2A-12 District Tournament Preview
Host: Glades Day
Monday April 21st
4:00 PM (5) Wellington Christian vs. (4) Berean Christian
Tuesday April 22nd
1:00 PM Wellington Christian/Berean Christian winner vs. (1) Glades Day
4:00 PM (3) Community Christian vs. (2) Atlantic Christian
Thursday April 24th
4:00 PM Championship: TBD
Overview – Glades Day is in a great position to avenge their district championship loss from last season, as both the favorites and also the tournament hosts. The pack in chase includes a trio of young programs fueled by youth and enthusiasm. The past few seasons have provided a plethora of fireworks and upsets, and this year could continue that trend.
1. Glades Day – The Gators swept the district during the regular season and have put themselves in great position to grab the district title. Since the school is also the host for this year’s district tournament, they have the added bonus of playing on their home field against their home fans. In this case, this is an even bigger advantage since every other team has to travel a far distance for this tournament and may not get the same fan following as the home club should.
After the way Glades Day played this season, they may not need any extra advantages. The Gators posted big numbers in district play, and put in their best overall season in many years. It is a veteran group that compiles their roster this season, and a unit that has played together for a few seasons now.
Pitching has been a big asset for Glades Day, where right-handers Thomas Corzo and Noel Figueroa have combined to provide a dangerous 1-2 combination. Figueroa is a strikeout pitcher who finished among the leaders in the district, while Corzo is a nice compliment as a contact pitcher. Together the two give Glades Day the type of depth they will need if they are to chase after the district title. This depth is also boosted by the presence of Nicholas Hudek and Jonathan Leon, who man important defensive positions but also provide valuable ability on the mound.
Hitting has not been a problem for the Gators. Sluggers Jaime Rodriguez, Oscar Ruiz and Leon all provide a lot of pop in the middle of the lineup, while speedsters such as Figueroa excel at getting on base and scoring runs for the club.
The Gators were shocked in the district playoffs last season by an upstart young Lake Worth Christian squad. The team has bounced back with a vengeance this season and looks as dangerous as ever, and is deserving of the recognition as the favorites of this district tournament.
2. Atlantic Christian Academy – It is a fresh slate for the Saints this year.
Amid uncertainty with the school, the program lost its longtime champion manager and also nearly every member of its roster this offseason. Rather than fold in their tents, Atlantic Christian rebuilt around its few veterans and has come storming back under a new flag this year.
It is a new beginning for the former Summit Christian program that won two state titles, and this year marks the inaugural season of district play for the new Saints ball club.
Senior Petru De La Garza has been a big part of the team’s success. The right-hander has delivered many quality innings on the mound, and also provides an experienced and poised bat as the heart of their batting order.
Ronald Ramadan has been another big producer on an overall young Saints lineup. The sophomore has made the most of his first year as a starter, putting up some impressive numbers to lead the offense. Perez and Mark Hunterburg have also proven they can swing a reliable bat for the team.
Behind the lead of De La Garza on the hill, the Saints have also been able to count on depth to provide options. Jairly Argus, Chris Perez and Carlos Rodriguez have all logged time on the mound this year as well.
As the season approached this winter, the school did not even know if they would be able to field a team. They not only got enough players to compete, but they put themselves a game away from the district championship and a regional playoff berth.
“Coming into this year I didn’t even know if we were going to have a team,” said De La Garza. “When I heard kids started wanting to come out, I was happy.”
One more win and the Saints will all have something else to be happy about.
3. Community Christian – The Cougars won a big coin toss that rewarded them the third seed, after they split the regular season series with the Bulldogs. The result leaves Community Christian one win away from the district championship.
4. Berean Christian – The Bulldogs are just happy to be back in district play. This season is a big deal for the club, as they have worked hard these past few seasons to rebuild the program and start playing for a postseason again. Now that day has come.
“We’re happy to be back in districts,” said Bulldogs Manager Dave Lawler. “I think we’re in a district we can be competitive in. The kids are excited. Being back was a big deal for us. Anytime you can play with a post-season carrot in front of you, it gives you something to keep pushing for.”
Berean Christian has only two seniors on the team, and no juniors. So although this is an exciting year, they believe the future is brighter. What that has done for this moment is create a mindset that it is all just icing on the cake. The players are ready to enjoy being in the playoffs for the first time in their careers, but at the same time winning is also very fun. The Bulldogs scored two big wins over Wellington Christian during the regular season and they have every reason to feel confident going into the third match up.
Should Berean win its quarterfinal, the team would face the favored Gators with a chance to advance to the district championship. It is a great position to be in for a young team happy just for the experience, and teams with that sort of mindset have a tendency to play inspired baseball when it matters the most.
The core of the Bulldogs roster centers around best friends DJ Lawler and Noah Adams, who are both the team’s main starting pitchers. The lefty Lawler led the club in starts, strikeouts, innings and wins this season, and has worked his way into the lead role by vastly improving on his numbers from his freshman season. Meanwhile the right-handed Adams stepped up to face each team in their district in those big games, which has given him a first look at the lineups he will soon face again in the playoffs.
Adams also found a lot of success hitting against the district teams this season, and has been the leading hitter for the club. Overall the Bulldogs had a strong season at the plate, hitting just below .300 for the year. Lawler led the club with a batting average over .400, while Matthew Pena and Malachi Kearney have been a big part of that success as well.
The Bulldogs have enough pieces to contend now, but simply lack the experience of competing in the playoffs. If the club can adjust to the speed and intensity and stay within their game plan, they are capable of pressuring for the district crown.
“Baseball is very mental,” said Coach Lawler. “We’re competitive if we play our game.”
5. Wellington Christian – The Eagles are playing their final days with this program, as the school is set to close at the end of this season. Regardless of any success this young group of players can gain in the district playoffs, they are playing their final days together as a team. This is just the sort of extra motivation that the Eagles could use to drive them to make waves in their playoff bracket.
Although the Eagles were swept in district play during the regular season, their first-round draw is against an equally young and inexperienced Berean team. Wellington Christian can draw confidence from their previous playoff experiences, as their biggest asset is that they should be more familiar with the intensity and speed of playoff baseball.
Wellington Christian has been led by some savvy young players for several years now, and still those guys are primarily underclassmen. Left-hander Kyle Berkowitz and right-hander Steven Pettet have been the heart and soul of the club, and they are maximum-effort type of players who leave it all on the field. Drew Beno and Jack Dunstan have also grown into major roles with the team.
Adding to the group is the most amount of senior leadership they have had in years, with a total of five seniors on the roster this season. Regardless of the other outlying circumstances, these players are in their final days of high school baseball anyway. But as the entire team is in that same situation, the seniors Jason Weldgen, Justin Hunter, Alejandro Garcia, Taylor Hall and Kaden Connolly have the chance to set the right example of how to harness such emotions into playing the game of their lives to extend their season.
It has always been a family feel at the small Christian school. This year has only added to that dynamic, with brothers Jeremy and Andrew Sadofsky becoming the fourth set of brothers on the team. Now these brothers in arms have one last chance to make a valiant charge and leave one last mark in the final chapter of Wellington Christian baseball.