3A-16 District Tournament Preview
Host: Westminster Christian
Monday April 21st
4:00 PM (5) Somerset Academy Charter vs. (4) Marathon
Tuesday April 22nd
4:00 PM Somerset Academy Charter/Marathon winner vs. (1) Westminster Christian
Wednesday April 23rd
4:00 PM (3) Palmer Trinity vs. (2) Archbishop Carroll
Friday April 25th
4:00 PM Championship: TBD
Full Stats for 3A-16 can be found on the 3A-16 Stats Page!
Overview – There is no mistaking that Westminster Christian is in a great position to add another district title to their trophy case. The Warriors held court on the district during the regular season and have put in a very productive and successful 2014 campaign. They also have history on their side, as a program that has played in many very big games and has won their fair share of them.
Nothing is ever automatic, and the rest of the field comes into things just as hungry to get their hands on the district trophy. Archbishop Carroll and Palmer Trinity have an intriguing meeting on the other side of the bracket, where two very equal programs collide for the chance to play in the district championship. Both clubs have typically played well in the playoffs, and their game figures to be a tight and strongly-contested one on both sides. The winner of just such a game could bring plenty of momentum into the championship match, where anything is possible
1. Westminster Christian – The Warriors are a dangerous adversary. A team with this much talent and depth is scary enough, but adding fuel to their fire is the added motivation to reclaim the district crown. Before realignment separated the two, Westminster Christian had battled for the district crown with longtime rival Florida Christian. Last year the Patriots won both playoff matches, the second one coming in a season-ending victory over the Warriors in the regional semifinals.
The residual affect of that is Westminster Christian is as eager and focused as any other team in the district. This team wants to reclaim the recognition as the best of Miami-Dade, and adding another state title is just the type of accomplishment that would work to do just that. That quest for the state gold starts by taking care of business in their district, which is something the Warriors handled perfectly during the season. The club swept the district during the regular season, and has earned the distinction as the clear favorite to grab the district title.
Offense has been the driving force for this program for a long time, and this season has seen more of the same. From one to nine this is a lineup that never lets up. Several veterans such as John Gonzalez, Julian Infante, Cole Kreuter and Dakota Robbins have posted impressive power numbers while also hitting for average, while Adrian Mayans has led the club by hitting around .450 all season. This group does a fantastic job of playing off each other, knowing what each one brings to the lineup and working according to that. The Warriors have the ability to score a lot of runs, and they often do exactly that.
But while the team has plenty of other guys also capable of putting up big numbers as well, it has worked primarily because of their willingness to play for the team instead.
“I have to stay humble. I haven’t done anything until we win a state championship,” said Infante. “I want to aim as high as I can, but my main goal is about winning. I can’t worry about stats.”
On the mound Westminster Christian has been equally potent. John Gonzalez has emerged as a dangerous frontline starter, leading his team in both ERA and strikeouts in gaudy fashion. The right-hander delivered some outstanding performances during the 2013 playoffs, and he returns to the postseason even stronger this year. Depth is also a virtue that gives the Warriors such strong outlooks, as both Ryan Terry and Brendan Auerbacher have also shown that they can get the job done with their turns on the hill.
Westminster Christian has a proud history of winning in the playoffs, and this season they seek to add another chapter to this storybook.
2. Archbishop Carroll – The move to Class 3A this season has been a good one for the Bulldogs. The team has played consistent and solid baseball all year long, and the fact that they played a tough schedule against many large-school programs should pay off now that they are into their own district playoffs.
Archbishop struggled down the stretch, but should be encouraged by the games rather than frustrated by the wins and losses. Playing some tough teams to close out the regular season, the Bulldogs were in just about every game and showed a lot of fight typical of their mascot namesake.
Carroll got strong pitching and timely hitting to put in a solid 4-1 victory over Palmer Trinity when the two met during the season, and the goal is to replicate that success in the payoff rematch. Should they accomplish this, they will make the regional playoffs just as senior transfer Anthony Gonzalez predicted for them before the season began. The club has made the regionals the past two years and then lost to Coral Springs Charter, and some big wins in their new district could give them the momentum to carry them even further this season.
Meanwhile Manager Jorge Gutierrez knows that the Falcons are a worthy opponent that could derail things before they ever get started. Then the reward for a win there means they have to face the goliath that is Westminster Christian. Gutierrez has had the same message for his guys all season.
“We just have to be ready to do our job,” Gutierrez said.
Pitching has been a major area of improvement for the Bulldogs. Salvatore Lorenzo leads the team in ERA, while William Roger has been very consistent all season to lead the club in wins. Meanwhile depth has also been its strength, with James Oporta serving as the workhorse for Carroll by pitching many long innings and big meetings for them. Oporta also leads the squad in strikeouts.
The Bulldogs offense has been productive, particularly by coming up in big moments when they need it most. Chris Ortega has been a major cog in this unit, while Gonzalez, Roger, Amilcar De Cesare and David Salgueiro have all provided solid contributions. Should the Bulldogs continue to hit the way they are capable, they may be able to slug their way past the rest of the teams they will face.
3. Palmer Trinity – For the past three seasons Blake Miller has meant everything to his club. This versatile sophomore has been used all over the diamond, leading his club in most statistical categories while setting a tremendous example both as a leader and as a teammate. The Falcons will count on him now more than ever if they hope to keep their season alive.
Miller batted almost .500 for the season, and also excelled at stealing bases and scoring runs for his club. He has the ability to man numerous defensive positions, and the team uses this to realign their units as they adjust to the game.
The guys around Miller have also gotten the job done to round out a lineup that has hit over .300 for the season. Dustin Phillip, Daniel Chumbley, Nick Font and Jarrett Pico have been major contributors on an offense that averaged nearly nine runs per game.
The pitching has also come a long way. Ryan Stark has led the team in both strikeouts and wins, while Daniel Chumbley has been a great source out of the bullpen to lead the club in ERA and saves. Phillip has provided a solid second frontline starter, which is what any team needs if it hopes to win a playoff series.
Falcons Manager Donnie Harvey is proud of the group he has this season. The hard work and dedication has led to a solid season, and now they have a big game to play to keep things going. It is exactly what anyone could ask for at the end of the year.
“We think we have as a good a team as we’ve had around here in about the last seven or eight years,” said Harvey. “Now we just have to go out and prove it all the time. That’s it.”
4. Marathon – The Dolphins have played decent baseball to finish around .500 for the season. There is little hope for them to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season, as Westminster Christian has had no trouble in taking care of business in this series. Marathon has gotten some solid pitching during the year, but their offense has struggled against elite pitching the likes of which the Warriors have plenty to throw at them.
5. Somerset Academy Charter – The Silver Palms have struggled within their district and face the toughest road to the championship. It is a young group of players that make up the roster, and the team is still building to put itself on the map.