5A-13 Playoff Preview: Westwood, Port St. Lucie To Clash
The Eau Gallie Commodores are at the top of 5A-13 and looking to return to the state Final Four for a second straight-year after finishing as the 2022 Class 5A runner-up.
Two other Space Coast programs, Bayside and Rockledge, are hoping to threaten Eau Gallie, and Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce Westwood are the two Palm Beach teams at the bottom of the district.
Let’s take a look at each team’s prospects.
5A-14 District Playoff Schedule
Location: Higher seed hosts quarterfinals and semifinals; Eau Gallie hosting championship.
Quarterfinals – Monday (5/1)
No. 4 Port St. Lucie vs. No. 5 Westwood @ 6:00 p.m.
Semifinals – Tuesday (5/2)
No. 1 Eau Gallie vs. Winner (Port St. Lucie-Westwood) @ 6:00 p.m.
No. 2 Rockledge vs. No. 3 Bayside @ 6:00 p.m.
Finals – Thursday (5/4)
Winner (Semifinal 1) vs. Winner (Rockledge-Bayside) @ 6:00 p.m.
Bayside – Team Page
The Bears are above.500 for the first time since HSBN extended coverage to the Space Coast, and a semifinal game against Rockledge is what sits between Bayside and a district championship appearance.
Pitching is the name of the game at Bayside. Elvin Pascual has struck out 64 over 43.0 innings and kept a 1.30 ERA along the way. Chase Nolis’ 1.81 ERA through 27.0 innings makes him a strong relief or starting option. Carlos Santiago is the team leader in hits with 25 (.417 batting average), but it’s Ryan Vassallo who does damage with runners on base. Vasallo has 24 RBIs and four homers on the season.
Bayside has some solid pitching and a couple of dangerous bats in the lineup, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see an upset against Rockledge. Then again, an 8-0 loss to the Raiders on April 18 was pretty convincing.
Eau Gallie – Team Page
The Commodores began the season 2-4 fresh off a state championship game appearance last season, but they have since rallied and finished the season 16-8 overall. Manager Robert Collins has Eau Gallie in a position to claim another district championship and has regionals in mind once again.
David Morrisey and Garrett Smith have combined for 169 strikeouts over 100 innings on the mound for the ‘Dores, and Daniel Snowden is leading the team with 22 hits and is third witha .324 batting average. Florida State commit Riley Jackson is also a major piece of this club.
All the pieces are there for another Final Four run, but moving from 5A-11 to 5A-13 means Eau Gallie has to beat Region 4’s best to get to Ft. Myers instead of Region 3 like last year.
Fort Pierce Westwood – Team Page
The Panthers only have two wins this season, but they’ll face an opponent they had some luck against in Port St. Lucie during the district quarterfinals. Although Westwood fell 18-10 against Port St. Lucie the last time out, this is the best chance either club has to get a playoff win in 2023.
Jarvis Drayton, Brandon Fillmore and Jabari Monds each have double-digit hits to lead the team, and freshman Tequan Mechanic has eaten innings for the club.
Making it to the semifinals won’t be easy, but there’s no reason to count Westwood out just yet.
Port St. Lucie – Team Page
The Jaguars are entering the district quarterfinals confident knowing that they have already beaten Westwood once this year. Still, that was a high-scoring game, and there’s no guarantee that Port St. Lucie comes out on top in the rematch.
Christopher D’Angelo has the best ERA through extended innings at 3.33 through 27.1 frames. Freshman Wyatt Taylor and junior Josh Benefield lead the team in hits with 11 apiece.
Port St. Lucie and Westwood should have a fun quarterfinal matchup before the winner has to face Eau Gallie.
Rockledge – Team Page
The Raiders might have the best shot at upsetting the Commodores in the district simply because Rockledge beat Eau Gallie, 1-0, on April 13. A 7-0 loss a week later shows the flip side of the coin, but the Raiders know they can win when they are at their best.
Cade Davidson and Clayton Cooskey have struck out a combined 127 over 82.2 innings this year and each has a sub-1.40 ERA. A majority of the everyday lineup is hitting over .300 too, so offense isn’t hard to come by on most nights.
The Raiders should make the regional tournament with a win in the semifinal round, but why not win the whole thing at that point?