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8A-10 District Tournament Preview

Host: Spanish River


Monday April 21st

7:00 PM (5) John I. Leonard vs. (4) Santaluces

Tuesday April 22nd

4:30 PM John I. Leonard/Santaluces winner vs. (1) Park Vista
7:00 PM (3) Boca Raton vs. (2) Spanish River

Thursday April 24th

7:00 PM Championship: TBD

Full stats for 8A-10 can be found on the 8A-10 Stats Page!

Overview – Park Vista has had a stranglehold on the district for many years now, and this season could very well be the best squad they have ever had. This dominance has made the Cobras clear and easy favorites to win another district title in 2014. All signs seem to point to this being another year and another title for Park Vista. But as the famous ESPN sports announcer Chris Berman famously says, “That’s why they play the game”.

Santaluces and John I. Leonard will kick off the district by playing for the right to take on the top-ranked Cobras in the semifinals. The Chiefs are the newcomers to this district this season, and a big run to the championship could help to set their mark amongst their new district rivals.

On the other side of the bracket is the latest chapter in one of Palm Beach County’s best rivalries, as Boca Raton and Spanish River meet yet again in the district playoffs. Since knocking the Sharks out of the regional quarterfinals two years ago, Boca has struggled against River ever since. But overall for the history of the series things are pretty even and the teams always bring out the best in another.

Should that trend continue, it would mean the winner would carry some much-needed momentum into the district championship game. If that meeting pits them against the favored Cobras, it will be momentum that could make all the difference in the world in trying to generate the passion and drive to grab the big upset.

Dakota Julylia is another dangerous bat in a deep Cobras lineup.

1. Park Vista – Speed kills, and this year the Cobras have killed it. As a unit this roster has flashed some of the fastest guys in the county, and the squad has run at will. After running away with the top seed by sweeping the district, the Cobras hope to keep that momentum going by taking another district title.

Leading the way has been senior shortstop Matthew Mika, who leads the county in steals and has wrecked havoc with his bat and legs all season long. This has set the tone throughout, as the club has combined to swipe over 100 bases.

Depth is another luxury of the squad, as the lineup can hit the tar out of the ball from one to nine. Leading the pack is Joey Ganord, Tyler Barre and Austin Smith, while guys like Tyler Huggins and Dakota Julylia have also produced some big hits along the way. The presence of Mika with all this talent around him has only proved lethal, as he has scored a good chunk of the team’s runs.

The Cobras pitching staff rarely needs as much run support as they typically receive, but obviously they are not complaining. Austin Smith and Bruce Bechtel have created a dangerous duo that is exactly what the team needs for a playoff run. The two have combined for the majority of their victories and have been lethal on the hill.

Park Vista is still chasing its first state title, and this drive keeps the squad hungry every year. Along the way the Cobras have always done a great job of focusing on the task at hand and taking care of business in districts. This is why they are so tough to beat in the playoffs, and also why a victory over the Cobras is exactly what could catapult another team on a deep playoff run.

Sam White has led the Sharks both on and off the field this year.

2. Spanish River – This is the year.

The Sharks have been chasing after a berth in the regional playoffs for a long time, longer than any of them like to think about. This year they have the leadership and motivation to do something about it. The players have worked harder than ever, they have developed great chemistry as a team, and they have played a very challenging schedule to help prepare themselves. On top of this the club will also enjoy the luxury of playing on their home field as the district hosts this season.

Spanish River will be thrilled to play in a district championship and likely be in position to try and upset Park Vista. But there is no question that what will mean the most to the Sharks will be if they make it to the championship game, as it would also mean they will be going into the regional playoffs. They have set this as their goal and rather than let it put pressure on them, the players have used it as a motivating guide to keep them pushing and putting pressure on their opposition.

Simply put, Spanish River has played good baseball this season. The team hits well and pitches very well, and it is a veteran defense that has been there to back that up. The Sharks enjoyed a Spring Break trophy by wining the GGI Classic in Lake Worth, and now they set their sights on the trophy they have dreamed about for a long time.

Pitching has set the tone for this club, with senior lefty Sam White leading the way by pitching some big innings against some great teams. Alongside White is Chui Slootsky, a senior right-hander who leads the club in strikeouts and ERA. River also counts on Billy Marion and Ian Morton as the first out of the pen.

The offense is led by a crop of experienced veterans such as Spencer Diaz, Boomer Saraga, Fenway Parks and Ryan Berger. At the front of the pack is Devin Bard, who has been an animal in getting on base nearly half the time all season long.

While some clubs might shy away from the pressure that comes with trying to end a 15-year playoff drought, the Sharks have used it as their motivational tool. They want to be the team to do it, and they have done everything they can to put themselves in position to now go out and make it a reality.

“I think they a little urgency, and maybe that’s where the enthusiasm comes from,” said Sharks Manager William Harvey. “Hey, we need to make this happen now. Not next year. Not two years down the road. It needs to happen this year. They do come to the ballpark with a little more of a pep in their step I guess, but they need to come ready to go. It needs to happen now.”

Dalton Senger and the Bobcats are ready for the next chapter in their rivalry with Spanish River.

3. Boca Raton – The Bobcats know exactly what they are up against. No matter where they have finished in each of the last three seasons, both clubs have run into each other in the district playoffs each time. The biggest difference this year is that the winner gets a regional playoff berth and goes to the district championship.

The stakes are high and it puts added fire into an already healthy but friendly rivalry. Boca knows what’s at stake this time around and they are ready for some payback.

“We lost to River twice and have something we have to get back at them,” said TJ Tamaccio. “We know it’s also at their place so it will be exciting to need just one win and to have a district championship to play for, and have regionals.”

Tamaccio is part of a lineup that has shown a nice approach going down the stretch. Even despite the injury loss of the speedy Mike Smiciklas, guys like Mike Amditis, Brian Merritts and Michael Spooner. On the mound the Bobcats have enjoyed the recent return of Austin Schultz to compliment Dalton Senger and Jagger McCoy at the front of a deep pitching staff.

Boca has everything they can need for a win against Spanish River, but they know that with this series anything always goes. Anything can and will happen, and in most cases it already has once before. In one respect, the victor of this contest can take even more reward in knowing it came against an old rival.

“It’s a good rivalry,” said Boca Manager Scott Morrison. “There is no sugar-coating that they’ve had our number the last five times. There is no hiding that either. I think we’re ready to push our cards and our chips to the front and see what happens. It’s all we can really do.”

The Chiefs are looking for more reasons to celebrate this postseason.

4. Santaluces – The Chiefs have a long road to get to the district championship and also into the regional playoffs. Should they handle the Lancers their reward will be to face the mighty Cobras with their season on the line.

Yet at the same time this sort of pressure has helped the team thrive lately. After a very rough start to the season, Santaluces bounced back to win some big games down the stretch. Manager Nick Franco has been pushing them to finish strong and play like the playoffs have already began, and the team has done just that.

“We’ve been stressing for three weeks now that it ain’t how you start; its how you finish,” said Franco. “We started brutally bad in my opinion and we’re starting to play better. We’ve had a couple of bad performances mixed in with us playing better. But it ain’t how you start it is how you finish because it’s all a dress rehearsal for the dance.”

Now that the rehearsals are over, the Chiefs will be leaning on their strong pitching staff to carry them in the playoffs. Left-hander Jaxon Schofield and brothers Chad and Justin Tworek have all come to the forefront to lead the pitching staff. Schofield has sported an ERA under 1.50, while Justin leads the team in strikeouts. Chad has provided valuable relief innings, and the pen has showed nice depth by also counting on Jonathan Wake, Case Wager and Dylan Love.

The middle of the Chiefs order has been the stingiest, with catcher Joe Strzlecki hitting around .400 for the year to lead the way. Luke Stemle has been a solid leadoff man, while Chris Morgia and Troy Steele have also shown plenty of pop in their bats.

Since the Chiefs split on the year, both sides know they can beat the other and also be beat by them. Both meetings featured some outstanding pitching, and the third time figures to be another close and exciting affair.

Moises Caracus has become the team’s top pitcher this year.

5. John I. Leonard – The Lancers have the toughest path to get to the district championship. It is also the youngest team in the district, with many members of the roster getting their baptism in playoff baseball. Typical of many younger clubs, Leonard has lacked consistency throughout the year, but has also shown their true talents when they have been able to put it all together.

After graduating a big chunk of their guys, the new guys were not sheltered from anything as Leonard played a very tough schedule. The approach has brought the team along quicker and put them in position to bring some confidence into the playoffs with them. The Chiefs have proven to be a worthy opponent for the Lancers, and the third meeting of the year should provide a nice chance for two young clubs to make their mark.

The high point of the season for Leonard this year came when Kyle Lamb tossed a no-hitter against a very talented Suncoast lineup. Lamb has emerged to be a key piece of the pitching staff, along with Moises Caracus, Chris Monteagudo and Lionel Perez.

Victor Suero has been the leader of the offense, while Caracus, Oscar Singh and Jorge Reyes have all emerged as reliable hitters in the lineup. While the majority of the roster is made up of sophomores, the team has shown their talent and ability to be coached by buying into the system and putting together a nice attack all year.

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