcons swept their way to through the district in the regular season, setting themselves in place to defend their title as the top seed. Jensen Beach finished the season strong with five straight victories and the team has been a legitimate contender in the regional playoffs the last few seasons. Jensen has won five straight since being knocked out of the 2016 playoffs by the Bulldogs.

The Tigers also closed out the season strong to carry some momentum into the playoffs. Martin County won eight of its last nine games, the lone loss a 2-1 defeat to Jensen Beach. In fact, both meetings this season were 2-1 victories for the Falcons. Provided the Tigers can take care of business against Okeechobee, they are more than capable of contending for the title.

6A-14

1. Suncoast 13-10
2. Port St. Lucie 11-8
3. Fort Pierce Westwood 2-17

The semifinal game in this district tournament brings very little drama to build up for the title game. With little likelihood that Westwood can pull off a mammoth upset, it would set up the rematch fans all hope to see between Suncoast and Port St. Lucie. In a bit of role reversals, last year the Jaguars earned the top seed but fell in the championship as the Chargers celebrated its first title in program history. This season the Chargers earned the top seed and automatic regional berth as the top seed, thanks to a tight, 4-2 victory in their only meeting of the regular season.

Suncoast carries some nice momentum since beating Port St. Lucie a few weeks ago, winning four of their final six games while playing up against some tough competition. The Jaguars lost four of the last six and have been somewhat streaky this season. On paper one might think this is an easy one to call, but these two teams have created an exciting new rivalry the past few seasons. Records are out the window and this potential title rematch could be everything it is expected to be.

5A-13

1. LaBelle 16-7
2. Lincoln Park 15-9
3. Clewiston 8-9
4. Glades Central 6-15-1

LaBelle held court in the district this season to run away with the top seed, sweeping district play. The Cowboys delivered a solid showing this year but have struggled down the stretch in losing their final three games. They survived a tight battle the first time against Glades Central, then won convincingly the second time around. The Raiders are back in district play and are much improved from previous seasons, but may still be another year away from this sort of an upset.

The Greyhounds put in a solid showing this year as well and should play themselves into position to try and earn their third straight district title. Lincoln Park won both meetings over Clewiston by a combined scored of 21-1, and the team has won 111 straight against the Tigers dating back to their last loss in the series on April 9th, 2014. The Greyhounds have been streaky all year, and if they get hot that trend could work in their favor in the playoffs.

4A-6

1. Benjamin 20-5
2. American Heritage-Delray 19-5
3. Oxbridge Academy 11-10
4. King’s Academy 11-12
5. St. John Paul II 14-10
6. Cardinal Newman 4-17
7. St. Andrew’s 0-16

With two clear front-runners, it is easy to assume what the championship match-up will look like. However, this district has always been unpredictable come playoff time, and the underdogs are more than capable of pulling off an upset.

The quarterfinal meeting between King’s Academy and St. John Paul II should provide a nice burst of momentum to the victor heading into the semifinal against the top-seeded Stallions. both the Lions and Eagles have thrived on strong starting pitching and an offense that is capable of stringing big innings together when things start to click. The two clubs split the season series, with each winning the home game, which could give the Lions a slight edge in holding the final swings in the game as the home team this time around.

Oxbridge Academy represents a very intriguing contender. The Thunderwolves saved their best baseball for district play, going 8-4 to earn the third seed, while going 3-6 outside of district play. Oxbridge hosts the quarterfinal at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, where it has gone 4-0 this season, including a 4-1 win over the Crusaders. Cardinal Newman will be looking for a quick turnaround to rewrite the end of the season, as the club is currently on an eight-game skid.

American Heritage-Delray has won twelve straight against St. Andrew’s since 2012, when the two clubs began playing each other regularly. The Stallions won two lopsided contests this season and should have enough pitching to hold off the Scots again, to get into the semifinal.

Benjamin earned the top seed following a very strong season. The Bucs split the season series with King’s Academy and may therefore be rooting for an upset in that quarterfinal. The way Benjamin has performed all season, the club certainly stands in prime position to defend its title and try to make it three 4A-6 championship in a row.

3A-7

1. John Carroll 15-7
2. Berean Christian 15-4
3. Somerset Canyons 12-12-1
4. Jupiter Christian 14-5
5. Highlands Christian 7-9
6. Coral Springs Christian 9-12

The district records in 3A-7 can be thrown out as this figures to be one of the most competitive district battles in South Florida. The top seeded Rams appear to be the class of the district, and with a legitimate ace at the top of their rotation, John Carroll is looking to advance to states for the second time in the past three years.

Berean Christian is having their best season in the history of the program, and they also have visions of heading to the state title. The Bulldogs have played some of the most competitive, low scoring games in district play, and that doesn’t figure to change this week.

The bottom four teams in the district are all capable of coming up big and advancing to regionals. Somerset has a .500 record, and has beaten enough quality teams to make them a threat. Manager John Drouin has won a state title, so he knows what buttons to push come playoff time.

Jupiter Christian, Highlands Christian and Coral Springs Christian are all teams with aces that can carry their teams to a district title.

No other district in the area has the potential to provide excitement and upsets this week, with any of the six teams capable of taking home a district title.

2A-7

1. Trinity Christian 14-9
2. Lake Worth Christian 13-7-1
3. Community Christian 7-8
4. Glades Day 3-11-1
5. Boca Christian 5-10
6. Atlantic Christian 1-8

Over the past several seasons Trinity Christian has had a stranglehold on this district, having never lost a game in going 23-0 in three years. Their district rivals have struggled simply to score runs against them, having only tallied four runs against them over that time span. The two-time defending 2A state champions returned most of the team from last year, and despite some struggles along the way, this is typically the time of year when the Warriors turn things on.

If any team stands a chance of toppling the district Goliath, it is Lake worth Christian. The second seed would meet the Warriors with the title on the line, should both sides win their semifinal meetings. The Defenders are a talented team that thrives on the things they do, which is pitching and base running. Lake Worth Christian has a glut of speed on the team, a pitching staff that can hold the rope against top lineups and a group that communicates and plays well together. The Defenders finished strong, winning six of their last seven games, while ending up in a tie game that was shortened due to rain the final week of the season.

If any other underdog might sneak in there and make a run, it is probably the Cougars playing out of the three seed. Community Christian opens in the quarterfinals against an Atlantic Christian team that managed just one victory all season, and would then move on to face a Lake Worth Christian team that it hung in well with this season. The Cougars limped through the end of the regular season in losing their final four ball games, but a win in the opening round could be just the right momentum they need to get going.

The other quarterfinal between Boca Christian and Glades Day is intriguing. The Gators won two meetings this season, the second coming in a close, 6-5 decision. With young pitching staffs and young defenses, each side will likely look to get going offensively, and this one could end up in a shootout.

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